Just in Time for the Summit, Catesby Jones Offers a Shorts Course in International Relations

updated 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Regardless of the outcome of the Moscow summit conference next week, America and Russia are already united on one front—and back—thanks to preppie entrepreneur Catesby Baytop Jones and his Peace Frogs, a line of unisex, baggy, drawstring shorts bearing the flags of 105 nations. The popular summit combo—U.S.A. on the outside, U.S.S.R. on the inside, or vice versa—is one of three reversible designs bearing the standards of rival nations. (The others are Iran and Iraq and North and South Korea.) Depending on his or her political mood, the wearer can either flaunt the national colors or sartorially say, "Sit on it."

A 1987 graduate of the University of Virginia, where, aptly enough, he majored in international relations, Jones came up with the idea for Peace Frogs, as well as $5,000 in financing, while still an undergraduate. The shorts caught on immediately at Jones's home campus and at several nearby colleges, but retailers weren't convinced that they would do as well elsewhere. His spirits far from flagging, Jones switched to mail order last spring and placed a quarter-page ad in an issue of Rolling Stone. Demand was so great that the telephone repairman took three orders while installing Jones's 800 number. "We didn't anticipate that people would order 75 different countries, including Mozambique and Vatican City," Jones says.

One year later, Peace Frogs (the name comes from Peace Frog, a song by the Doors) are still sold by mail order and also at 108 stores across the country. The business is small but growing, and in the first five months of the year Jones has already exceeded the $85,000 in sales he rang up in all of '87. The cotton-poplin shorts cost between $28 and $35 each, with the reversibles going for about $36.

The younger of two children—his father is a lawyer, his mother a historian—Jones, 23, has his headquarters in a house on the grounds of his parents' farm in Virginia's Tidewater region. While his customers are leaping to Peace Frogs for reasons of ethnic pride or political bias, Jones says his interest is purely pecuniary. Nevertheless, he's sending a pair of the U.S./U.S.S.R. reversibles gratis to President Ronald Reagan in case it should warm up in Moscow. "It can't hurt," Jones reasons. "He could definitely have a good time in them."

From Our Partners