It’s hard to forget a name like Cigar Pxrn, but former NFL tackle and Cigar Pxrn founder James Lee was going for bold. There may be no better way to express love and appreciation for cigar life than donning some Cigar Pxrn apparel. Lee talked with Cigar Life Guy about the life-changing first premium cigar, finding a niche in the cigar industry, and why he’s still holding out on blending his own cigars.
The First Premium Smoke
Cigar Life Guy: Tell me about your first premium cigar experience.
James Lee: My first cigar experience was with a neighbor. I had a neighbor, Andre, and he would always host cookouts. He would have them when I was playing during the season. But I wasn’t a smoker. I was playing football (An NFL career that included stints with Cleveland Tampa Bay and Washington). It was the Spring of 2010. He threw some steaks on the grill and I was like, why not? And I smoked my first cigar- an ACID Kuba Kuba. That changed my life. That’s a day I’ll never forget.
What’s in a Name?
Cigar Life Guy: Cigar Pxrn is an evocative name. What’s the story behind it?
James Lee: Well for one Cigar Pxrn is probably the best name for a cigar brand (laughs), but the name came as a play off of food porn. At the time I was trying to create a name for the brand, food porn was everywhere. Everybody was cooking for Youtube videos and we just played off of that for the love of cigars like people did for the love of food. When we did it, the word cigar porn (p-o-r-n) would actually send you to a porn site. So we had to create an avenue to keep people from going to a porn site. That’s how I came up with the “x”. We put two cigars across each other to create the “x”.
Cigar Life Guy: You played in the NFL and have a degree in Early Childhood Development. How did you get into the apparel and cigar business?
James Lee: After I retired from football, I became a member of the cigar lounge in Charlotte (Charlotte Cigar Club). Throughout my years of being there, cigar reps would come by and they would sell you boxes. There would be specials on boxes and you could buy raffle tickets to win a hat or t-shirt. That was the only way that you could express that you loved cigars- by wearing that particular brand of the rep that would come into the shop. At the time I was not smoking a brand, but I realized there was a niche. I can create a brand for all cigar lovers- not specific to one brand. So it’s not locking into one brand. It’s just saying “I love cigars”. Once I did my research, I realized that there was nothing out there other than getting the shirts and hats from the cigar reps. In 2017 that was the only way to get apparel. You go to somebody’s website and buy a shirt. So I created a brand, Cigar Pxrn.
One of Kind Apparel
Cigar Life Guy: What makes Cigar Pxrn apparel and accessories unique?
James Lee: Cigar Pxrn is loud, bold, and edgy. We run into so many people that love the shirt or they say, “I can’t wear that shirt.” So it also screams confidence. You have to be a strong individual to put the word “pxrn” on your chest because of the attention that you’re going to get from it. If you’re a man you’re going to get attention from women. If you’re a woman you’re going to receive some compliments from men. So I feel we’re unique because we’re edgy. We put two of the best industries together as one and made it a brand.
Cigar Life Guy: How do you want cigar smokers and consumers to see your brand?
James Lee: I want people to see my brand as an image of greatness. We continue to create unique and quality products. I have a strong team of representatives throughout the world who represent Cigar Pxrn and the lifestyle just as well as I do. They’re a reflection of me in their own cities and we are all as one. It’s all greatness.
Not Trying To Do Too Much
Cigar Life Guy: Have you looked at expanding beyond apparel and accessories to maybe a full line of cigars? If so, what would need to be true for you to seriously consider it?
James Lee: For years I’ve gotten that question- “When are you going to make a cigar?” I’ve gone back and forth with it. But I try not to focus on multiple things at once because you can lose out on one thing trying to create something else. We started off as a lifestyle brand. Right now it’s just not the right time. As a brand, our main goal is to continue to bless the cigar industry through fashion.
I have considered it. I’ve had people at PCA this year say, ” When are we gonna make that cigar for you?” But people have asked since day one.
When you’re trying to do too much at once your focus is lost. You can’t go 100 percent in two things at once. We’re going into year six and we’re just focused on apparel right now.
Cigar Life Guy: What’s next for Cigar Pxrn?
James Lee: We’re trying to expand to cater to more women. Today you have an enormous amount of women smoking cigars. So many women are coming into the industry so we want to expand our women’s line beyond t-shirts. Just give them more options so they can express themselves. Men are fine just throwing on a T-shirt. So women I want to put more emphasis on them. We just created our own collection of sunglasses. We plan to get into dress apparel, Fall colors for dresses, and different styles of shirts. We’re trying to get into the bling. Something other than a V-neck T-shirt.
Photo credit: James Lee