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Pimpin' the Clothes

Sex sells. Pimps sell sex. See an equation trying to form?

On hearing "That guy's a pimp," would you assume he sells the "services" of women? Well, stop thinking like a new recruit at the precinct. Slang has once again transformed a formerly dirty word (like "dope") into a positive thing. And because kids of all ages are scrambling to wear what they have to say across their chests, one word can mean dollar signs.

This year, "pimp" will mean $2 million-plus for 33-year-old Rocky Batty's Boston, Massachusetts, clothing company, Original Pimpgear. The DJ and longtime devotee to hip-hop culture admits it wasn't until about three years after launching his line of hats and T-shirts for guys, along with his Pimpgirl line for girls, that he realized a few logos and some attitude could be a viable business. Demand from chain boutiques, music stores like Sam Goody and skate shops confirmed his notion.

Batty had been hearing about "pimpin' the mic" since the late '80s, both in rap music and around the hip-hop scene. And by the time he called his mom to tell her that her son owned the word "pimp" (he registered it in 1993), he could explain how its positive nature fits everyone from a 12-year-old boy to a 20-year-old woman. He insists it's nothing to do with race, gender, leopard-skin furniture or fedoras, but rather doing your own thing and not prostituting yourself to anyone. Clothing e-tailers and have already followed suit.

This story appears in the June 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »