You’d be forgiven for expecting Shaun White to become a shill after winning a gold medal in snowboarding at the 2006 Olympics and more gold in skateboarding at the 2007 Summer X Games.
Instead, the “Flying Tomato,” with his wild red hair and southern California style, took control of his image. He didn’t sell out to the highest bidder but adopted a more sophisticated approach.
“I was so fortunate to have had some success before the Olympics,” he says. “So when the time came for everyone to come at me, I was able to step back and say, ‘Do I really want to do that?’”
White became so sick of autographing terrible publicity photos that he now inserts approval rights into his contracts. At 22, he’s even more selective about endorsements. According to his agent, he turns away plenty of money.
“He is living by his own code, and young people admire that,” says DeeDee Gordon, a California trend-watcher.
White is inserting his quirky style into a clothing line that literally suits him. Working with his brother Jesse, he has fashioned clothing and gear with silly names: Puff the Magic Jacket, the Most Unholy Jacket Ever.
“I wanted parents to have to call and ask, ‘Do you have the Most Unholy Jacket Ever?’” he says, laughing. Which is so Shaun White.
In November of 2011, upon release of his latest clothing line at Target, he told Kidsday the "scariest" part of having his own clothing line is, "You put yourself out for criticism...You're taking a leap of faith, saying 'I really like these clothes, I really like these designs or artwork,' and you're hoping that other people like them as well. The newest wave of things is by far, I think, our best. It gets better and better every year."
Bottom line: Some call it personal branding. Design your own bottom line.
— Adapted from “Shaun White Lifts Off,” Mark Borden, Fast Company; Photo by Veronica Belmont, 2008, courtesy Flickr and Wikimedia Commons.