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 Cigar Pxrn apparel. Lee talked with Cigar Life Guy. He spoke 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.
James Lee’s 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 thought, 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 the Cigar Pxrn 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. 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 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 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 joined the cigar lounge in Charlotte (Charlotte Cigar Club). Throughout my years there, cigar reps would come by and sell you boxes. There would be special promos on boxes; you could buy raffle tickets to win a hat or T-shirt. That was the only way you could express your love of cigars — wearing the cigar rep’s branded apparel. I wasn’t smoking a particular brand, but I realized there was a niche. I realized I could create a brand for all cigar lovers — not specific to or locking into one brand. It’s just saying, “I love cigars.” Once I researched it, I realized nothing was out there besides getting the shirts and hats from 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.
Cigar Pxrn’s Unique Apparel
Cigar Life Guy: What makes Cigar Pxrn apparel and accessories unique?
James Lee: Cigar Pxrn is loud, bold, and edgy. We run into many people who love the shirt or say, “I can’t wear that shirt.” So, it also screams confidence. You must be strong enough to put the word “Pxrn” on your chest because of the attention you’ll get from it. If you’re a man, you’ll receive attention from women. If you’re a woman, you’ll receive compliments from men. So, we’re unique because we’re edgy. We put two of the best industries together and created 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 creating unique and quality products. I have a strong team of representatives worldwide who represent Cigar Pxrn and the lifestyle as well as I do. They’re a reflection of me in their own cities, and we work together as one team. It’s greatness.
Balancing Cigar Pxrn Business
Cigar Life Guy: Have you considered expanding beyond apparel and accessories to adding a full line of cigars? If so, what would you need to consider it?
James Lee: For years, I’ve received 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 simultaneously because you can lose out on something while trying to create something else. We started as a lifestyle brand. Now is not the right time. As a brand, our primary 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 that question since day one.
When you do too much at once, you lose your focus. You can’t go 100 percent in on two things simultaneously. We’re going into year six and focusing on apparel right now.
Cigar Life Guy: What’s next for Cigar Pxrn?
James Lee: We’re expanding to cater to more women. Today, you have an enormous amount of women smoking cigars. Many women are entering the industry, so we want to expand our women’s line beyond T-shirts. We want to give them more options so they can express themselves. Men are fine throwing on a T-shirt, so I want to put more emphasis on women. We’ve just launched our own line of sunglasses. Next, we plan on expanding our offerings to include dress apparel, prioritizing fall colors for dresses, and offering a range of shirt styles. Our goal involves getting into the bling, but something other than a V-neck T-shirt.
Photo credit: James Lee