At Honeysuckle, we make it a mission to amplify Black voices, especially those of entrepreneurs, innovators and creators who are advocating for marginalized communities. We're proud to honor these thought leaders particularly during Black History Month, with the reminder that Black excellence must be celebrated every day of the year.
Entrepreneur S. Cuff's message for Black History Month: "No matter what your past circumstances have been, they don't determine your future destiny and dreams."
Who Is S. Cuff?
Scott Cuff (known professionally as S. Cuff) spent most of his younger years feeling out of place, but now his work is dedicated to making sure no one feels that way ever again. A veteran turned entrepreneur, S. Cuff uses what he calls his “single dad mentality” to hone in on issues of inclusivity and uplifting the disenfranchised. He was recently one of five Black vendors at this year’s PGA Show in Orlando, premiering his S.Cuff Apparel to one of the world’s most traditionally exclusive sporting communities, as he seeks to create more opportunities for diversity.
S. Cuff’s journey into haberdashery began early on, though his current venture is the result of his efforts to work through chronic trauma and to solve universal problems at the same time. Growing up in a foster home based in the Pennsylvania suburbs, he remembers being unable to fit in with most children. He also had to contend with a shorter stature that made him stick out, but that’s where he found his niche.
Learning to sew from his foster mother, S. Cuff tailored his clothes to suit his body type and his athleticism. By adolescence, he had gotten into dancing, taking Michael Jackson’s movements and style as an inspiration (S. Cuff particularly loved the pop icon’s belts and jackets); the ensembles he altered and customized for himself needed to allow for complete range of motion.
S. Cuff on Race and Diversity in the Military
Later, as a young adult, S. Cuff entered the military and became a signal/communications tech operator. Stationed in active combat desert areas with a medical unit, he felt the same kind of isolation from his childhood. Though he was required to accompany captains and commanding officers, he wasn’t one of them, and he experienced several incidents of racism and microaggressions among his fellow soldiers.
“There wasn’t a sense of [code-switching] for me,” the designer says. “Most of those soldiers were Southern white or upper-class Blacks. I didn’t talk like them… I wasn’t accepted as Black, but they didn’t accept me as being white.”
Already coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from his early childhood before going into foster care, the triggers from his days in the military took their toll when S. Cuff returned to civilian life after seven years of service.
S.Cuff Apparel: A Problem-Solving Fashion Brand
And while he hadn’t realized it at the time, the veteran brought back another unexpected condition. “I don’t know if my body temperature clock was off or something,” S. Cuff comments. “I was in the desert seven to eight months a year and I constantly sweated and had to wear the same clothes. We only took a shower maybe once a week… [After leaving the military] I still sweat excessively. I can’t even walk a hundred yards without breaking out in a deep sweat. Whenever I’d go to work, I’d be soaking wet just by walking from the parking lot to my desk. So some of my inspiration [for my apparel line] was just getting flashbacks from being in the desert.”
The concept of anti-perspirant clothing burrowed into S. Cuff’s mind. As the innovator delved into different careers and raised three children as a single father, he kept researching and refining how to manifest his vision. He knew the right product would need to involve sweat wicking, anti-odor properties, and sun protection; he also wanted to make it accessible to people from all different economic backgrounds, recalling his own difficulty buying new clothes while in foster care. Finally, all items would have to be inclusive of many different body types, adjustable to any wearer’s needs.
How Did the PGA HOPE Veterans Program Impact S. Cuff?
S. Cuff’s idea solidified into S.Cuff Apparel, and he started creating designs to meet all the conditions of his dream line. But the component that ultimately brought everything together came from a most unexpected place – the PGA. The Professional Golfers’ Association of America works with veterans through its charitable organization PGA REACH, and its flagship PGA HOPE program introduces golf as therapy for those living with PTSD, disabilities, and other trauma from active duty. Through his participation in PGA HOPE, S. Cuff discovered a passion for golf, treatments for managing his anxiety, and a community who needed his help.
“Golf is stringent,” he observes. “They want you to have a polo that has to be tucked nice and neat. You have to have your belt a certain way… Pants need to be a certain size to fit perfectly. Not everybody can do that. Wheelchair users can’t usually find regular clothes to fit them – their waist and legs might not [fit to standard sizes], or people might be missing a limb. So I created golfing shorts that are waterproof but also have a drawstring elastic waistband to help with that specific sizing. With my shorts, you can have two to three different sizes just by utilizing that feature.”
