Embarking on a journey often involves meticulous planning and consideration, yet the moments between stepping out of an Uber and strolling to the departure gate can be unexpectedly chaotic. In a world where travel tips flood the internet, few address the challenge of seamlessly transitioning through the airport hassle-free.
Enter Thumb United, an innovative solution designed to transform the way we navigate through bustling airports and beyond. In a recent interview with Brad Dubrowksy, founder and chief creative officer of Thumb United, a mission-based lifestyle apparel brand featuring premium fashion sweatshirts with multiple interior pockets. We gained unique insights into the inception, purpose, and remarkable features of their game-changing hoodies.
Join us as we delve deeper into the story behind Thumb United and discover how these hoodies have redefined travel comfort and convenience for globetrotters and everyday adventurers alike.
What inspired the creation of Thumb United hoodies, particularly with a focus on travel convenience?
The main inspiration behind Thumb United was that I wanted to inspire people to put their
phones away in a way that felt cool to them. When initially thinking about this idea, I knew that
pockets, in general, made it easier for one to put their phones away, but then I thought about
how I could make it more appealing to a broader audience and found that making the designs
both fashionable and functional was the best way to encourage people to put their phones
away. While that was the initial inspiration for Thumb United, the actual prototype was
influenced significantly by my travel schedule at that time. Before founding Thumb United in
2015, I traveled back and forth between New York and Los Angeles all the time and I frequently
found myself rushing around airports to catch my next flight. Fashion has always been a passion
of mine, so I wanted to find a way to keep my phone securely on me without sacrificing my
style, so I sewed pockets into the inside of my button-down shirts. This allowed me to secure
my phone confidently since the tension would keep the phone in place without having to worry
about it falling out if I was leaning over to tie my shoes, grab my luggage, etc.; that was when
Thumb United, the original inside pocket company, was born!
How do Thumb United hoodies contribute to a seamless and stress-free travel experience, especially in the hustle and bustle of airports?
As many people know, airports have a specific kind of bustling energy; people are always
rushing through security lines, running to their respective gates, etc. Thumb United hoodies
allow people to secure their phones in a way that enables them to move through (or run
through) the airport confidently. When I started sewing pockets on the inside of my button-
down shirts, I no longer worried about losing my phone because I could move through the
airport knowing exactly where it was and that it wasn’t budging.
Can you elaborate on the design thinking behind the multiple interior pockets? How do they enhance accessibility and security during travel?
When I was first working on the prototype and sewing pockets into my button-downs, I knew I
wanted to provide consumers with the option to have their items still accessible without
sacrificing their style. My goal was to combine fashion and functionality, which is still a big part
of the Thumb United brand today.
We’ve all had that gasp moment where you check your pocket or bag, and your phone isn’t
where you thought it would be. That is stressful anywhere, especially in airports where leaving
something behind can impact your travel plans. By keeping your phone in the designated
pocket of Thumb United hoodies, people always know where their phone is and that it will stay
there. Thumb United hoodies allow people to have one less thing to worry about when
You mentioned a low return rate. What kind of feedback have you received from customers, and how have their experiences influenced the product’s evolution?
I take a lot of pride in the Thumb United brand, and one of the things that I am most proud of is
not only our low return rate but also the efforts we’ve taken to achieve it. And what comes with
that is listening to our customers, determining what they want and then delivering that to
them. For example, in the early days of Thumb United, we only offered extra-small to extra-
large sizes; however, we received feedback from our customers that it was important to them
that we provided a more comprehensive range of sizes. We immediately started developing
plans to expand the sizes we offered when we heard this feedback. We now offer sizes from
extra-small to 4XL. Inclusivity is essential to me, and it is imperative to be represented in the
Thumb United brand as well.
Could you speak to the choice of materials used in Thumb United hoodies, such as the two-way YKK zippers and the 80/20 cotton-polyester blend? How do these contribute to
the overall quality?
I was essentially born into the fashion industry; not only did I grow up in the Garment District of
New York City, but I also spent much of my childhood learning the business directly from my
father, a pioneer in the faux fur fashion industry. I spent a lot of time around clothes and in
retail stores. I would shop with my mother for hours. One thing that always stayed with me was
a sign I saw in every Gucci store with a quote from Aldo Gucci: “Quality is remembered long
after price is forgotten.” That has always resonated with me, so when I started Thumb United, I
knew that quality had to be the top priority.
When developing the original Thumb United products, I wanted to go with a premium cotton
polyester blend where the polyester would give the product some shape retention while
allowing for some stretch and flexibility in the fabric. Additionally, circling back to my earlier
point on combining fashion and functionality, I wanted to use two-way zippers as they allow
our customers to have options on how they want to wear their sweatshirt so that it’s adaptable
to the customer’s preferences. For example, if someone is getting into their car or sitting at a
desk, the two-way zipper allows them to separate the two sides of the sweatshirt, relieving the
pressure and making it more comfortable.
Another key component of Thumb United hoodies is that all products have a triple-needle
overstitch, which might sound like overkill to many manufacturers in the fashion industry. Still, I
always want to give my customers products they can count on. Quality is critical to me and the
Thumb United brand, so I wanted to make sure I went the extra mile when thinking about the
quality of the products.
Are there any upcoming innovations or features in the pipeline for Thumb United hoodies that customers can look forward to?
I love being creative and exploring innovative ideas and new outlets to channel creativity into,
so there are always multiple things in the pipeline for Thumb United. However, I cannot give all
the secrets away just yet. What I can tell you is that we have two new colors coming out soon
that I’m very excited about. We have a dusty blue and a wine color that will be available shortly,
and I’m really looking forward to providing our customers with more color options so that they
can expand their Thumb United collection!
Could you share a personal travel tip or experience where Thumb United hoodies made a significant difference for you?
Thumb United’s initial prototype, the button-down with the pockets inside, undeniably
impacted the Thumb United model. However, later down the line, once I had developed the
hoodies and was looking for investors, one moment in an airport really changed my life. I had
been looking for investors, which can be a draining process at times. I knew the value of my
product and its potential, and I was really focused on getting other people to recognize and
understand its potential as well. I was in an airport one day, feeling a bit depleted from pitching
to investors. I was wearing a Thumb United sweatshirt and using the pocket to hold my phone,
and a man stopped me and asked me about the sweatshirt. He asked me about Thumb and
what it meant, and I explained to him that it stood for “Teaching Humans Universal Mobile
Behavior” and that my goal was to try and motivate people to put their phones away through
fashion, and he loved it! That moment really had a profound impact on me because it uplifted
me at a time when I felt none of these investors understood the product, and then all of a
sudden, this person in the airport saw the functionality, he saw the positive messaging on the product, and he appreciated it. This experience really changed my life because it reminded me of why I wanted to start Thumb United in the first place.
As the founder and chief creative officer, do you have a personal favorite aspect of Thumb United hoodies or a specific scenario where you find them most useful?
Thumb United’s slogan is “Hold a hand, not a phone,” which really means something much deeper than just putting your phone away. It is intended to motivate people to look around and appreciate life outside the ever-present screens around us. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize the benefits technology gives us, but I firmly believe that there are times and places where phones are needed and many times and places where they’re not. I look around these days, and everyone is always looking down at their phone. But putting your phone away and picking your head up to take in the world around you is so important and beneficial for one’s mental health. If you’re going for a walk in the park with your favorite person, pet or yourself, anything, what is better than just being in that present moment with them? It is about appreciating the simple joys of life, and I’m proud to have a brand that represents that.