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Friday, November 17, 2017

St. Louis Native Launches Marc Skid, Cheekily Named Underwear with a Purpose

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 5:46 AM

  • Photo provided by company
The story of Marc Skid started, as so many great stories do, with two drunk men hanging out in an apartment, kicking back beers and talking about underwear.

It was the early '90s, and a young Dan Barry was working for Anheuser-Busch in Chicago. He and his best friend, who also worked for the brewer, were unwinding at the latter's pad, "probably having a few too many," when an object in the room caught Barry's eye.

"He had bought a pair of designer underwear — I won't mention the brand — and it was sitting there on his coffee table," Barry explains. "And we just got talking about underwear."

The pair noted that the packaging of the undergarment was so serious — a man with a six-pack and a "Blue Steel" look on his face. They got to thinking about it and realized this seemed to be the norm with underwear brands, which was kind of odd — after all, even those in less-than-top shape need underwear, right? Hell, the only six-pack in the room at the time was one of the alcoholic variety.

It would be decades before Barry would revisit the conversation — but for whatever reason, it always stuck with him.

Barry, now 51, grew up in Oakville, just outside St. Louis, before decamping for the Chicago job just after college in 1990. Following 25 years as a sales and marketing executive with Anheuser-Busch, Barry found himself out of work and living in Atlanta in 2015.

Barry also found himself thinking back to that underwear talk with his old friend. There was another part of the conversation that stuck out to him — one that would eventually lend Barry's undergarment operation its cheeky name.

"When we were children both of our mothers were insanely concerned about the status of our underwear any time we had to go to visit the doctor," Barry explains with a laugh.

An idea began to form. What if there was a clothing designer named Marc Skid? (Read it again if you don't get it — take all the time you need.) And, funnier still, what if that fictional fashionista sold underwear?

"Why aren't brands more like people?" Barry remembers wondering. "And what do we admire in people? That's, number one, a sense of humor. Someone that has character. Someone that has a purposeful life. Why can't a brand laugh at itself but still have a serious purpose?"

The idea of living a "purposeful life" came through an old family friend, a nun who'd grown up with Barry's mother in St. Louis, where they attended Notre Dame High together. Sister Laurinda had gone on to Honduras to work with ProPapa Missions, a trauma clinic and charity. Barry went and visited the clinic in 1994. It was there that he saw the value in helping his fellow man.

As he later worked to form his underwear empire, that idea of giving back was at the forefront of his mind; he spent two years seeking partnerships with charities and working to make his project sustainable. As a result, each pair of Marc Skid undies starts with organic pima cotton, grown on Peruvian family farms without GMOs or pesticides. The waistbands are made of recycled polymer — water bottles, to be exact. Each waistband, Barry explains, contains one bottle's worth of plastic.

And with every purchase, $4 goes to one of nine organizations: Action Against Hunger, Amazon Conservation Association, Carbon Fund, Catholic Medical Mission Board, Concern Foundation, feedONE, Project C.U.R.E., the Hunger Project and Consumers can choose which charity their money goes to as simply as they choose the color of underwear.

On October 1, Barry launched Marc Skid with the slogan "Make Your Marc on the World." It refers to the company's charitable endeavors — but, hey, it makes for a nice little juvenile laugh as well.

click to enlarge A helpful comic Marc Skid had made to explain the company's origin story. - PROVIDED BY MARC SKID
  • Provided by Marc Skid
  • A helpful comic Marc Skid had made to explain the company's origin story.

There are three cuts available: For the women, the Laurinda Hipster, naturally, was named after Sister Laurinda, while the Joan Bikini was named for Barry's mom. (Yes, he really did name the two ladies' cuts after a nun and his mother.) The Phillip Boxer Brief takes its name from Barry's dad.

The entrepreneur admits that none of the three of them likely ever saw themselves as the namesakes for an underwear line — but their influence on him was profound, so why not?

"I wanted to find a vehicle to somehow give back," Barry explains. "This idea came bubbling up and I was like, 'I'm going for it.' So we'll see what happens."

And, if nothing else, at least the name is good for a laugh.

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