Col. Littleton at Lynnville,TN train depot - 2009
December 15, 1943 |
Camden, Tennessee, United States
|Known for||Customer Experience|
2009 Inductee Tennessee State Museum;
Col. Littleton (born December 15, 1943) is an American fashion designer and business proprietor, best known for his Col. Littleton brand of upscale leather goods, apparel and specialty products − most handmade in his Lynnville, TN workshop by local craftsmen. His designs are sold through his Americana Collection catalog and in over 800 stores worldwide.
Early Life and Career
His mother died shortly after his birth and he was initially raised by his grandparents, in Holladay, TN, while his father sought work in east Tennessee. His grandparents, father and stepmother Martha Littleton (née Beech) instilled in him a strong work ethic and foundation of Biblical principles (he often teaches at his local Church of Christ) and he often references those early life lessons in civic talks and incorporates them in his business conduct.
He graduated from Bellevue High School in Nashville, TN, attended David Lipscomb University and later served in the US Coast Guard. He married Norma Ann (Susie) Hobbs in 1975. He worked at Tom James Co., where he sold custom men’s clothing and as National Sales Director at The Benson Company (later known as Benson Records), a music publishing company in Nashville, TN. Later, he worked as an independent Manufacturer Representative, for companies like Ghurka and Trafalgar, selling upscale clothing and accessories to men’s specialty stores. It was this experience, as well as his desire to produce American-made heirloom quality products, that helped forge the ideas that would become his Col. Littleton brand. Col. Littleton customers note they value the nostalgic designs and quality and many claim to use the products as hand-down heirloom gifts; a time-honored tradition. One of his customary practices is to include a MoonPie and a product story card with every order.
He is known for being very patriotic and is a staunch supporter of the US Military and Boy Scouts of America. In fact, these Americana themes can often be found in his original designs, such as his unique adjustable belt and cross swords logo.
He was inducted into the Tennessee State Museum, Costume & Textile Institute in 2009, is active in his community and church and serves on the Board of Directors at the Bank of Frankewing in Tennessee.
He launched his label in 1987 from the third floor attic of his home, selling antique cufflinks to specialty stores that appreciated his eye for the interesting. He designed the packaging, creating the cross swords logo and Col. Littleton motif that would become his brand mark.
From antique cufflinks he moved into pocket knives, which he designed using mother of pearl and bone. To further make each knife individually special, the Colonel offered customers the option to engrave the handle and/or bolsters. His knives quickly became a success and were sought out by fine retailers, such as Paul Stuart in New York.
Over the years, the business has expanded into leather goods, home accessories, apparel, belts and more. His products have been purchased by numerous celebrities and several US Presidents. His annual catalog contains highly entertaining and intriguing stories which surround each product, and people often read every word of copy and comment on the content.
There is little creative hype to his designs and customers recognize the authenticity of the brand and its Americana roots. All business is conducted and most products are handmade in the company’s Lynnville, TN-based General Office & Works on Foxfire Farm, about an hour south of Nashville. His loft office, he is surrounded by artifacts and antiques, which provide inspiration for his designs.
His products have garnered a national and international following and can be found in upscale retailers and catalogs, such as Orvis and Sundance.
An avid collector and restorer of antique and unique automobiles, he purchased and renovated a building near his office to house his collection and serve as a restoration area. Visitors often inquire about the building and his collection and on occasion he will provide a lucky few with a glimpse inside his space.
Recently, he added a '41 US Army Dodge WC Series Command Car to his collection. Most weekends Colonel may be found working on the Command Car's restoration.
True to his roots and brand, he added an upstairs covered balcony to his automobile building, complete with a few rocking chairs so he can sit quietly, look down Main Street of Lynnville and ponder new designs.
Notes and References
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds7f-iqUGa8 - Tennessee Crossroads TV Program
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THaYXplve40 - Colonel in his restored 'Vette
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdpzL5NnJWM - The Tennessean
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuBF0NOTo4w&list=FLlJzupvkyztConbDgPoRgAA&feature=plcp - Griffin + Col. Littleton