King Brothers and Don Shelby: Tied to a Knot

King Brothers and Don Shelby: Tied to a Knot

Two brothers launch a clothing company to capitalize on Don Shelby’s sartorial style.

In the late ’80s, WCCO-TV anchor Don Shelby was bombarded with calls from a viewer who praised the anchor’s fashion sense but chided him for his uneven necktie knots. The elderly caller, a former U.S. Chamber of Commerce official named Jerry Pratt, eventually showed up and re-tied Shelby’s tie using an unusual knot that was essentially tied inside out, with seams facing the mirror. Shelby says it was “perfectly symmetrical,” with a dimple in the center, and he has since worn it that way.

Local clothier and Shelby shirt-maker Kingford Bavender christened it the Shelby knot, promoting it to customers and media and garnering ink from the New York Times to Playboy. It became an answer on Jeopardy, and today it’s the go-to knot for Rush Limbaugh and other notables.

It’s also now the province of St. Paul–based King Brothers Clothiers, founded by twin brothers Danny and Kenny King. While dipping their toes into fashion blogging and consultation, the men saw an opportunity to profit from the prominence of the knot.

“We were surprised [Shelby] hadn’t capitalized on it before,” says Danny King.

As a journalist, Shelby says he never considered profiting from the knot’s fame, but in retirement, the idea was appealing.

To appraise the Kings’ business acumen, Shelby connected them with Bavender, who introduced them to manufacturers and designers. With the mentor’s seal of approval, Shelby agreed to proceed, handpicking the King designs that would appear on store shelves. The ShelbyKnot Collection debuted this spring for $85 to $90 per tie. Initial sales came in “at the rate we projected, on the slower end of incredibly busy,” says Danny King, adding that marketing events featuring Shelby teaching how to tie his namesake knot should help the company reach its goal of 1,000 ties sold by August. Shelby says he takes a cut of the profits. (Contract terms weren’t finalized at press time.)

Shelby thinks the Kings “have the capacity to bring this much larger” because the Shelby knot is widely known, even if other markets don’t know “who the hell ‘Shelby’ is.” The Kings say they will rely on the market to tell them whether to expand the collection to accessories such as socks and pocket squares.