Updated: Jan 25, 2021
An interview in the dunes of Cape Cod with happy islander Johan Oudeman, founder of Ninefoot
A STORY WORTH TELLING
How did you came up with the idea of Ninefoot?
I was always interested in clothing. My father traveled all over the world and he brought me a shirt from every trip he made. Shirts that you could not get in the Netherlands. For me, special shirts and all with a story. Shirts that you continue to wear even if they are worn out.
In my late twenties I started working at a bank and moved to the Dutch Antilles. At the time my parents lived in Florida and I visited them regularly. And every time I visited them, I also spent a few days on Key West where I heard about the intriguing story of J.P. Elderman. A story which changed my life completely and gave me the kick in the pants I needed to drop everything and start with Ninefoot. Ninefoot is named after a shoal near Key West and the spot where J.P. Elderman found the remains of a mammoth. Hence, our Logo The Mammoth.
So, my love for shirts with a story, my love for the Caribbean and thanks to the life of J.P. Elderman we started in 2008 with a line of pigment dyed polo shirts. Soon followed by a line of printed T-Shirts, Rugby Shirts, Sweats and all with a wink to the Caribbean.
How did it go?
Well, over the years Ninefoot has grown to a brand of original shirts and is well known for providing quality products and services. We evolved to a brand of Shirts, Sweaters and Jackets and everything seemed to be okay. But along the way we forgot what Ninefoot was all about and lost Elderman’s approach to life. A way of life we adopted and once was the Ninefoot state of mind. And when you lose course, your ship will be out of control. And this is what happened...
So now, in 2019, we are going to turn the ship around and once again sail the course Elderman set in 1963. We are throwing unnecessary ballast overboard and stick to the things we only want to do, making the best Polo and T-Shirts. This time we make sure that in everything we do, in every shirt we design and make, we do it in the spirit of the life of John Elderman. And this time we will staying small while growing big....
What can we expect?
A new line Polo and T-shirts based on the slogan “Be like a palm tree dancing in the sea breeze throwing coconuts on a sandy beach”. Just like Elderman had his approach to life, this one is mine. In short it means, no matter what happens, nothing will get me down....in fact the story of my life. But everyone is free to determine how they want to read it. It’s a funny slogan and just like the palm tree, you can bend it anyway you want.. The slogan, or parts of it, has been used into the shirts in various ways. Together with the island life style and the adventurous life of Elderman, we definitely make shirts with a story to tell...
And there is more to it than only a story. We have always been strongly opposed to child labour. So all our shirts are manufactured in Portugal and yes for us as brand and for you as customer this means that we have to pay more for shirts made in a socially responsible way.
But at least we sleep well at night.
But there is still more. We have the philosophy and the social responsibility but what about the environment? Well, in addition to the organic shirts, we have also given a lot of attention to the method of packaging and shipping. Due to the fact that our environment increasingly is suffering from plastic waste, we have decided to wrap the shirts in an organic cotton bag and to use carton tubes as a way of packaging and shipment.
So according to us, when you buy a shirt from Ninefoot, you buy more than a shirt, you buy philosophy, social responsibility, environmental consciousness and above all happiness. That is why we named the sleeves “Tubes of Happiness”. And you don’t throw happiness away, you keep it close to you....