1. Flat-lock stitching avoids chafing; 2. Woven with antimicrobial fabric that cuts down on odors; 3. A mix of zippered and open pockets; 4. Wide soft waist bands for comfort. At right: Tyger Long Sleeve Tee, $68, and Mako Short, $62, rhoneapparel.com F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas (2)
WHILE THE WOMEN'S activewear scene is awash in premium gear, men's workout clothes trail by several laps. "A guy can either be a billboard for a mass brand or shop from a niche, high-end brand that isn't really for working out," said Kyle McClure, who, as both a former retail entrepreneur and NCAA lacrosse player, knows whereof he speaks.
It's this dilemma that prompted Mr. McClure, 34, his friend and avid athlete Nate Checketts, 31, and two other zealously sporty pals (they're less public since they still have day jobs) to cook up Rhone Apparel, a line of men's activewear that launched quietly last winter. Sales of Rhone's nine basic pieces—two pants, two shorts and five tops—have already outperformed projections; and the company's funding has now reached $1.2 million, which will help it roughly double its offerings over the next year.
"We couldn't find the quality we were looking for or a customer experience that was about championing masculinity," continued Mr. McClure. In other words,Lululemon LULU -2.12% may offer quality and style, but the name still sounds like Strawberry Shortcake's BFF. Still, Rhone, named for the European river and valley, took a page or two from that company's playbook. Each piece has an inspirational quote printed inside, e.g., "Man is not made for defeat." Style names come from masculine icons, like the Durden T-shirt after "Fight Club" character Tyler Durden.
Rhone's pieces are also made from remarkably soft, lightweight technical fabrics. Silver—known for its antimicrobial properties—is incorporated into the thread. Then there are thoughtful details like wide, comfortable waistbands, and a combination of open and zippered pockets. The fit is a flattering happy medium between the two familiar extremes of XXL and compression.
"So much attention is paid to the women's market," said Mr. McClure, "but customers are savvy now, they understand quality. We want to level the playing field."
July 18, 2014 11:58 a.m. ET