Someone once said, "Clothes don't make the man, the man makes the clothes." This treatise on substance over style might throw some people for a loop, but not Dixie founder Jon Tubbs. At his small haberdashery in downtown Long Beach, John and his shop manager Jose keep Long Beach’s blue-collar vibe alive by stocking a nice mix of mostly American-made shirts, jeans, boots and accessories for men and women who dress like they carry their lunch in a brown bag, even if most of their customers don't get out of bed ‘til 2 p.m.
I crack wise about Dixie’s slower moving clientele only because I used to live in Long Beach. In the early '90s this city by America's biggest seaport experienced a cultural and economic renaissance, with boutique operators and world-class chefs spearheading its rise from hip-hop enclave to hipster paradise. Today Long Beach is to Los Angeles what Brooklyn is to Manhattan: a vibe-within-a-vibe that trumps even über-hip Williamsburg with better parking, cleaner streets, hotter college girls and more diverse architecture.
Dixie proprietor Jon Tubbs could have emigrated to the Big Apple, but the one-time skate-industry player and Alabama native chose California’s sun-drenched shores to open shop, and for good reason. As a chopper fanatic from the dirty south, Tubbs knew the weather in the Golden State was more conducive to year ‘round riding.
While Dixie’s wares aren’t riding gear per se, the heavy denim pants and vests, rugged woven plaid shirts and heavy-duty work boots that line its shelves seem to be The Official Uniform for today's bikeriders. Silverback bikers who dress like Wyatt Earp probably know more jokes about today’s skate chic look than you can shake a ‘do rag at, but given the choice, there’s no comparison. The fashion aesthetic boutiques like Dixie are popularizing makes better sense than a lot of other chopper costumes we could imagine.
Most of us who work on motorcycles have learned the hard way why long sleeves, thick soles and tough trousers are de rigueur for garage and saddle time. Dixie and shops like it are simply bringing the tenets of fit, function and durability to the skinny jeans-wearing masses. Call it niche marketing or crass commercialism if you wish. I call it American entrepreneurial spirit, and Alabama's John Tubbs has it in spades.
I spent two hours with John learning about Dixie and his other SoCal boutiques. Here's what the slow-talking and fast-thinking southern gentleman had to say.
When did you open Dixie's doors? 2011.
How big is your store space? About 900 square feet.
What other apparel stores do you own or partner with in SoCal? Long Beach Trading Company and TriCo in Hollywood
What did you do before you moved to SoCal? I was a road rep in the southeastern USA for Sole Tech, Spitfire, Anti Hero, Real skateboards in '06 to '09. In 2009 I moved to SoCal to rep for Vans shoes. In early 2011 I left the industry to do retail. Before all of that I worked at Faith Skate Supply in Birmingham, Alabama.
Where do you find your materials and inspiration for Dixie's interior design? I find inspiration in day-to-day life. Things I like include antiques and motorcycles and all kinds of industrial stuff.
Describe the average Dixie customer. Our typical customer is a normal working-class guy. Some own bikes, some just want high-quality, good-fitting clothes. No hipsters!
Give us a list of your shop's top-selling brands. Dixie, FMA, Born Loser, Death Squad, Brixton, Loser Machine, Show Class. in accessories we've got Col, Buck and Case knives, and for pants we've got Matix, Tellason, Eat Dust, Sugar Cane, Ben Davis, Dickies and Brixton. We sell a whole bunch of men's and women's accessories, too: stuff like belts, hats, Hoven and Tres Noir sunglasses, you name it.
Any motorcycle-specific gear? Gloves, Biltwell and Daytona helmets, vests and jackets.
Jon shares info on store specials, coming events and other stuff on his blogs. Check them out here: