Since bursting onto the fight scene with a fresh concept and a full line of lifestyle clothing inspired by the bloodlines of combat sports, Roots of Fight is changing the face of fight fashion with some great looking gear and the history to back it up. Whether you’re a fan of Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali, the Gracie family or a fight style in particular, Roots of Fight has arrived with a new collection of tees, hoodies, sweatshirts and more that pay tribute to all aspects of combat sport culture. For the inside scoop on this fast rising fight wear brand, we caught up with Jesse Katz, the president of Roots of Fight, to discover a bit more about the past, present and future of his mixed martial arts inspired clothing company.
What’s the story behind Roots of Fight and how did the concept come to life?
Roots of Fight tells the history of combat sports from around the world. Every region of the world has a military therefore every region has a fighting system. One way or another, these fighting systems have become part of the cultural fabric of each nation and had a significant impact on their histories and people. We tell our stories by crossing region with discipline: Krav Maga (Israel), Muay Thai (Thailand), Gracie JJ (Brazil), and so on. We call them Bloodlines. We do our best to trace the history of the individual art and show how each bloodline has evolved and contributed to contemporary mixed martial arts.
We then seek to marry an icon to each discipline, to put a face to it and frame the history – put it into context. We chose cultural icons Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali to anchor this whole concept, gain credibility on a worldwide stage and hopefully help to expand the audience.
How do you go about choosing the stories for your apparel pieces?
We search out authentic stories that reflect a genuine place and time. We want stories that connect the past with the present, and pay homage to the roots of each fighting discipline and the fighters and legends that have pioneered and shaped the world of fight.
What sets your clothing apart from some of the other brands out there?
The MMA apparel landscape is crowded yet very homogenized. If you lined up a shirt from every label, took a step back and squinted your eyes to blur the logos – they could all pass for one brand. Everyone says they want to be different. Roots of Fight as a concept is just our attempt at being different. In this crowded space where everyone leads with fabric stories and tattoo imagery and bedazzling we decided to lead with “story” and most of the time it’s history.
We also are taking advantage of the fact that nobody in this space has done any real storytelling or made clothing that will appeal to the rapidly broadening mainstream and global audience. There is a growing base of fans educated in MMA, who have taken the time to learn the intricacies and nuances of the sport. We think the current “Abercrombie effect” of huge emblazoned logos front and center were a tad insulting. We felt like it was not necessary or appropriate to ‘dumb down’ product for the MMA audience. So, we have added some layers of complexity and a more sophisticated look and feel where fans of all kinds can dig in and find a lot more than just a t-shirt, or in our case a GREAT t-shirt.
You won’t find our logo prominently featured on our product, mostly just inside the neck label. We don’t need fans of Bruce Lee or Muhammad Ali focusing on us. They bought our shirt because they like the way it looks and the story we are telling and they don’t need that relationship clouded by having to also fly our colors. We are patient and will wait to hopefully grow organically from people seeing the quality of our products and the value they get with all of the extras that come with it. We spend a lot of time on every shirt and we feel that this shows. We don’t use clip art. Every piece of art is hand drawn and specialty printed on to the “right” shirt. We release a new mini doc or a teaser of what’s to come every two weeks and every mini doc comes with a shirt or a small collection of clothing that is an extension of the story being told.
Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, Helio Gracie…who can we expect to see next?
Well, we have built 17 Bloodlines that we will be releasing slowly as we hopefully grow our audience. We have identified about 20 more that we would like to dive into. Often, the “who” depends on what stories are accessible. Filmmaking at this level is not easy and requires archival digs, approvals and coordinating our film team on all of the subjects…and all of these fighters/icons have busy schedules. We now have a large base of fighters and legends who have jumped on and that largely informs which Bloodlines we are going to build out and then we see what stories evolve through their filming sessions. We want to capture what is significant but, it has to be authentic and we need to capture their passion for what stories they are telling.
Any plans on focusing on today’s MMA heroes?
Keep your eyes peeled!
What’s your take on today’s MMA fashion scene?
We see a need to connect fashion more to peoples’ passions, and that’s what we aim to achieve with our storytelling approach to both our apparel and our mini-doc films. We see a lot of fashion that will likely fall into the “here today, gone tomorrow” category and we are focused on stories and styles that will stay relevant and resonate with people over time.
How do you see Roots of Fight fitting in (and standing out) in the MMA apparel industry?
Roots of Fight will fit in and at the same time stand out not only because it a storytelling brand, but also because it connects the varied disciplines, the regional influences, and the influence of the pioneers and icons. To sum it up: Everyone loves a good story. Everyone loves a good fight. Together they are the Roots of Fight.
For a closer look at all of the latest Roots of Fight T-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts, including styles honoring Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali, the Gracies and more, check out the Roots of Fight clothing collection.