State and Liberty: Performance dress shirts built by Michigan alums Lee Moffie and Mac Bennett

state and liberty

By @MichaelCaples –

For most professional hockey players, the off-season is a time for training and preparing for the upcoming season.

For Lee Moffie, however, it’s extra time to work on State and Liberty.

The clothing company – created by Moffie and business partner Steven Fisher – offers men’s dress shirts made from athletic performance fabric.

“I’ve always kind of been infatuated with dress clothes and clothing in general,” said Moffie, a University of Michigan alum currently playing in the ECHL. “We were both fans as far as Lululemon stuff goes, so we really liked the idea of the athletic fabric they were doing. We wondered why no one was really doing it with dress shirts.”

During the summer of 2014, Moffie and Fisher officially launched State and Liberty, their clothing line made of materials similar to Nike’s ‘Dri-Fit’ with a street-intersection name that pays tribute to their time in Ann Arbor.

Lee Moffie during his Michigan Hockey career. (Photo by Andrew Knapik/MiHockey)
Lee Moffie during his Michigan Hockey career. (Photo by Andrew Knapik/MiHockey)

 

“We kind of looked into it, and there were some other companies that were messing around with different fabrics for dress shirts,” said Moffie, a native of Wallingford, Conn. “We kind of bounced some ideas off each other and just said, ‘You know, we haven’t been impressed with anything we’ve seen. Why don’t we try and make something that we’re proud of?’ From there, we sent a bunch of e-mails to the different fabric makers, to different shirt manufacturers, and eventually got down to a couple that really wanted to work with us, kind of made a decision from there where we wanted to go and then just started making prototypes and messed around with different fabrics.

“After three, four, five rounds of prototypes, we felt like we had a product that we were pretty proud of and a shirt that we were proud of.”

The State and Liberty shirts may be the ideal attire for a hockey player – wrinkle-free, machine-washable, lightweight and comfortable.

“It’s a mix of polyester and spandex,” Moffie said of the material. “Polyester kind of has this 1970s disco-era feel to it, but everyone that has the work-out clothes that they use, that material has come such a long way, it’s such a performance fabric, offers so many qualities that cotton doesn’t have, such as stretching, moisture-wicking, odor-suppressing technology. We’re messing around with fabrics right now that are water-proof, literally impossible to stain. There are so many options with the shirt and we feel it has so many great qualities to offer over your traditional dress shirt, and we can still make it as professional and as crisp as a normal dress shirt.”

Check out State and Liberty’s clothing collection on their official website. The State and Liberty team is having a fall line kick-off party at the Shinola store in Ann Arbor from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12.

Moffie’s doing more than just creating shirts, however; he’s also adding to his team. State and Liberty has former Wolverines captain Mac Bennett – a teammate of Moffie’s – working as the vice president of marketing for the company.

Mac Bennett during his Michigan Hockey career. (Photo by Andrew Knapik/MiHockey)
Mac Bennett during his Michigan Hockey career. (Photo by Andrew Knapik/MiHockey)

 

“The cool thing about this is that Lee and his partner Steven Fisher started this company and I had heard a little bit about it, and I think I bought my first shirt – I was playing in Hamilton, Ontario for the Hamilton Bulldogs – and I bought my first shirt in February or March, and I got the product and I was just completely enamored by it,” Bennett said. “So, when my season finally finished and I was driving back to Ann Arbor, for me, my job is pretty much over in the summer at 1 o’clock every day. I get my workout done and then that’s it, so I called Lee up on the phone, and I said, ‘Lee, now, I love what you guys are doing, I love your product, I’d love for you guys to use me in any capacity that you can,’ so they put me to work.

“I was doing a bunch of different things, but kind of found my niche in terms of marketing. It’s so much fun to be able to have a business partner who I’m comfortable with, who I played hockey with. The hockey bond, as you probably know, is something that’s unbreakable. It’s a pretty special thing to be able to do this with a former teammate or best friend and a guy who’s pretty business-savvy, as well.”

