How Colin Hanks Used His Name to Jumpstart a Handkerchief Brand

"I can't really pass up an opportunity for witty word play," the actor says of his new brand, Hanks Kerchiefs, which are now selling online in eight designs.
@hankskerchiefs/instagram; Paul Archuleta/Getty Images
Colin Hanks (inset) and his Hanks Kerchief.

Colin Hanks didn’t have to search very far to find a new business venture. He found one in his back pocket. And the name? Already on his driver’s license.

The 41-year-old actor — currently filming his series regular role on CBS' Life in Pieces — just launched an online store selling eight different styles of handkerchiefs under the name Hanks Kerchiefs. Get it? Get one for $28 or $200 for the set.

Each design has its own moniker, all named specifically for family and friends including: Samantha (his wife), Charlotte and Olivia (their daughters), Earl (his dog), Arthur (a friend whom he met while filming one of his documentaries), Tim (an old family friend from Sacramento), Russ (Tower Records founder Russ Solomon), and Akiva (as in Schaffer, one-third of musical comedy group The Lonely Island).

Hanks says his history wearing and carrying kerchiefs goes back decades. “My grandfather always had one. My dad always had a stack with him that we’d use on family vacations,” explains Hanks, who opted not to name one after his famous father. “It’s always been present in my life — 25 years of constantly feeling in my back pocket for one.”

In March, he finally copped to the idea that it might be something he should explore as a business opportunity. His first call was to “the only people I know in the fashion world,” John and Mike Anderson, who run Anderson Brothers Design & Supply. “They were really supportive and ran with the idea,” he continues. “It was incredibly fascinating to try and learn an entire new sort of industry and business at the age of 40 — it’s actually kind of fun. I was very fortunate, too, in that the thing I wanted to make is one piece of cloth and doesn’t need to be sewn or stitched onto anything else, and it’s a one-size-fits-all type of thing.”

What followed in subsequent months was a crash course in starting a self-financed business from the ground up — from website creation, production and distribution to shipping and social media strategies. The online store went live in mid-November and so far, “sales have far exceeded expectations,” even if he jokes that he’s “not even sure what expectations were.”

Instead, it was like this: “Throwing a pair of dice and hoping you roll box cars.” He admits that the “pun of the name” is a great attention grabber, but it's the designs and multiuse product that is generating sales. “I can’t really pass up an opportunity for witty wordplay,” Hanks admits. “It seemed like a no-brainer. Look, the other thing is that the reason I call it Hanks Kerchiefs is that it has the allure: maybe there’s a guy named Hank and he makes kerchiefs. I liked the vagueness, and it was still me doing a wink and a nod.”

Even if it’s more of a nod. “I’ve spent the last 20-plus years or so making my own name for myself in what I’m doing. But then I realized, you know what? It’s my last name, too!”

Up next: More designs in the new year and possibly some wholesale partnerships to expand the line into stores. “I have a rather ambitious plan for where to take the kerchiefs company,” he notes, and that includes his holiday shopping list. “Everybody is getting kerchiefs for Christmas — everyone I know,” he says with a laugh. “If I have to buy you a Christmas gift, you are getting a kerchief.” 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our Kerchiefs are always ready... Are you? Be ready. #hanks #hankskerchiefs #notabandana #beready

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A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.