November 17, 2015

Jim Park

Behind the Scenes

Model: Jim Park, age 62, was appropriately born a fool in 1953. 
Hometown: Cleveland, Tennessee
Blazer: 100% Wool Super 110's Natural Stretch H-Tech Performance Blazer in Navy Mini Weave

As the only local Hardwick model appropriately born on April Fool’s Day and raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, he holds a special place in both the community and company . He is perhaps the most well-versed citizen when it comes to Cleveland and Bradley County folklore, traditions, and trivia. He proudly counts four generations of family friendships with the original Hardwick family. With this in mind, it is rightly claimed that Jim knows all 41,285 people residing in Cleveland (even those transplants from Chicago); it also doesn’t hurt that he grew up in the same neighborhood as the new owner of America’s oldest tailored clothing manufacturer, Mr. Jones.

As a teenager Jim recalls frequent trips to the old Hardwick Woolen Mills (still standing on the corner of Church and Third) in downtown Cleveland with his uncle Roger, often picking out a new sport coat or blazer. He may have even been the first in Southeast Tennessee to don an orange polyester blazer, and also counts himself as a proud owner of a Bicentennial model Navy Blue leisure suit, complete with red top stitching. In spite of all this, he was still voted Best Dressed of Cleveland High School class of 71'.

Jim first worked with Mr. Jones back in the late sixties as part of the neighborhood Christmas tree gathering team, where a group of boys would go all over Cleveland on bicycles collecting trees for a post-Christmas bonfire. Each year the bonfire grew larger and larger, aided no doubt by the youngsters eventually getting their drivers license. Mr. Jones is said to have driven the truck, while Jim and the now president of a local bank rode in the back, loading trees on bitter cold December days. Hodey ho! The boys collected over 2500 dried out Christmas trees and nearly burned down Cleveland High School. 

In other lore, it is said that Mr. Jones still hasn’t forgotten an Easter Sunday morning when Jim was all ‘decked out’ in a new Hardwick coat, looking good and feeling good, only to discover that he had neglected to remove the joker ticket from the sleeve. Records show that runway requests promptly ceased after the aforementioned event, further collaborating the account of Mr. Jones.

Jim later graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1975 with a degree in marketing. It is said he once attended a fraternity party wearing a 1970’s mod outfit that included pink pants, white clogs and a shirt that told a story. Perhaps the April 1st birthdate explains the choice of wardrobe.

His first taste of the apparel business began at American Uniform Co. in Cleveland where he discovered that there was lint in his orange, Tennessee blood. Shortly after this start, he proudly recollects 1984 as a very special year in both his life and career: his daughter was born, his career at Hardwick Clothes began, and perhaps most notably the Tennessee Volunteers defeated Alabama in football.

Speaking of football, Jim is often referred to as the Mayor of Neyland Stadium, the home turf of University of Tennessee’s first class football team. And although it’s a self-appointed office, he’s held the unofficial official position uncontested for nearly twenty years. This is no small feat in politics as it’s a well known fact that on fall football Saturday’s Neyland Stadium becomes the seventh largest city in the state of Tennessee.

There are no official mayoral duties to speak of, short of offering a cheer, poem, rhyme or song to provide the pre-game tailgate entertainment. Jim says the current highlight of his Mayoral tenure was opening an ESPN Gameday with one such rendition while aboard the Janie (the flagship of the Vol Navy docked on the Tennessee River) before the Notre Dame vs. Tennessee game in 1999. It should be no surprise that the Mayor appeared with none other than his Hardwick co-models Will and Bailey Jones, as he sang his tune "cheer cheer for old Notre Dame, 'cause she'll need your help at Saturday's game". Opening up Gameday on ESPN, singing on the top of the largest motor yacht to ever attend the Vol Navy, may have been the highlight of his career. 

While more years of service at Hardwick Clothes are all but a certainty in Jim’s future, we think few would be surprised should he elect to take an early retirement to make a run as the unofficial governor of Tennessee Football. Stumping in non-other than his original Volunteer orange Hardwick Blazer, a land slide victory seems eminent.

Brandy Smith
Brandy Smith