Last October, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Weil, the 106-year-old founder of Rockmount Ranchwear, a Denver-based retailer of fashionable western wear. Weil, who was believed to be the oldest CEO in the United States, was profiled as part of Inc.com's "8 Over 80," which recognized entrepreneurs who were running companies well into -- and even past -- their 80s. Weil passed away last month at the ripe age of 107 and it would be remiss of us not to honor his legacy. The most recent obit on Weil was published in The Economist last week and speaks to his legendary influence on the western apparel industry.
Weil founded Rockmount Ranchwear in 1946 and even at 107-years-old, he was still chatting it up with customers every morning in his retail store located in the LoDo district of Denver. Weil was fascinated by the West, and he passed that enthusiasm for the lifestyle onto his customers through his original designs. Weil was the first to produce western shirts with snaps instead of buttons, and he helped commercialize the bolo tie.
The Rockmount brand is also known for its saw-toothed pocket design and diamond snaps, a look that has been popularized over the years by celebrities from Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, to Robert Redford and even former president, Ronald Reagan. His shirts also made it to the big screen and were worn by most of the actors in Brokeback Mountain. And, as The Economist notes, just a couple of weeks ago at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the Colorado House delegation sported a red, white and blue version of the company's signature shirt.
Beyond being a successful businessman, Weil will be remembered as someone who embodied the ideals of an entrepreneur -- he loved what he did and there wasn't a day when he didn't work hard at it. From our interview, I remember him as a simple man who enjoyed being a salesman because it allowed him to connect with customers around the world who shared a love for the spirit of the West. And thanks to the work of that dedicated entrepreneur, it is the spirit that will forever live on in the Rockmount brand.
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