Andy: I’m Andy Gilchrist from askandyaboutclothes.com.
We have the pleasure of talking to Rob Kessler, Inventor of the Million Dollar Collar [ placket stiffener ]. How are you doing, Rob?
Rob: I’m fantastic, Andy. How are you doing?
Andy: Good, good, good.
It’s just amazing to me these days, especially in men’s clothing, to find somebody that’s so innovative, that actually saw a problem, the droopy collar on your dress shirt — if you don’t want to wear a tie, and took the determination and drive to invent a whole new solution.
I’ve got to hear the story. How did you get started?
Rob: Well, it all came about on my wedding day.
My wife and I met on the beach in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And we got married on the beach in Jamaica.
And before I could say I do, my brand new, freshly pressed shirt was a crumbled mess. I remember tugging at my collar all day long, and it just never looked good.
And so, on the biggest day of my life, I felt like I looked like a slob.
I’ve never really been a tie guy. So I wasn’t going to be somebody I’m not on my wedding day. It was a beach wedding, so it’s going to be more relaxed, and I just hated the way it [the shirt’s sagging placket] looked.
So I came home and I cut open the shirt, shoved some cardboard down the placket —
Rob: — where the buttons and the holes are in the shirt and showed my new bride, and she’s like, “Argh! I get it!”
“It’s like such a visual thing,” I was trying to explain her. She didn’t get it until I actually showed her.
Andy: Not only did you marry a smart woman, but at weddings, they take pictures. So, you could see what was going on with your shirt. That’s kind of interesting.
Rob: Yes, instantly, we actually — Our friend was a photographer, so — I was looking at the pictures the next day. And I was like, “Oh, my god!” Like, I just hated the way my shirt looked.
Andy: [Laughs] But you’ve got to have some engineering background, to even – get something into the inside of the placket of a shirt.
How did you even think of that? What were your…what were you? I know your motivation but how did you go to that next step?
Rob: I would say I’m an unofficial engineer. I used to break a lot of stuff when I was a kid. And so to not get in trouble, I would have to figure out how to fix it really quick.
So, yeah, I kind of looked at it and just started screwing around. What’s the worst that can happen.
You’re ruining an old, pitted out, stained dress shirt. I mean it really wasn’t — like trying to tear apart my stereo or something. So, that’s where I started and just started piecing it together.
And it took almost three years to kind of figure it all out and put it all together, but, yes, it’s one little step at a time.
Andy: Yeah, what kind of — You’re not using cardboard anymore, I’m assuming. What kind of fabric or material are these [placket stiffeners] made out of?
Rob: So, right, yes, we went from cardboard so — I tested every plastic in my house — from zip ties to mini-blinds and even flexible cutting boards.
I went and ordered every plastic from distributors I could find that might be heat-resistant. And I have a bin of 100 shirts I ruined, trying to figure this out.
But we end up partnering with a plastics company in developing a material that could handle almost double the temperature at dry cleaners, which is really, really high.
So, it’s lightweight, flexible, high-temp-resistant, and 100% made in America.
Andy: Well, that’s fabulous – that’s really neat. The high-temperature thing, I hadn’t quite thought about that, but you iron, you send it to a laundry — God only knows what they do there.
So, these are pretty durable after — with that kind of fabric or what kind of plastic?
Rob: Right. Yes, dry cleaners were the big challenge. They flash-press your shirt at over 400 degrees. An iron steams at 200 degrees. Dryers, usually about 135, so it was really that dry cleaning.
I would feel all confident when I washed and dried and ironed something — that it didn’t warp.
Rob: And then I’d send it to the dry cleaner, and it would absolutely melt to the shirt and totally destroy it. [Laughs]
Andy: I mean, my shirts come back from the cleaner without buttons, so I can’t imagine the research you had to do and all the shirts you went through but that’s how you progress.
You make mistakes. And that – so it causes great innovation and a fabulous product.
Just to recap here for our readers and listeners, this solves the problem of when you have a shirt placket — collar and shirt placket, that droops because you’re not wearing a tie.
Most dress shirts, and even some of the sweatshirts, are required or it would work best if you have a tie, something holding up and making that shirt placket a little more sturdy.
And if you’re not wearing a tie, you’re kind of in trouble — so this really solves a great problem.
How can I purchase a set of these? I assume they're a set. And how can I get one for less than a million dollars?
Rob: [Laughs] They come in sets. We sell them in packs of 5, 10, and 20. They’re available on our website, milliondollarcollar.com or Amazon if you need them quick.
