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High Style on Island Time

Bald Head Blues makes "off the beaten path" a way of life.

By Melissa Diskin

High Style on Island Time

By Melissa Diskin

In a market-driven world where success is equated with speed, downshifting feels like disruption. But for Claude Pope III, the founder of sportswear company Bald Head Blues, stepping off the beaten path was less about the market and more about staying true to his roots. 

Bald Head Blues embodies the North Carolina island aesthetic, including a logo -- a golf cart carrying a surfboard -- that acts as the quintessential emblem of an island that has traded cars for golf carts, boardwalks, and a slower pace of life.  

“In the summer you’ll see carts like my logo -- that’s my inspiration,” said Pope. “Everybody puts their stuff on top of the golf cart strapped down with bungee cords -- hundreds of carts, every day. As a kid we’d put our surfboard on top of the cart, strap it down, and head to the beach. It’s an iconic symbol of the island.”

Founded in 2014, Bald Head Blues now has a range of clothing and accessories for men, women, and kids, but Pope has always focused on polo shirts with serious hanger appeal. After spending years as a professional golf caddy at courses including the Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach, the Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles, and the Ocean Course in Kiawah, Pope confesses that he’s “a golf junkie at heart.” The course-friendly, summer-weight polos are still his flagship product. 

The iconic Bald Head Blues shirts come in two fabrications: a comfort-flex made of pima cotton and spandex, which Pope describes as “a super-soft, stretchy polo,” and a comfort-dry shirt that he calls “our take on a performance, quick-dry fabrication.” And while the island aesthetic is simplicity itself, the shirts include design flourishes that stand out: a contrast-thread, golf-cart logo, gingham trim on side vents to match, and a subtle flash of offset fabric on the self collar. 

Pope knows that God is in the details, especially in a saturated market where every little difference counts. Somehow, the gingham trim transforms an otherwise simple shirt into an essential, and Pope knows why: “On a solid it looks sharp; on the stripe it gives good contrast.” (To gild the lily, Bald Head Blues performance polos also offer UPF 50 sun protection.)

In true beach style, Bald Head Blues also offers a range of 100 percent pima cotton t-shirts, made in Greenville SC. All the t-shirts display the golf cart logo on the front pocket and whimsical designs on the back. Pope’s favorite has an endless sunset design, but the top seller is a shirt that riffs on an American flag -- with the company’s iconic golf cart in place of the field of stars. 

The growth of the company feels like a microcosm of the American Dream. “Five years ago, in April 2014, I started with polo shirts and hats, in a small retail store on the island,” said Pope. Today, the brand sells nationwide, supplying clothing and accessories to both the retail and B2B markets. “There’s an organic story, a legitimate story behind our brand,” said Pope. “It begs the question -- what’s Bald Head Island? What’s Bald Head Blues? It’s a funny name. People think: is it a hat company? No, it’s a Bald Head Island story. It makes perfect sense. We tell that story.”

Endless Sunset Island Tee Shirt