From golf to multifunctionality, it all suddenly clicked. As S. Cuff progressed in PGA HOPE, meeting more veterans and players with diverse body types, he knew this was the key. His products for S.Cuff Apparel could address every issue that lay before him. S. Cuff expanded his designs to include tops and bottoms for any athletic lifestyle, whether golf, cycling, swimming, or beyond. Made with professional sports standards in mind, the pieces in his collection can be dressed up or down for any occasion, worn on the field or on a relaxing day outside with friends and family, and then to a nice evening on the town. The sizes are customizable to the individual wearer, thanks to the drawstring/elastic waistband shorts and other features that help the material stretch, following the contours of the body. Each item is waterproof, wrinkle-free and provides sun protection with an SPF of 50.
For its inventor, who’s thoughtful about sustainability, the environmental benefits of S.Cuff Apparel are thrilling. “We’re using sustainable fabric from Canada [with] a treatment called Chitosante,” S. Cuff enthuses. “It gives it the anti-odor, antifungal properties, breathability, four-way stretch, and the SPF protection. Some of it’s actually recycled too.”
S. Cuff Tackles Diversity in the PGA and Athletic Communities
While investigating how to design for different bodies, S. Cuff also confronted another barrier in the PGA: the lack of BIPOC participants. Once again, he found himself the only Black player in an all-white environment. Even at golf clubs that hosted all-Black leagues, there were limits to where those groups could play, and there was a pervading sense of segregation rather than integration.
“In the golfing world, it’s still more of a good old boys’ club,” S. Cuff admits. “I guess the real question for me is, are we all competitive? It’s the same in other sports like soccer and tennis. My younger son plays soccer and I’d send him to soccer camps where he’d be the only Black kid there. They’ve made the prices [of participation] so high that they’ve priced minorities out of the sport.”
Only in the past few years has the PGA attempted to remedy the situation, and even then those efforts have amounted to a handful of people of color in PGA HOPE and at events like the PGA Show, an annual trade conference to highlight emerging brands. In fact, S. Cuff remembers that one year he attended the show and saw just a single Black vendor among the hundreds exhibiting. For the 2023 event, he says, a small pool of minority-owned brands were invited to participate, but he believes even those numbered no more than ten. One thing’s for sure – no one else offered a multipurpose sustainable clothing line!
Breaking barriers is never easy, but S. Cuff insists that’s the way to make progress in these traditionally closed spaces. He’d rather fight to create equity where it never existed, believing that paving these roads will help younger generations see where they can build new pathways for success.
“Diversity, no matter what sport it’s in, you’re bringing a different mindset,” the entrepreneur asserts. “I think that would help break up this exclusive mindset that these country clubs have where it’s ‘This is for us only and everybody else is outsiders.’ When you bring in diversity on the golf course, not only does it make a difference in the sport, but that’s where a lot of business deals are made. That alone would help minorities to realize, hey, you are part of America. It’s not just ‘us and them.’ It helps to bring people in on conversations they would never be a part of otherwise… I also think the good old boys’ clubs look down on the younger generation, and that’s why younger people don’t come to play as much. I think encouraging [young people of color] to be here would help everybody see we are all human. Nobody’s better than anybody.”
S. Cuff on Gen Z, Cannabis, and Plant-Based Advocacy
To that end, S. Cuff has drawn much inspiration for his latest designs from his children, all in their early twenties with active lifestyles. He models several of his pieces based on clothing needs for their hobbies, and has ventured into exploring more plant-based materials as he’s learned what excites them. Although S. Cuff doesn’t consume cannabis himself, his older son and daughter use the plant to treat their own anxiety and other chronic conditions, and the beneficial effects on them have made the designer an advocate.
“I have a strong belief in anything that can help make someone a better person or heal your mind,” he remarks. “I’m so spiritual that I rely on my faith a lot for my mental healing, and golf has helped me with that too, because it allows me to concentrate. But my son and daughter really use cannabis to help them, and I know tons of soldiers, even through the PGA HOPE program, who have told me they rely on cannabis to get through whatever they need to get through. They’ve even told me it prevented them from committing suicide. So I’m definitely a supporter of it.”
But for now, S. Cuff is focused on the mission at hand – open the gates of sports communities to all, break the color barriers, and keep sustainable fashion affordable. Most of all, don’t sweat the small stuff. And if you do, he’s got just the clothes to help you with that.
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Featured image: Veteran S. Cuff, founder of S. Cuff Apparel, is bringing inclusivity to athletic communities through his multipurpose sustainable fashion brand. (C) S. Cuff Apparel