Apparel that salutes the troops
February 19, 2017 • Reprints
There is a strong movement to honor the men and women who serve in our military and a unique company is tapping into that pride and working to highlight that culture and serve those that have served us.
Illinois-based apparel company, Grunt Style LLC, sells military-themed items and accessories like T-shirts, athletic gear and posters.
To Grunt Style, what you wear is a statement. It’s about attitude! Grunt Style has taken the American fighting spirit and instilled it in everything they do. They provide more than apparel; they instill pride.
Company First Sergeant and Marine Corps veteran Tim Jensen explains: “It’s like a Bald Eagle at a baseball game eating apple pie.”
At Grunt Style, “hire a vet” isn’t merely a slogan. The company CEO, former Army drill sergeant Daniel Alarik, says that every veteran with an honorable discharge is guaranteed an interview and 50% of Grunt Style employees are veterans.
Jensen explains that Alarik is providing an outlet for vets along with a job. “We’ve had a lot of employees that struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, myself [included],” Jensen says. “And being with people that have those same problems and [being able to help them] helps me become a better person.”
Alarik says hiring people who have served in the military allows them to rekindle a culture of “pride in self, military and country.”
“We all talk, we all work through our problems” adds Jensen.
“Our biggest strategy this year is training to make better leaders—like I did as a drill sergeant,” Alarik says. “We work to train, lead and mentor by showing how, assessing what was done, what went wrong and how we can do better next time.”
To meet the demand for their products sold online — averaging 150,000 units per month, more than 2.2 million units over the last three years — Grunt Style has more than 200 highly motivated veterans and patriots, who make 8,000 shirts a day within their screen-printing warehouse and ship around the world, as far as Australia. The clothing has a patriotic theme (“Freedom Eagle” hoodie) and provocative (“Ammo Flag” shirt).
“We are the most effective screen-printing operations in the Midwest,” says Alarik.
Last year one of the fastest-selling items was made at the request of Dallas police. In two weeks, the company sold 24,000 shirts printed with the names of the five Dallas officers killed by a sniper. Grunt Style donated more than $200,000 to the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation, a portion of proceeds going to the families of fallen officers. When Alarik saw the tragedy in Dallas he decided to donate 100% of the proceeds from their online sales of shirts.
Finding his way
Manufacturing and selling apparel is not what Alarik had in mind as a career when he graduated high school and enlisted in the Army in 2000.
“I wanted to do something greater than myself,” he says. “I actually had huge disdain for business. I wanted to do something bigger.”
Out of basic training right before 9/11, Daniel was deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo. By 2004, he was discharged from active duty and became a personal trainer while serving in the reserves. But Army life was Alarik’s heart and passion. He reenlisted and became a drill sergeant stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia and later served in the National Guard.
In 2009, Alarik was looking for work where he could show his pride in the military and his patriotism He literally Googled, ‘What is business?’
His idea was a small online T-shirt business named Grunt Style. It didn’t provide him a paycheck until 2012.
“I’d travel around the country selling out of the back of my car,” Alarik says. “I’d sleep in my car. I still had a military ID so I’d go to a local base, shower in the gym and then go back to work selling out of the back of my car. The first three years — it was a nightmare.”
“I had no training going into this, so I read a lot about business and realized there are more similarities with the military values I was familiar with,” he says.
In 2011, with a baby son, it was time to come back to Chicago.
It was a trip to the Army Navy Military Expo (ANME) in Las Vegas in January 2012 where Grunt Style had their first significant exposure, but financial struggles were as real as ever.
“It was a lot of hustle, I didn’t have money,” explains Alarik. He and his wife resorted to peanut butter and bread for many of their meals.
“We made a deal: If I can bring in at least $6,000, let’s keep the doors open. If I can’t, we’re done.”
By the end of ANME, Grunt Style had $6,200 in revenue.
From printing in his basement to printing more than a hundred thousand products a month, each certified under the “Beer Guarantee.” (The Beer Guarantee means that Grunt Style stands behind their products for life and will replace that item as long as you have it.) Alarik served his country and now lives the American Dream.
“At Grunt Style it’s our mission to deliver that pride we have, that same pride that you find in the military or hard core patriots, and delivers it to your doorstep,” says Alarik, who knows firsthand the struggle many veterans have integrating back into society. He was fired six weeks into a job he had shortly after leaving the military because he couldn’t adapt to the office culture.
You go from making life and death decisions to asking what tie should you where, he notes.” It’s almost depressing. On top of that, nobody around you can really understand.”
Alarik focuses, not just on the patriotic clothing and hats he prints, but the message he hopes to spread across the country.