By Brea Mitchell, Staff Writer
For Steve Cotton, creator and owner of “Inglewood Clothing Store”, it all began as a singular clothing rack inside of a barbershop. Cotton began selling his merch out of a local barbershop after an overwhelming positive response by the public during the very early stages of his creative journey. Now, the popular Inglewood-logo merch line is a brand that has risen to become a community staple, operating out of its own brick-and-mortar store at the corner of La Brea Avenue and Plymouth Street.
The merchandise aesthetic is a perfect mix of trendy, simple and fresh. From t-shirts, to hoodies, sweatpants, hats, coffee mugs, backpacks and more, you’ll always find the red “Inglewood” lettering on it. One of his best-selling items is the “Inglewood-opoly” board game– similar to Monopoly, except each landing spot is an Inglewood territory, such as Centinela Park, The Forum, Florence Avenue, etc.
The company continues to grow, and we love a brand that represents our city, but what tugs the heart strings even more is the origin of Inglewood Clothing Store. It’s a story of relentlessness and triumph.
It was five years ago when Steve Cotton was down-and-out, battling depression and physical pain after a traumatic car accident. He had spent the past 13 years working for Marriott Hotels when his life seemingly came to a screeching halt.
“I was depressed. I couldn’t work. I was at home, and we came up with this logo, and we just ran with it. I never went back to work after that accident. God wanted me to do something different.” During some of Cotton’s darkest days, he made a career pivot that turned into more than he could have ever expected.
The idea for the beloved logo was inspired by Cotton’s favorite cigars, Backwoods. If you look at the Backwoods font on their box of cigars, you’ll see the similarity to the Inglewood Clothing Store logo.
“Everyone knows Backwoods. I put my logo in the Backwoods font, and it just took off.”
He printed them on t-shirts, and then headed off to Coachella, where he tested his theory that the “Inglewood” lettering in the Backwoods font is something that people would get a thrill out of. His theory seemed to stand.
Cotton gave away nearly six thousand dollars’ worth of merchandise that weekend. Not only did the crowds love it, but even the musicians were wearing his t-shirts on the Coachella stages while they performed.
After Cotton’s successful Coachella weekend, it occurred to him that he had a lucrative business opportunity at the palm of his hands. The rack in his friend’s barbershop was now his official headquarters and operating destination.
After continuous sales and community interest in his brand, Cotton eventually moved to the building he is in now, except not quite the exact space. Initially he was on the second floor, directly above where he is currently. Cotton describes it as a closet. Below him, was the historic Inglewood bookstore, “Zahra’s Books and Things”.
Around the start of the pandemic, the bookstore owner decided it was her time to explore other avenues. She closed Zahra’s Books and Things, and gave Cotton the green light to move downstairs. He now had a store. Not a rack, nor a closet– but a store!
“You have to appreciate small beginnings. I had a little closet upstairs; I never knew I was going to have a store!” Cotton lights up as he reminisces, and the gratitude is clear as day.
Now, he rents out the upstairs space whenever he can. Whether to groups who are looking for office space, or artists looking for a place to film. He’ll also host events and gatherings, which helps to alleviate some of the pressure of needing to sell enough merch to pay his monthly dues.
During the pandemic, as Cotton was settling into his downstairs store, online sales continued to rise. While many retailers experienced bumpy rides during these months, Inglewood Clothing Store sales were continuing smoothly, thanks to Cotton’s effective and easy curbside pick-up feature.
“So many people are making a conscious effort to spend their money on small businesses. People are asking, ‘Where can I go in my community to spend money?’ They want to support us.”
During some of Steve Cotton’s darkest days, Inglewood Clothing Store was born.
There’s an old saying along the lines of “When it seems like life is melting you, it’s actually preparing to mold you into something better.”
Perhaps this is true.