Robert Siegelman had founded the Robert Siegelman Racing Stable in 1982. On the surface, he was taking ownership over his career as a horse trainer, but the stable’s true purpose was as a community service hub for inner-city kids. Growing up on Long Island, a good chunk of Max’s childhood unfolded at the stable with his dad and the horses. Instead of feeling pressured to follow in his father’s footsteps, the way Robert approached his work encouraged Max to pursue his own passions.
“The biggest lesson from watching him was, what type of impact can you make beyond just what you’re getting paid for?” Siegelman, 31, tells Billboard. “How can you bring it around to do some type of good?”
As an adolescent, Max was dead-set on finding a way to work in sports — like his mother, who has worked at ESPN for 37 years — when inventing a social media aggregation app called Rouse fresh out of college instead led him into the music industry. At the onset of the pandemic, though, he felt inspired to reconnect with his roots and thought up a way to reinvent the family business: horse racing, but make it fashion. By using the network he had built in music, fashion and sports from eight years as a creative and social media consultant, he could not only expand his father’s legacy but continue to provide equine therapy for at-risk youth, veterans, nurses, doctors, or anyone suffering from PTSD, with every piece sold.
Max was never discouraged, but the rest of his family had one question: “Who the hell would want to wear Siegelman Stable stuff?” He didn’t have a concrete answer — he certainly couldn’t have predicted the high-profile artists and athletes he would soon be able to list — but he remembered something LL Cool J told him after becoming a partner in Rouse. The night they met, the Grammy-winning multihyphenate ended dinner with a nugget of wisdom imparted to him years earlier by the late Michael Jackson: “Never limit yourself.”
Max acted on that advice when officially launching Siegelman Stable in June 2020. “As soon as I started putting it out, and my family’s name was on it, I definitely felt a lot more pressure doing this than I did working for any big-name person that I’ve ever worked for,” he admits. “The pressure is real when your name is on something.”
By early November, validation started rolling in from some of music’s heaviest hitters. Gunna wore a Siegelman Stable crewneck to the studio. Then came Future, who shared it with his then-girlfriend Dess Dior. Before long, Post Malone, Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard, Why Don’t We’s Jonah Marais, The Voice Season 4 champion Danielle Bradbery were among countless artists flaunting the distinctive horse emblem.
Where Future and Gunna were simply drawn to the authentic aesthetic, Bradbery, Hubbard and Marais connected on a more personal level. “The blue Siegelman Stable hat instantly became my favorite hat I own,” Marais, 23, says. “The fit of the hat is so perfect, and I love the design. Most importantly, I love the mission and how a portion of the revenue goes to therapy for people who need it but maybe can’t afford it. I personally have a therapist that I talk to every week, and it’s been crucial to my growth over the last couple of years.”
Siegelman Stable’s first-ever pop-up shop in Brooklyn, located at Williamsburg’s 252 Kent Avenue on July 31 and Aug. 1, will feature therapy mini horses and exclusive collaboration pieces with the Hambletonian Society. Ahead of the brand’s landmark event, Billboard caught up with Max to further dissect his newfound life’s work as well as the unique hand the music industry has had in branching out his father’s dream in unimaginable ways.
What were your ties to the music industry before your clothes started infiltrating it?
The aggregation app I started in 2012 brought in LL Cool J as a partner. My other partner and I quickly got thrown into many music-centered conversations from introductions he made. We did a ton with The Grammys and Latin Grammys, so I quickly formed relationships with a bunch of artists and management teams. I have a bunch of good friends in the business, and that’s pretty much the extent of it, minus my huge passion for music in general.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention my mother and only talked about my father. Not only did she design the two logos that I still use — drawing them on a napkin way back in 1985 — but she’s worked at ESPN for 37 years. She was there when it was ABC Sports. She actually started the rights and clearance department.
A few summers ago, Big Sean was putting out “Overtime.” There was this viral clip of a professional bowler [Pete Weber] that rolled a strike to win and turned to the crowd and screamed, “Who do you think you are? I am!” ESPN owned it, and Big Sean and his team requested to put it at the end of this song. My mom denied them, and we were having dinner at the table when she asked if I knew about Big Sean and this clip. She said, “They asked to use this clip, but I said no because I didn’t think it made sense.” I was like, “What?! You gotta sell it to them!” She went back and sold it to them, and it’s on the song. I kind of feel like Big Sean owes me an Instagram post wearing a Siegelman Stable hat. [Laughs.]
Big Sean may not be on board yet, but how did this wildfire of other artists wearing Siegelman Stable start?
Some of it was organic. Some of it was introductions to stylists, who obviously have a lot of influence over what artists wear. And then some of them I’ve made custom pieces for. I’ve had the opportunity to make custom Air Force 1s for Post Malone and Tyler Hubbard.
I decided to seed a very limited number of people, and music artists were at the top of that list. I had Future wearing my hat before I could convince some of my friends that I knew what I was doing. I sent one hat and one crewneck sweatshirt [to Wesley] last July. The first sighting was on Gunna in the beginning of November. Shortly after that, Future wore it at his birthday in Miami. For the next five weeks, I don’t think Future took off my hat in any color.
To me, there are no bigger trendsetters for anything than musicians and athletes. Look at this past week at Paris Fashion Week with Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack x Dior. C’mon. These guys just get it. The mix between music artists’ style and influence was a no-brainer to me. I’ve always had a passion for music but lacked the talent. Hip-hop got me through a lot, and was a constant part of my days and nights as I built up Siegelman Stable. If I told you that all I did for the first three months of putting Siegelman Stable together was blast Future music videos alone in a studio during a pandemic, I would not be lying to you. Literally, that’s all I did.
