Born in the spit and blood of the mixed-marital-arts world, Tapout clothing is the uniform for guys who are (or at least want to look) tough. The MMA world was still in its relative infancy in the United States when Tapout was launched in 1997 as the brainchild of Charles Lewis Jr., better known as Mask for his trademark face paint. “We were pushing a lot of small shows at the beginning,” Punk Ass (real name Dan Caldwell) explains. “It was basically illegal in California. Even the UFC was still really small at the time. We were there in the beginning.” Their persistence has paid off. The Tapout empire now includes a reality TV show, a line of bottled water, a growing stable of mixed-martial-arts fighters, and a massive clothing line, all aimed at those who appreciate a good punch in the face.
But success has done nothing to turn Tapout’s founders into buttoneddown businessmen. Between Mask’s decorated face, Skyscrape’s pimp getup, and Punk Ass’s tattoos, the Tapout crew has a much different definition of business casual. They always make sure everything they wear is welladorned with their logo, including their skin.
Punk Ass has the Tapout logo inked on his head, while Skyskrape went a little less obvious and a little more, well, weird, getting it in his armpit. Check the Tapout Web site and you’ll see plenty of other tattooed fans who want to be down with the crew. “At every show we go to, there’s always at least one or two people showing off their Tapout tattoo,” Punk Ass says. “It caught us off guard at first, but we love it.”
As if all of their ink wasn’t evidence enough of their love for body art, just look at many of their clothing designs, which take obvious inspiration from tattooing. Filigree, tribal, skulls, and other elements are popular tattoo fodder for pro fighters and their younger fans. “You see these tattoos on some of the toughest guys in the world. They’re alpha males,” Mask explains. “I’m sure it has some influence on the kids that are coming up. Everyone wants to be like the toughest kid on the block.”
Apparently, that rule also applies in the MMA clothing and equipment game. Every day, there are more companies trying to re-create the Tapout magic, but Mask isn’t worried. “There are a lot of farmers planting corn,” he fires back. “We’re just going to keep supporting the fighters and the schools. We’re just an extension of the sport.”