Pit Viper’s Formula for Success: Irreverence, Safety Glasses, and Rob Gronkowski
With a pair of Army SPECS and a little ingenuity, Pit Viper’s cofounders built a brand that nobody could have predicted
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Rob Gronkowski is not impressed with my look. “You’re kinda lame,” says the National Football League star, a man as famous for catching passes from Tom Brady as he is for his party-boy persona. It’s late March, and Gronk—fresh off his fourth Super Bowl title—and I are riding a chairlift at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. “You’ve got the classic winter jacket on,” he says, as he looks me up and down, assessing my Gore-Tex kit. “It’s nothing special.”
Knowing that the 32-year-old rolled into Gronk Beach—a 2020 event in Miami that he called the “championship of partying”—wearing a denim jacket with the sleeves torn off, I ask him if ripping the sleeves off my coat might improve my style. “That would be better!” he says.
This fashion critique comes from a guy who, today, has squeezed his six-foot-six-inch, 265-pound body into a blue hooded sweatshirt, a yellow and black zebra-printed buff, and pink, yellow, and blue swimsuit trunks that are pulled snugly over a pair of snow pants. To go powder skiing. Resting on his nose are a pair of oversize sunglasses with splatter-painted red, white, and blue frames and a mirrored lens that covers his face like a windshield. The company that sells them, Pit Viper, has, in just nine years, grown from a ski bum selling shades out of his van to a multimillion-dollar-a-year business with 70 employees, occupying 30,000 square feet of plum office and warehouse space in Salt Lake City.
That meteoric rise has been fueled by a crass and comical marketing campaign that relies on beer-swilling, mullet-wearing, denim-clad bros and ladies performing a host of ill-advised stunts, like jumping snowmobiles over busses; men and women alike getting the tongue-in-cheek pinup treatment; and juvenile, sexually charged jokes and innuendo. That, and plenty of nudity. The brand defies the politically correct climate and sends a message that appeals to a large array of consumers: wear Pit Vipers and you can say and do what you want—to hell with what anybody else thinks.