Growing up and attending a prep school in Connecticut, Spencer Hirst wore a basic, traditional tie every day starting in sixth grade. His business partner, Ben Agee, attended an all-boys Catholic high school in Texas and wore a tie the Friday before every football game—usually a classic-looking one borrowed from his dad.
The duo is now once again immersed in the world of men’s neckwear, making “mountain formal” ties through their company Western Range. But Hirst is the first to clarify just what they’re offering.
“It’s not traditional Western,” Hirst says. “We’re not rocking bolo ties, but it’s not 100 percent mainstream Brooks Brothers or J Crew. It’s a confluence of both. It’s a new genre we’re creating.”
When Hirst moved to Jackson in 2009 for the classic “one ski season” that turned into years, he quickly realized people don’t really wear ties in Jackson. He wore one maybe once a year to a wedding. He understood people didn’t want to wear ties, but part of the problem was there wasn’t a Jackson-style tie that was relaxed and unique enough to fit the lifestyle.
“There was a giant white space in the market,” he says.
After graduating from Providence College in Rhode Island, Hirst moved to Jackson. He took a job as a ski instructor at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and worked at restaurants at night. In 2012, he got his first taste of working for himself when he opened a farmers’ market stand on the Town Square selling tomato pies. He loved running his own business and at the end of the summer he began the framework for a company that would become Western Range.
Agee is a former Army Ranger and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. When he left the Army, he spent 10 years working in the oil fields.
Hirst and Agee met almost a decade ago through their siblings, who were dating at time. While their siblings’ relationship didn’t work out, Agee and Hirst stayed friends. In 2014, they started working together on their business and opened Western Range in 2015.
Neither had textile experience, but the more they learned, the more they realized they had a natural knack for design. They understood that some
people move to Jackson so they won’t have to wear a tie ever again, but the two were confident they could design something that represented the Mountain West and the lifestyle people love in Jackson. They wanted to embody the Western spirit.
“We want to be Jackson’s go-to brand that isn’t outdoor-related,” Agee says.
The company started with neckwear for men: ties and bow ties. Their flagship collection features antlers, and they also have bison and fly ties printed in various colors on both ties and bow ties.
They’ve expanded the line to include pocket squares, as well as men’s and women’s shirts and scarves. Western Range has a mix of local, regional, and national customers, with their wares for sale around town at Penny Lane Cooperative, Belle Cose, and Mountain Man Toy Shop.
The two are working on more shirt styles and ties, with fun “Jackson-specific” prints that are more playful than fancy.
“Now you can throw a tie on in a place where no one is wearing one and stand out a little, and it’s fun,” Hirst says. “It shows a different aspect of
style and fashion, and for the most part people always say, ‘That’s a killer tie.’”