Posted by Connor Humphreys on

As most great stories do, the BANDITS saga began in the unlikeliest of places.

It was a cold, rainy night in late December 2016. I was up at 2am, for the fourth night in a row in a non-descript hotel room in Houston, Texas. I was stressed, alternating between coffee and whiskey as I frantically wrote emails and ran numbers in attempts to close two multi-million-dollar real estate deals before the end of the year. Closing both deals by December 30 would have nearly doubled my commission bonus for the year. It would have been more money than I had EVER made in my 10-year career in real estate.  

(My LinkedIn Profile Pic - From a Past Life...)

The next morning, BOTH deals fell through (for reasons completely out of my control). The fateful calls came, one after the other, as I slumped further into the seat of my rental car. I was equal parts pissed off and defeated. It was 2 months of hard work, not to mention a week of putting myself through hell, all for nothing. To add insult to injury, I had to listen silently as my boss called to lecture me about letting the opportunities slip through my fingers.   

After I hung up, I remember looking in the rearview mirror and thinking “Wow, I look like SHIT!” My face was pale, my eyes reflected my lack of sleep, and I was on day 5 of the ugly plaid sport coat that had become my de-facto uniform for road meetings. I didn’t recognize the face staring back at me – he looked old, tired, and uninspired. 10 years of climbing the corporate ladder, chasing promotions and bonuses, following the same old script – college, internships, business school, work – and all I had to show for it was a pile of student debt and a few extra wrinkles on my face. I wasn’t making a difference, I wasn’t changing the world, I wasn’t even doing something I was very passionate about. I decided, then and there, that I needed to make a change. 

A month before the ill-fated trip to Houston, my wife Nicole and I went on our honeymoon to Bali, Indonesia. We fell in love with the warmth of the people, the slow-paced lifestyle, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the expats we met during our time on the island. In the weeks after coming back, we couldn’t stop talking about what it might be like to live there, to figure out a way to support ourselves, to do something entirely different.

The day after I got home from Houston, I met Nicole for lunch near our offices in LA. It had already been a rough day for both of us, dealing with all the minutiae that piles up before New Year’s. As we sat across the table from each other, the question seemed to come from our lips simultaneously – “Should we move to Bali?” Little did I know, she was contemplating a change too. We paused for a minute to let it sink in and then, simultaneously, we said “Let’s do it!”

We spent the next few months giddily planning our escape. We calculated how long we could realistically last on savings. We learned how to stretch our airline miles and credit card points. We strategized on how and when to quit our jobs. We fended off countless pleas from family and friends to reconsider. Over the course of 5 months we negotiated our exits from work, sold most of our possessions, found a temporary home for our dog (thanks Mom & Dad!!), and booked two one-way tickets to Bali. In June of 2017, we took off on our life-changing adventure.

In the months leading up to our departure, Nicole had smartly formulated a plan for a business that she would pursue as soon as we hit the ground in Bali. I did not. After kicking around a few ideas, I decided to do something I’d never done – I went into our adventure without a plan. I figured if I was going to make a radical change I would need to completely open myself up to ANY possibility. So as the plane took off for our new home half way around the world, I somehow resigned myself to the fact that I had no plan, no income, and no idea what I was going to do with the next phase of my life. 

One thing I did decide, was that I would need a hobby to fill all of this newfound free time. Before we left the US, I made an investment in a professional-level camera (a FUJI X-T1 with an XF 16-55 MM, 2.8 Lens, for the camera nerds out there). I marveled at the Instagram feeds of countless Bali-based photographers, and I knew that I had to photograph some of the incredible scenery the island had to offer. If nothing else, at least I would have some great pictures to document our adventure.

(Sunrise hiking on Mt. Batur in Bali - note the bandana)

In the first few weeks on the island, I mostly split my time between two activities. The first was riding my motorbike around the island taking pictures, and second was tagging along with Nicole as she met with manufacturers and suppliers for her budding accessories and home goods brand. Both of these would prove instrumental in the formation of BANDITS.

On my photo trips, out of necessity, I started wearing an old bandana I found in my luggage as a headband. It was the only way I could find to conveniently secure my sunglasses when I was snapping photos (otherwise they would just fall off my head, out of my pockets, or off of my shirt). Judging by the print, the bandana had come from a past year at the Coachella Music Festival, but I have no recollection of actually buying it. I think it may have been left behind by a friend and somehow made its way into my luggage. Regardless, I wore it every day and it was on my head for every early morning photo hunting excursion. 

After 3-4 weeks of constant wear, as you might imagine, my old bandana was in desperate need of a trip to the laundry. Before dropping it at the wash, I set out to find a backup bandana for my motorbike jaunts. When I started looking around online and in local stores, though, I was underwhelmed at what I found. Boring designs, sizes too small for my head (which is admittedly huge), and most importantly - starchy, scratchy, low-quality cotton. 

This is where my other main Bali activity came in handy. Having tagged along with Nicole to fabric wholesalers and garment manufacturers it dawned on me… I should make MY OWN bandanas! And with that, BANDITS was born. I immediately started scouring the markets and wholesale shops for interesting patterns and colors. I even had a few samples made with the fabrics I picked out, but it was missing something. 

In August 2017, Nicole and I left Bali to head back to the US, but not before stopping in 9 countries on a magical world tour on our way. During our travels, I became hyper-aware of not only bandanas, but all kinds of different fabrics, textiles, and prints. I was particularly drawn to prints that told a story; about an artist, about a culture, or about specific moment in time. Each country’s fabrics and prints had a unique voice, weaving (no pun intended) in the history and experience of each place. I knew that I had to give the brand that same quality. BANDITS bandanas wouldn’t just be accessories, they would serve as a canvas to tell stories from around the world.    

(The Bandana that started it all - exploring an island in Ao Yon Bay, Thailand)

From there, I began a worldwide search for artists to create original designs for the launch collection. It was in this search that I found the final piece of the BANDITS puzzle. I knew from the start that the brand would incorporate some form of charitable giving, but I was struggling to decide on which cause to support. As I spoke with artist friends and sought recommendations, I realized that each one had a different incredible cause that they were passionate about. Who was I to limit to charitable support to just one cause? I let the artists decide where the charitable proceeds would go, and the brand was finally complete.



(The BANDITS Launch Collection)

Representing 4 continents and 5 countries, BANDITS truly found the best the world had offer. 7 talented artists created 7 original designs, each supporting an amazing and worthy charitable cause. To bring their visions to life in the best way possible, I found the softest, most durable cotton Indonesia had to offer. Then I found some of the nicest, happiest, and most patient Balinese locals to print, cut, and stitch BANDITS bandanas by hand. In March of 2018 the BANDITS launch collection was finally ready. Through their hard work, talent, skill, and global cooperation, all of these outstanding people helped to bring you a better bandana.

The only thing left to do is to tie one on and go live like a BANDIT – Never Tied Down!  

Check out all of the artists, designs, and charities in BANDITS launch collection HERE. Choose your favorites and… Wear Your Way. Live Your Way. Give Your Way.


← Older Post Newer Post →