While Bennett may appear in the State and Liberty staff listing, he’s not the only teammate involved in the company. Moffie said that when it comes to finding out how guys really feel about his shirts, there’s no better testing facility than a hockey locker room.

“As far as feedback, being in a hockey locker room, owning a clothing company and having almost every guy in the locker room wearing one of your shirts, you’re going to get all the feedback you can handle,” Moffie said. “The guys look to give you a hard time about anything. There’s a real blessing being able to be in a locker room with 25 guys who are all wearing your shirt. You can really see how it’s performing – how it fits guys differently – but you really get the sure feedback and more when that’s going in. That was really great to have.”

Photo by Dave Reginek/DRW
Photo by Dave Reginek/DRW

 

The hockey ties help on Bennett’s marketing side of the business, as well.

“I think just the people who are wearing the shirts speaks for how well the shirts have done. We have a number of NHL players wearing these shirts, a number of AHL players, it’s really, really stuck in the hockey community. But everyone says that it’s a great shirt; you don’t have to take it to the dry cleaner, it’s sweat-wicking, it does so many good things. The feedback has just been incredible.

“As we go forward with the new technology that is going to come out, and all the research and development that is going into these shirts, we have a great product now, but it’s only going to get better as time goes on.”

It’s not easy, of course, managing a business while pursuing professional hockey careers at the same time.

“I played in South Carolina last year, and we had a great playoff run and when that was going on, we had such a great locker room, such a great group of guys, that definitely took over as my primary focus at the time,” Moffie said. “It sucked having to take time away from the company. It’s really tough…we’re out of the locker room at 12 or 1, we have the rest of the day to do stuff, and obviously you’d rather go hang out with guys on the team, go grab a coffee or go downtown and check it out, but it’s just the price you’ve gotta pay. You have a bunch of e-mails that are piling up, you’ve got to get back to people, but it’s just been a great learning experience and one that I think, as far as doing hockey, you can’t really get a better experience than that.”

Bennett added: “People are always telling me, when you finally do turn pro, it’s not like college where you have class all day, then you go to practice, then afterward you go to homework, you squeeze in meals at some point and then you go to bed. It’s very, very unstructured. When your day finally does finish and it’s not a game-day, it’s 12 or 1 like Lee said, you’ve got to find something to fill your time. Sometimes people get caught up doing the wrong thing, so for us to have this, this side project, and it’s always going, it’s a really big blessing to be able to stay busy throughout the season, throughout the summer.”

The Wolverine alums know they are building something that will be there when their hockey careers come to a close, as well.

“Anyone who plays hockey at a higher level, you don’t have much time to get business experience outside of hockey, because you’ll play juniors, go to college, so all your free time is spent training,” Bennett said. “Just to have this kind of business experience or marketing or in advertising or in sales or whatever it may be, it’s pretty valuable, especially for people like myself, who didn’t have much business experience growing up.”

And it’s all built around Moffie and Bennett’s college experience with the University of Michigan.

“When we were deciding on the name, we knew we wanted to have something Michigan-based, Ann Arbor-based,” Moffie said. “This school, this town has been so good to us and anyone who gets to go to school here knows what a privilege it is. It’s such a great town, so we wanted to pay homage to Ann Arbor and the school so we were bouncing around presidents’ names, ex-football players, ex-hockey players, ex-presidents, street names…we actually really, really struggled to come down with names, but we’re obviously very proud of what we came up with. We get very excited when we get e-mails from people who reached out to us saying, ‘Hey, I was curious about your name. Is that the crossroad in Ann Arbor?’ And we’re happy to tell them yeah, our story and how Ann Arbor impacted our lives.”

Check out State and Liberty’s clothing collection on their official website. The State and Liberty team is having a fall line kick-off party at the Shinola store in Ann Arbor from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12.

MiHockey Staff

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