Blurred lines: Zubaz, The Road Warriors and the greatest pants in the history of the world

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July 29, 2013

Back in the early ’90s, you couldn’t swing a fanny pack in a WWE locker room without whacking a Superstar in a pair of Zubaz. The baggy, brightly colored pants — originally favored by power lifters for their functionality — became a requisite part of every professional wrestler’s wardrobe when The Road Warriors — co-owners of the Minnesota-based company — started tossing out free pairs backstage. Eventually, as star athletes like Dan Marino and Michael Jordan embraced the brand, Zubaz became a pop culture phenomenon with tens of millions of dollars in sales.

Check out photos of Superstars rocking Zubaz

Like every style trend from bell bottoms to trucker hats, Zubaz were very much of their time. And, yet, somewhat miraculously, the pants have begun to make a comeback. Thanks to nostalgic jocks who grew up in Zubaz — WWE Champion John Cena and Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots chief among them — the brand is rapidly relaunching, beginning with an online store.

With our own adoration for all things zebra print in mind, called up two of the men responsible for the Zubaz boom — Road Warrior Animal and Zubaz co-founder Dan Stock — to find out how their wild pants went from the gyms of Minnesota to the closets of every wrestler on the planet in 1991.

WWECLASSICS.COM: Many people don’t realize the role that you and Hawk played in the success of the Zubaz brand. How did The Road Warriors get mixed up in the fashion industry?

ROAD WARRIOR ANIMAL: [Hawk and I] had two gyms at that time. We had a place called “The Gym” and the other place was called “Twin Cities Gym” and we would come across different kinds of sweatpants. We got together with two of the guys that were managers at our gyms — Bob Truax and Dan Stock — and said, "We need to come up with an idea for pants that we can make for big guys for leisure, sporting events, working out or whatever.” Diane was the seamstress who came up with the first prototype for Zubaz.

WWECLASSICS.COM: Did anyone think they were going to blow up like they did?

DAN STOCK: No. We had no idea. We were just doing it for the bigger guys in the gym. The first two and a half years that we were in business, it had nothing to do with any sports leagues. It was just a comfortable, crazy colored pant that people wore. We had all kinds of different prints and colors, shapes and sizes. The zebra print became the most iconic, most popular design that all the people liked.

WWECLASSICS.COM: How did Zubaz go from something strictly for gym rats to the pants every guy had to have?

ANIMAL: Hawk and I were wrestling for the NWA on TBS. Every time we went to the ring or did a TV taping, we had our Zubaz on. Once that started catching on and people started seeing those pants and wanted to buy them, we simultaneously did a deal with J.C. Penney and had it mainstream. Once the NFL saw we had it mainstream, we started launching stuff with them.

STOCK: At that time, you had a lot of people wearing Raiders stuff who didn’t even know who the Raiders were, but it was the cool, hip thing to do. I’m sure that we sold a lot of product to people that weren’t even football fans.

ANIMAL: We did a poster with Hawk and Dan Marino and I where Dan Marino’s got the Zubaz on and as soon as we took the pictures, they were [selling] like crazy. The first year I want to say did about $14 million dollars in sales and then it jumped to $28 million a year or two after.

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