The founder of Wolf’s Apparel Company, Frank Barlow, never tired of extolling the virtues of wool. Though he retired from all daily operations more than a decade ago, he continued to serve as the company’s spokesperson in television and print ads. He died Wednesday at age 95.
As a young man, Barlow inherited a small sheep farm. By his own account, he was less than enthused with his inheritance and allowed his cousins to tend to the farm while he pursued a largely fruitless career as an actor until entering the air force in 1943. In his autobiography, Barlow tells the unflattering tale of how he fleeced his fellow service men, telling lies about his flocks of sheep being decimated by wolves. Soldiers would give him money to purchase more sheep.
After the war Barlow returned to the sheep farm to find the business nearly bankrupt, devastated not by wolves but by competitors who had outmaneuvered his cousins at every turn. Desperate, Barlow sent dozens of letters to people he had met in the military seeking investors for his sheep farm. By this time he had earned a reputation as a con artists and nobody wanted to invest in his company.
Although wolves were relatively scarce in the region at the time, Barlow often told the story of touring his property on horseback and finding an actual wolf eating one of his sheep. “The irony was so thick I could chew it,” he writes in his autobiography. Barlow determined at that moment that he would not only rescue his business but grow it with uncompromising honesty. Within 20 years, his wool business was among the largest in the country and he launched the equally successful Wolf’s Apparel Company, “honest clothes for honest people.”
He is survived by his wife, Grace, 80, his daughter Montana, 60, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.