Jewel Jones and her sister Amanda Roth own Meadow Lark Companies, a freight logistics and trucking company headquartered in Billings, Montana. Founded by their parents, both sisters began working at the company after high school, but at twenty-four Jewel decided to follow her dream of working in fashion. She attended the Art Institute of California in Los Angeles, earned a bachelor's degree in fashion marketing and management, worked with different clothing brands and got exposure to the fashion industry. Still, she missed the trucking industry and returned to Billings to again work at Meadowlark. There, she realized that she could combine her love for the trucking industry with her love of fashion.
We interviewed Jewel about her company, Over the Road Apparel, a Meadow Lark division, and how she wants to change the way drivers dress and think about their jobs. Following are edited excerpts from that conversation.
What kind of clothes do drivers want?
Specifically, truckers said that the problem with most work wear is that it's made for working and then you take it off when you're done. Truckers have different requirements. Their apparel has to be designed for working but also sitting for long periods of time. They secure their load and then they sit in the truck. Clothing has to be versatile enough to where you can work in it and then sit in it for extended periods.
They also want extra pockets, fabrics that are breathable and durable at the same time. There are a lot of dualities, because of the two different sides of their job. They're polar opposites and they need apparel that serves both.
What's your most popular product?
We have six work shirts. Three of them are button downs and the other three are wicking, anti-microbial knit shirts. They keep you cool, dry and odor free. We also offer eight graphic tees. Our most popular shirt is our Duke, which is a Western-style button down.
How does your apparel differ from other clothing makers?
The biggest way that we're different is that we offer work wear. Pretty much every other company offering clothing to truck drivers are mostly t-shirts. Some of them have sweatshirts. We offer t-shirts, too, but we also offer them a more professional option. We're the only work wear clothing line just for truck drivers
T-shirts are great, but if you can do something like put on a shirt with a collar that's going to stay cool and dry so you're not smelly and full of sweat stains when you approach a customer, it's going to help your career. For a fleet, who's outfitting their drivers in our shirts, it's going to make them look really good to your customers.
Aside from looking good, why else should drivers dress better?
If you're an individual driver, you're going to see people treating you with more respect. For carriers, outfitting your drivers well ensures that customers will respect your fleet. It's also a great way to advocate for your drivers.
We offer a custom program where companies can put their logo on our shirts. They make great gifts for drivers, make good uniforms, and are great incentives. They're good for recruiting, because it shows other drivers that you really appreciate and take care of your fleet. When you care about someone, you give them clothing. It's a personal gift, so if you really want your fleet to feel like they're a part of your family, giving them a shirt that's made just for their job - something that's specific for their needs - is a great way of saying, "Thanks for driving for us."
What about women drivers?
We're working on women's wear. Most of our shirts look pretty good on women. They are meant for men but women can wear them. I wear them. I'm hoping that we can finish product development by the end of the year, maybe have something out early next year or by the summer.
What do you tell drivers who think that how they dress really doesn't matter?
Professionalism is huge to us because we understand that when you dress more professionally, you have a better chance of succeeding in your career. If you want to get paid like a pro, you need to dress like one.
The spirit of OTR Apparel and the essence of it is appreciating drivers and helping them succeed and helping the industry as a whole to have a better image. Unfortunately, it doesn't always have the best one. We want to help drivers succeed, and we want to help fleets succeed. Apparel and trucker fashion is our contribution to that.