You can always — If you go onto our website and your order, you can use the discount code, AAAC (Ask Andy About Clothes) and get 10% off your order.
Andy: Thank you.
Rob: So, they’re anywhere from $2 to $3 per set.
And then, you kind of hook up with your dry cleaner, or your tailor, and have them installed – they’re sewn in.
And it takes about five minutes to put it in. And once it’s in, it lasts the life of the shirt. So it’s just a one-time — about a 10 dollar investment in your dress shirt.
Rob: And it will look way better.
Andy: By the way, your website is really good looking. It’s easy to navigate, especially important for guys.
They can read it, you can easily figure out where you’re going to get to other pages. I think it really explains the [Million Dollar Collar] product and the [placket stay] solution on there quite well.
Rob: Thank you, I appreciate it. It’s time to get that right.
Andy: If I was halfway confident at sewing, could I put one of these in myself?
Rob: Absolutely. I mean, it’s so easy. I actually taught myself how to sew. The first shirt took me about 45 minutes. And now, it takes me about six or seven minutes.
And even that, when I talk to a tailor, they’re like — this is like four minutes, maybe. It’s really quick. It’s really easy.
I’ve got a bunch of guys that have ordered and have done it themselves. I mean, you can get a needle and thread and do-it-yourself if you really want to, but for 10 bucks, it’s pretty quick.
It’s really, really easy for most of those guys.
We work with about 600 to 700 dry cleaners already in the US that are familiar with the product, know how to install it, usually have a good deal on the first one.
So, you could check that map on our install page and find an installer near you, hopefully.
Andy: And that’s about the average price nationwide, is about $10 [to install a set of Million Dollar Collar]?
Rob: Yeah, they charge about 10 bucks for the service to put it [a set] in.
Andy: And you got a shirt for life, the life of the shirt after that. That’s a pretty good investment, I’d say, just for the installation.
A lot of the guys on my website, still wear neckties, does this mess up anything? Could you still wear a necktie with the shirt [that has Million Dollar Collar installed]?
Rob: Yes, we actually have a lot of guys, like in New York, in Wall Street, and stuff, that wear Million Dollar Collar—
Andy: Oh, yeah.
Rob: — They have their tie on all day long, and when they go to happy hour, they pop it [their tie] off.
The material is really, really lightweight. It’s really flexible. It goes between the edge of the shirt and the button or the hole.
So you can button all the way up, wear a tie like normal, pop it off, it’s just there and you’re ready to look great casually. Yeah, ever since —
Andy: I just came up with the thought I haven’t thought about, but — you know, you go from work, you’re headed out to meet friends at a bar or something, you got to take your necktie off, and you could still look good [because your placket & collar are not drooping].
Andy: That’s a super situation there.
Andy: Are you planning to offer any shirts to sell them with these [placket stays] already installed?
Rob: Well, originally, we’re going to do that. And the feedback we got was, “Why are we trying to compete with everybody else? and “Why can’t I upgrade the shirts I already own?”
So, that’s why we have that now, but we are talking about potentially doing our own shirt. And we are working with a few custom guys that are offering it right in.
And we’re having the conversation with big guys but they’re like turning a tank or ship around.
Andy: I think you’re in pretty good shape now but you’re the kind of guy that’s going to look into things and research stuff, I can tell.
So, the whole concept — I’m still just kind of amazed that you could come up with that and do the engineering on it, and the research. It’s wild to me.
Anything else you’d like to share our Ask Andy members and site visitors, besides the discount — the Ask Andy discount, anything else going on there?
Rob: If you want to follow us on social media, that’s great. We love to hear feedback from people.
If you have any questions, if you have a dry cleaner that you think would love this or if your custom shirt guy is open to talking, we loving having those conversations.
We want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to upgrade their shirts, so I’m always here.
If anybody has got an idea and they’ve been thinking about inventing something or bringing into the market and they have questions, I’m happy to happy to have a conversation with anybody.
You can shoot me an email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Andy: And we gotta to get back to — how much are the Million Dollar Collars now off the website?
Rob: Yeah, a five-pack is $14.
Andy: $14, ahh.
Rob: Yeah, a 10-pack is $25. So, $2.50 a piece, and ten packs are [$25] —
Andy: [Laughing] See, I thought I was going to have to sell some stock just to get the Million Dollar Collars, to buy one. That’s great.
So I really appreciate you sharing your time with us. I think you’ve got a great product. I think you’re going to do really well. And you already have done really well.
So, it’s really fun talking to you, and I think we’re going to be working with you to spread the word on this. I appreciate your time.
Rob: Awesome. Andy, thank you so much. I appreciate it.