A Big Leap for F3 Gear: MudGear Shirts to be Built in the USA


MudGear Built in the USA


MudGear is a company born from the F3 experience. In 2012, a FEBA-filled Malkovich and a small crew from F3 Charlotte Metro stepped up to take over F3 Gear ordering responsibilities from OBT, who had grown weary of handing out shirts from the back of his car.

The operation nearly failed to launch when the first print order under Malko’s watch arrived with a huge 7 inch F3 on the front. (These misprints have since become OG collector’s items.)

The team quickly recognized that gear sales would be an important part of the F3 growth strategy and began adding a few bucks to each shirt to fund operations. After a few successful orders, sharp legal minds advised that reselling shirts would require collecting and remitting NC sales tax to keep F3 out of trouble. Malko offered to set up a separate legal entity to manage the gear sales and remit a logo royalty to F3. He had always dreamed of starting a small business anyway, so Malko filed papers with the state and county and MudGear was born.

The first big leap for MudGear happened later that year. Still filled with exuberance and unhappy with the existing choices for fitted performance shirts, we decided we could manufacture our own version, specifically crafted to withstand the abuse of a mud run and the daily pounding of an F3 workout. After months of fabric testing and fit prototypes, “The Horse” in Charlotte helped to bring this to life with his industry background and production capabilities in India.

Sundancer in v1 MudGear
F3 Sundancer in vintage v1 MudGear


In Dec 2012, we launched our first web store that allowed PAX to make individual orders rather than collecting money, and we figured out a fulfillment system to ship orders to each customer instead of requiring a guy to tote shirts around to each workout.
The first F3 Gear Store circa Dec 2012


In 2013, MudGear moved all printing and embroidery for F3 Gear to Mooresville, NC where F3 Chief owns a full-service screen printing company. (Yes, we can definitely help you with shirts and gear for your non-F3 companies and groups!) Malko moved the entire inventory of F3 Gear in Rock Hopper’s 18 foot open trailer. There may still be a few F3 shirt boxes in the woods off the highway.



F3 Chief and Screenprinting

F3 Chief hard at work on the heat press and an F3 Crossroads logo screen


F3 Gear had become (and still is) the largest source of funds fueling F3 Expansion. We were blown away by the number of F3 logos and regional teams we were seeing at the Ultimate Challenge Mud Run convergence in Columbia. The photo that year underscored the growth and potential.



F3 takes over the Ultimate Challenge Mud Run


MudGear was growing in its own right as well. MudGear socks were designed and produced in Hickory, NC to combat the nasty gashes that our guys were suffering at the mud runs that year. The socks took off and soon the sales on the MudGear website started to outpace the F3 Gear sales. A MudGear Pro Team of professional Spartan Racers was launched and the social media buzz of MudGear on the race podiums fueled additional growth.



MudGear Pro Team

MudGear Pro Team Members Laura Lunardi, Brakken Kraker, and Robert Killian


Things were going great, but this is where we veered off course. We chose to follow the well-worn path of the sports apparel industry to Asia to learn how to make inexpensive gear for import. We navigated a production round of v2 MudGear shirts from China that arrived by boat smelling like gasoline. We had to unpackage and air-dry every shirt for a couple days to get the smell out. Continued communication problems and delays caused us to break ties with that factory and begin a new search for manufacturing closer to home.


We found the difference between working with Asian apparel manufacturers and US manufacturers to be striking. Chinese factories, especially government-owned ones, value full employment, so they have lots of manpower, including many account reps working to get and keep your business. It seems they will do and say anything to get your orders in the door then figure out how to make it work afterward by changing some small details you may not notice like um… sewing quality. American manufacturers, on the other hand, have been in survival mode for the last couple decades. The remaining ones are only in business because they have been ruthlessly efficient and extremely selective about who they’ll work with in order to not waste resources. Luckily, many of these survivors are here in North Carolina where the history of making quality apparel in the USA runs deep.


With our past order history and proven market of loyal F3 and MudGear customers, we were finally able to get the attention of two NC-based manufacturers and have reached an agreement to make the next round of MudGear shirts, boxer briefs and arm sleeves here in the USA. This will bring us to over 95% of all MudGear products being made domestically. We’re incredibly excited about the quality of the new prototypes and love having the production closer to home.


MudGear shirt development in USA
v3 MudGear shirts currently in development in North Carolina


What does this mean for F3 Gear?

We think this move is a long-term gain for F3 Gear with some short-term pain. We expect to run out of stock of several sizes of v2 MudGear shirts before the next version arrives. We are already out of stock of the MudGear boxer briefs and most sizes of the padded arm sleeves. We apologize for these delays and will have other brands of gear available for F3 shirt orders to fill the gap. Additionally, we’ve had to consolidate our fabric purchase to a single color dye lot which means we will be going back to all bad-ass black in MudGear shirts for most of this year. With continued growth, we hope to be able to pick up other colors of American made MudGear soon. Nothing else is changing at this time. Our high level of customer service for F3 PAX and expert F3 printing by Chief and crew all stay the same.


What does this mean for MudGear?

A high-quality US manufacturing partner is a huge deal for our growth. Better communication and faster turn times should help us build great gear that is responsive to the needs of our customers. The future is bright. After 4 years of plugging away, Malko has left his day job to pursue growing MudGear full time. MudGear was recently the Official Sock of the OCR World Championships in Ontario, Canada and we just announced several new sponsorship deals including becoming the Official Sock of Savage Race for 2017. We’re looking to push into specialty running stores and hybrid gyms this year as well. Our socks continue to pick up accolades and were voted the 2016 product of the year by Mud Run Guide.


Finally, with this milestone, I want to take the opportunity to again thank all of you in the F3 community for your support and patronage of the F3 Gear Store. Your support (and purchases!) have been incredibly meaningful and allowed us to fuel lots of F3 expansion activities. MudGear would never have been created without the power of F3 to reinvigorate dormant leadership abilities and foster the iron-sharpening of many brothers along the way. A huge FEBA to you all.


As always, you can reach us with any concerns or questions at support@f3gear.com.




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