At Ruffneck making totally awesome scarves is only a small portion of what we do. Our real trade is exporting passion, and the avenue we have chosen to do so is through scarves. Whether it’s a US national team scarf, a custom “Spartan Spirit” high school pride scarf, or a scarf developed for a corporate event like the Halo 3 Launch, each and every scarf we make connects individuals to a community of passion, pride, and common place.
Over the years we have had the privilege of helping some amazing groups and individuals design and distribute their passion through custom scarves. To share their stories we’ve decided to do a monthly “Rockin’ Ruffneck” article that profiles a featured partner and their experiences with Ruffneck Scarves.
When we decided to run customer features there was never any question of who would be our first victum, one of the few individuals we know whose passion for scarves rivals our own, Coach Steve (Svetozar) Brdarski. Scarves aside, Coach Brdarski’s personal story is reason enough to write a feature. As a student at Pfeiffer University, between studying and his own collegiate soccer career, Brdarski somehow found time to act as assistant coach for the Lady Falcon’s at Pfeiffer. It didn’t take long for Coach Brdarski to realize this was his calling, and though according to him “many people though it was strange and I was crazy,” he forfeited playing his senior year to focus on coaching. Shortly after graduation at the fresh age of twenty-one Brdarski was appointed head coach of the men’s team, making him unofficially the youngest university head coach in the nation. It all sounds like a heartfelt sports movie in the making (note to self: secure movie rights…), but where do scarves fit into all of this?
It all started with a grand idea while working as assistant women’s coach at Longwood University seven years ago. Average match attendance at this time was around 200, but Coach had bigger dreams. Inspired by the growing popularity and fanatical supporters groups in the MLS, in particular the ECS Sounders supporters who rally and “March to the Match”, he conjured up a grandiose plan. The Lancers were gonna march!
“I can’t tell you how excited I was, but I had to get others on board. I pitched the idea to my partner in crime, Stacy Wilkerson with this whole march thing and she actually bought it.” Brdarski’s plans were underway but “what’s a march without scarves... they were the missing piece.” Pooling as many resources together as they could, the team scrapped together enough money to buy 1,000 scarves from a third party seller working with a company in China. When the scarves arrived to Coach Brdarski’s dismay the length, color, and design of the scarves were completely inconsistent. Half the scarves were navy, the others were light blue and noticeably shorter, but with limited time before the event they were gonna have to do.
Over 1,000 eager fans showed up to “The greatest athletics march ever” and the biggest match turnout in the soccer program’s history. “Everything was perfect except for the scarves.” The method for “fueling passion behind [the] event” was scarves, and that was the missing part.
At a coaching convention four months after the big march Coach Brdarski met co-founders of Ruffneck Scarves Jeff McIntyre and Erin O’Brien and became “best friends” instantly. The threesome spent the whole day talking about scarves and beginning preparation for the next march. 1,500 Longwood University scarves were ordered and delivered by Ruffneck, and they still ran out. Over 1,500 people had showed up for a women’s college soccer rally and match. Not just showed up but turned out and turned up with enthusiasm and pride for their team and school.
The scarf had turned into an epidemic! All over campus students and faculty could be seen rockin’ their Ruffneck scarves. Passion and pride bubbled over and students were already asking about the next years design. The Longwood Scarf took on a persona of its own as a symbol of school spirit and community, and believe it or not even has its own Facebook page.
That event sealed the deal Coach Brdarski is a Ruffneck elitist. As a self proclaimed scarf snob, Brdarski said “If it doesn’t say Ruffneck it’s not a scarf, it’s just a piece of cloth. Jeff and Erin are probably the nicest guys you’ve ever met… I love all the things that they do and will support them in any way I can. When someone will actually take the time to really talk with you, thats when you know they are something different… better.”The Longwood March to the match has seen continued success after its second year, and though Coach Brdarski has taken a new position at Saint Bonadventure University, during his time as a Lancer he was able to spread his passion taking one step closer to his goal of “a nation full of people who wear scarves.”