Now before you think you don’t have any need for bullet resistant garments — at a protection level higher than used by most police forces — consider that Haider also started designing bullet-resistant backpacks for kids last summer. And when the Sandy Hook school shooting occurred in December, the orders started flowing in, Haider said.
You will notice the absence of the term “bulletproof.” Experts say there is no body armor that is fully bulletproof, but there are different levels of bullet resistance. American Armor, which Haider formed with fellow University of Mary Washington graduate Robert Davis, uses both Kevlar and Twaron, similar bullet-resistant fabrics, at a thickness of IIIA. Under National Institute of Justice standards, that should stop a .44 Magnum slug.
Haider and Davis did not set out to exploit the recent tragedy. But bullet-resistant clothes were a product that the pair came up with as a senior class project at Mary Washington, in part because Haider had already entered the world of suits and had formed a company, Aspetto. Adding Kevlar or Twaron was a way to make suits marketable in the violence-prone Middle East, Haider thought.
Haider got involved in the suit business at Chantilly High, he told the Fairfax County Times’s Gregg MacDonald, importing high quality bath towels and later high quality suits and trying to sell them to retailers, with little success. Once he got to Mary Washington, he started Aspetto, and hired tailors to make custom-fit suits. By 2012, Haider said he was making close to $150,000.
But their senior project instructed Haider and Davis to launch a product overseas. They discovered a company in Fredericksburg, Renegade Armor, that produced bullet-resistant material. In June, shortly after graduation, they obtained their first patent for the clothing and American Armor was born.
The company makes suits, vests and even pullover polo shirts with Kevlar or Twaron sewn in. Haider told me that he can take clothes you already have, which have extra fabric built in if someone wants to let them out, and install the bullet resistant panels. “You can give us anything,” Haider said, “we’ll make it bullet resistant.”
The company began to get financing and opened up a factory in Fredericksburg last summer. By August, they had the idea to reinforce children’s backpacks with bullet resistant material. But they hadn’t had many orders until December.
Now, at $300, the product is hot. Haider said they can also convert an existing backpack to bullet resistant. They are not the only ones in the market: The Post reported in December that there were about a half-dozen bullet resistant backpack manufacturers, and all had seen sales skyrocket after Sandy Hook.
Haider said the idea actually came from a man he met who wanted a bullet-resistant backpack for his daughter who attends Virginia Tech, the site of another horrific school shooting.
The company’s website, which does not yet have the backpacks on them, is here.