In this installment of Behind the Brand, we had the chance to sit down with the folks at BUFF to discuss the behind the scenes of the number one face/ skin shield company in the USA.
Flylords: Who is BUFF?
BUFF: BUFF® is the originator of the ‘multifunctional headwear’ category, founded in 1991 by Joan Rojas, a Spanish motorcyclist. Charged with a passion for riding in all conditions – dust, wind, cold nor sun could stop him, but he sought to find a better solution to keep his neck and head protected on those cross-country rides. Plucking knowledge of tubular knitting from the family business he created the first BUFF® headwear product. “BUFF”, short for bufanda, means scarf in Spanish and this is how the BUFF® the brand came to be. Today, nearly 30 years later BUFF® products are sold in more than 70 countries across the globe with 1,200+ US retailers.
Flylords: What was the inspiration behind the BUFF® brand?
BUFF: Our multifunctional headwear goes by many names we hear today – Neck gaiter, neck scarf, face mask, the list goes on. However, what made the core product of the brand so revolutionary nearly 30 years ago was the seamless, tubular constructions which allowed the product to be worn more than 12 different ways with chafe-free comfort due to lack of seams and pressure points.
Flylords: What do you think sets the BUFF® brand apart from other outdoor UV/ temperature protection brands?
BUFF: BUFF® has one singular focus when it comes to sun protection. To be the best, and to be recommended by leading organizations in dermatology and skin health such as The Skin Cancer Foundation. Partnering with superior manufactures of raw materials such as REPREVE®, Polygiene® and HEIQ combine to make a product category that is hard to compete with. There’s a lot of technology packed into a seemingly basic product. One that stands out is our partnership with REPREVE for our yarn. Each BUFF® Multifunctional Headwear product is made from 2 recycled plastic water bottles! Since 2018 BUFF® has diverted 8 million plastic water bottles from oceans and landfills globally.
Flylords: Are there any charities / non-profit organizations BUFF® is involved in?
BUFF: In the United States, we’re a proud member of the Conservation Alliance, a national sponsor of Casting for Recovery, a business member of Trout Unlimited, and Captains for Clean Water to name a few.
Flylords: What has been one of the greatest successes that has come out of this brand?
BUFF: Clearly the invention of an entirely new category of clothing accessories. Before BUFF® multifunctional headwear people wore traditional scarves or bulky sewn neck gaiters.
Flylords: BUFF has hundreds of unique designs and artist collaborations within the art of the product to choose from, do you have a personal favorite?
BUFF: It’s hard not to think of BUFF® products as a fly angler and not think of the timeless designs from artist Derek DeYoung. Rainbow Royal and Tarpon Flank come to mind as favorites. We also work with other fishing artists such as Alexandra Nicole, AD Maddox, and Rob McAbee of Bugslinger.
Flylords: What is the greatest attribute a BUFF® brand product contributes to the fishing industry?
BUFF: BUFF® multifunctional headwear and accessories provide one-time application sun protection for long days on the water. Their lightweight comfort allows anglers to focus on the fishing, not the sunscreen in prone areas of the neck, face, ears, and hands with their gloves.
Flylords: What was one of the biggest challenges BUFF® faced in incorporating itself into the fly-fishing space?
BUFF: We’re a global brand with products ranging from multifunctional headwear, headbands, caps, and hats. However, what made the US market unique to the rest of the globe was the early adoption of anglers in American in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Anglers such as Tom Rowland and Conway Bowman to name a few were some of the early adopters.
Flylords also had the chance to sit down with legendary guide, podcaster, and head of Saltwater Experience, Tom Rowland who was one of the first fly-fishing adopters of the BUFF brand.
Flylords: Tom, you were one of the first professional fishing guides to ever embrace the BUFF brand, what drew you to them in the first place?
Tom: Well, being a guide in the keys, your main concern is sun protection. At first, I wasn’t too wise. I just wore a shirt and shorts and a baseball cap. Even with sunscreen you’re just getting fried out there, especially when going out 6-7 days in a row. So there was a need for sun protection. There were some guys who just wore bandanas, but that was not only impractical but uncomfortable. I remember at the time Richard Stanczyk was known for just slathering thick zinc oxide on his face, but I was looking to find something different.
Then, one day a client came on the boat with a BUFF. I didn’t know what it was, but I immediately realized that this was the answer. I wore it the whole day and realized that I needed to hang on to it. Luckily, he brought it with the packaging which had a phone number. I called that number and got ahold of Shirley Brunetti (VP and GM at BUFF). I asked her what the product was and their plan for it. She told me it was mainly for cyclist and motor-cycle riders… I asked if she had even thought to sell it to anglers. She didnt really know what a fisherman would want with a product like that. I explained to her the harsh conditions that we as guides in the keys faced every day out in the hot sun. I told her I believed one day, every guide in the keys would be wearing one.
It was slow to take off. Many guides didn’t even care to try it. However, once they did they completely understood. Guides were coming home less sunburned. They could work more days in a row and eventually, due to their improved health, more years in a row.
So as more guides started wearing it, clients eventually adjusted. If you’re someone who spends a long amount of time in the sun, you get it. Once we introduced buff to some distribution channels, buff became commonplace amongst the Florida angler community. Anyone that is outside working in Florida has adopted it as an acceptable method of taking care of yourself.
Flylords: How important is your BUFF to you?
Tom: It’s one of the few things that I would turn the boat around if I forgot it. Anyone that is outside working in Florida has adopted it as an acceptable method of taking care of yourself. Not to mention, getting rid of sunscreen was great. I hated using it. It stings your eyes and gets in your mouth. Plus, there’s no way wearing it every day for years is safe. I was actually curious enough to take my buff to my dermatologist and he told me that it was a more than a safe alternative to sunscreen. It’s a simple product that fills a real need.
Flylords: What were people’s reactions when you first started wearing BUFF® products during your day-to-day excursions? Any funny stories to share?
Tom: I remember people would ask me if I was robbing a bank. I’d often hear remarks like, “There goes Jesse James”. Not to mention, getting pulled over by the FWC wasn’t uncommon. You’re out there and your face is covered. They’d ask you what the heck you were doing out there looking so suspicious. However, soon enough, I was handing them out to FWC and saw them wearing them.
The funniest thing I can remember was that at one point I had a client with incredibly sensitive skin. He was a real fare skinned guy. This guy would at some point show up in the dark with this thing on his face. I mean he really depended on it. So much so that he cut a hole where his mouth was so that he could eat and drink through it. It was pretty gross, but always gave me a chuckle.
Flylords: What would you say is the most important feature BUFF® products provide to anglers and guides?
Tom: First of all, it does what it’s intended to do and provides sun protection. But, the best thing about it is simplicity. Other companies have tried to complicate it and make all these extra features and they’ve ruined it. BUFF has done an amazing job in understanding less is more and kept their design as simple as it can possibly be. They’ve also made strides in improving the functionality of their fabric and its ability to block the sun as well.
Flylords: How have you seen the company grow and evolve as a product category leader?
Tom: As I said, it went from something that wasn’t even a product category to being a household name. Its become a staple for anyone who wants to do this for a while.
Flylords: What are you most proud of as an ambassador of the BUFF® brand?
Tom: Definitely just being able to show this product to the world. It’s always nice to have a good relationship with your sponsors and have an investment, but this product takes care of people. It really helps people maintain themselves in the industry.
Thank you so much to the BUFF team, as well as Captain Tom Roland for their time and commitment to the Fly-Fishing industry. If you’re looking to get your hands on any of the many products BUFF offers, click here to browse!
Also, Flylords recently partnered with BUFF to produce their Summer 2020 promo. Check it out!