Siegelman Stable has been around since 1982 — your whole life — so what was the light-bulb moment that finally inspired you to evolve it into a clothing line?
That’s more than my whole life. Don’t age me too much! If the pandemic didn’t happen, I would have never had time to put this all together. I was traveling for work [with Outfront Media] every week or every other week. So, it started as trying to stay busy and creative while locked down. At first, I started painting sneakers. One of the pairs I did was Siegelman Stable-themed, and I posted it to Instagram and got a ton of DMs. Like, random people that I didn’t know asking me to paint shoes for them.
I’ve worked with designers in the past, but more so in the creative and social space. I had two pieces that my dad and grandfather made back in the ’80s, which was a red, silk hat — looked exactly like the ones I make now — and a rain jacket with the insignia on the back and my grandfather’s name embroidered on the front. Every time I wore those, I got a ton of comments. People asked where they could buy any type of merch around my dad’s stable. That triggered me. Let me take $200 and make some hats and see what happens. And then, eight months later, Future’s wearing it in a music video.
The collections up until now have been worn by NBA stars, too — Mike Conley and Tim Hardaway Jr., to name a couple — but how have you seen growth specifically based on the artists who have shown support?
I have a friend in the NBA. I waited until he was in last summer’s NBA Bubble, so I could get the Bubble address, and once I had that, I could change the player and team names to send some more boxes out. Kind of being scrappy, I sent hats and sweatshirts to 10 guys in the bubble. That’s how a lot of the NBA guys got it. Some of them worked, some didn’t. Some loved it and continue to wear it and buy stuff from me or ask for custom pieces. I’ve seen LeBron check our Instagram Story, so I know he’s aware. Tim Hardaway Jr. still hits me up.
One of the first few signs to me that it was growing was when I connected with a stylist for a few country artists — one in particular, Danielle Bradbery. I gifted her one or two pieces, and the next thing I know, she has been one of the most supportive customers any time I put something new out. She is one who also understands the story and what we’re doing in the equine therapy space. She doesn’t let me gift anymore. She buys to support the veterans’ equine therapy programs.
Another one was Future wearing the hat in the video. I think that speaks volumes: one person who sees it as an authentic, cool piece that they want to wear against the case of another person who was gifted something, understood the brand message and is willing to support what we’re trying to do.
What does the music industry provide in terms of spreading the message that can’t be duplicated in other spaces?
How do you get through that super thick brick wall of customer trust? If you’re not a brick-and-mortar store, and no one can touch your product, it’s tough. It’s tough to judge by a picture on a website for a company you’ve never seen or felt in person. But if you see your favorite artist wearing it, it starts to build that customer trust.
Have you heard from any of these artist’s fanbases?
Not to keep going back to Future, but he has worn it a ton. Some of the biggest Future fan pages on Instagram have sent me DMs asking when I’m restocking. One of his biggest fan pages is run out of Germany, and the guy who runs it has asked, like, “Dude, can you give me any percent off of shipping? I’m getting crushed to ship to Germany.” I think if you were to look at the photos I’m tagged in, you’d see a lot of streetwear-styled consumers in the Atlanta area, and I’m definitely giving a lot of credit there to Future, who is from Atlanta. And Gunna, too.
Have you seen an increase in awareness and funds for equine therapy?
When you get super excited that Future is wearing your hat in a music video, it’s super cool, but it can be missed that some of the money from that hat goes toward an organization that has meaning. People are wearing something that is making an impact on someone else’s life in a tremendously positive way. The two organizations that we’re closest with are HorseAbility, an equine therapy program in Long Island that my dad volunteers at basically 90 percent of the time. They do programs for doctors, nurses or veterans, people with PTSD, as well as kids with special needs. The second program that we support heavily is the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club out of Philadelphia. The Netflix movie with Idris Elba, Concrete Cowboy, is based on them.
What do you think the genre-less appeal across the music industry — from country singers to rappers and boy-banders — says about Siegelman Stable?
It’s the best. I love that. That’s what I set out to do. I didn’t aim for one demographic. I wanted the streetwear crowds, the horse racing fanatics, the horse lovers, and just anyone who believed in the brand to rock it. Beyond equine therapy and style, to bridge that gap between communities is something I wish could be a lot broader than just a fashion statement, especially in the climate of our country at the moment.
These artists get hundreds if not thousands of pieces of clothing sent to them, so they don’t have to wear anything that they get. I want someone like Future or Post Malone to wear it, and I want some woman who lives on a farm in Oklahoma or Montana to also want to wear it.
Now that this line has brought you closer to your upbringing, what are some things that you’re realizing in hindsight that maybe you wouldn’t have if not for designing these clothes?
First and foremost, I’m lucky that I got to grow up in that scenario where I could go to work with my dad and be with horses. I should have gone more often. I’m trying to make up for that now. I’ve lived in New York City for the last eight or nine years, and I think people who live in big cities get caught up in that city life and take nature for granted. That sounds a little cliche, but when the pandemic hit, a lot of people ran away from the cities and went to the countryside. Outdoor life became a lot more aspirational than the New York City dream. I saw an opening there to do something with what already existed.
People always have a horse story. Anyone I ever talk to, at some point in their family lineage, has a connection back to horses. My grandma rode horses from the time she was born in South Dakota until she died. In her later years, she had Alzheimer’s and riding or being around horses helped her a ton. So this was also a way to carry on her life.
What is your wildest aspiration for Siegelman Stable?
I want to continue my dad’s mission through fashion and collaborations. It’s the same story my dad has been writing since the ‘80s, but I’m just telling it through a way I can express it. I don’t think my dad ever thought his son would get involved, and now I am involved with something he’s loved for so long but in a different way that probably isn’t normal for any horse trainer’s son or daughter. I’m excited to see it continue to grow and evolve.