FashionWI Bridge

Shawne Merriman Gracefully Pivots from NFL to Clothing Biz

Retired NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman returned home to the DMV area not to talk football, but to debut his new active wear line affectionately named “Lights Out.”

Merriman who played for seven seasons in the league, earned the moniker “Lights Out” as a sophomore at Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro, Md., now as a full  edged businessman he’s using his famous trademark on his latest fashion effort.

“I’m from here this is home, and it’s always going to be home,” Merriman said. “I’m from P.G. County, Capitol Heights, Forestville, I went to high school in Upper Marlboro, so this is a special place. Having the ability to play in San Diego and now live in L.A., you realize there is no place in the country like the DMV, it could be its own country.”

Merriman said that launching Lights Out in D.C., especially in DTLR, has been extra-special.

Models showcase the Lights Out active wear T-shirts at a DTLR location in D.C. on May 17. (Steve Garrett)
Models showcase the Lights Out active wear T-shirts at a DTLR location in D.C. on May 17. (Steve Garrett)

“I remember when we could afford new clothes, and to be able to go buy clothes from DTLR was everything for us,” he said. “Now sitting here and being able to sell and partner with [DTLR] is almost unheard of.”

“You go and have this career playing football and you have this success on the field, but now your football is done, what else do I do?” he said. “[I asked myself,] ‘What do I love doing just as much as I enjoy playing football?’ and this was it for me.”

Merriman bought the Lights Out company in his second year playing with the San Diego Chargers in 2006. He started with T-shirts and hats, but he didn’t have much time to devote to it due to his rigorous football schedule.

“I’ve learned a lot about the industry over the past three years, but back then my main job was playing football — go to practice, workout and everything else was second,” Merriman said. “Since I’ve retired now, I’m over here playing a different game, which is building a brand.”

Lights Out touts itself as an active apparel and lifestyle brand that specializes in men’s and women’s performance tees, sports bags, and other active gear that incorporates the latest technical fabrications with fashion-forward designs.

“I’ve learned to create something other people like,” Merriman said. “We have guys from all different facets of the industry, actors, actresses, MMA athletes, a lot of people supporting the brand.”

The three-time NFL Pro Bowler also plans to bring his line to NASCAR since buying into a team and partnering with NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver Jesse Iwuji.

“NASCAR is a great sport and has a huge demographic,” Merriman said. “I have a NASCAR car, my driver is Black and he would be a great ambassador for the brand for our racing style T-shirts.”

With Lights Out already in 20 to 30 DTLR locations across the country, Merriman looks forward to growing in the apparel industry and driving business to his favorite childhood store.

“It’s a powerful brand,” he said. “The name Lights Out itself has a very strong meaning and we wanted that strong meaning to be noticed in the shirts.”

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Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s millennial publication. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, she attended Howard University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. A proud southern girl, her lineage can be traced to the Gullah people inhabiting the low-country of South Carolina. The history of the Gullah people and the Geechee Dialect can be found on the top floor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In her spare time she enjoys watching either college football or the Food Channel and experimenting with make-up. When she’s not writing professionally she can be found blogging at E-mail: Social Media Handles: Twitter: @dreamersexpress, Instagram: @Sarafinasaid, Snapchat: @Sarafinasaid

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