Air Force fighter pilot Ryan Goldney doesn’t consider himself a fashionable man. If you were to peer into his closet, in fact, you might find some clothing from his college days.
Yet here he is, the owner of a growing-in-popularity apparel company called Pattern Ops. The name, derived from an aviation term, touches on both aircraft and fashion. Takeoff was in 2020, and Pattern Ops has been flying high ever since.
“The growth has been exponential, from one prototype shirt to now we have a whole line of stuff and are doing custom shirts for events like air shows and beyond,” said Goldney. “It’s weird because I never saw myself as being an entrepreneur or into fashion, but now I’m running an apparel company.”
The dream for Pattern Ops started in 2018 when Goldney, a pilot on the F-15E and A-10C aircraft, noticed something interesting during after-hours hang-outs with co-workers. Several wore squadron T-shirts or other casual military-related tops while out to dinner, even for fancier occasions like date nights. Goldney recognized an opportunity: why not give military personnel the chance to show both pride in their jobs while also wearing dressier civilian clothing?
“I thought, I really like this button-up shirt with a palm tree on it, but I want my jets on it,” Goldney said. “I knew there could be a niche because I had never seen anything like that.”
He had a prototype made. Once his pilot friends saw the shirt with A-10s splashed across it, they wanted one, too. Goldney’s father, who has since passed away from lung cancer, was his first website customer.
But before Goldney truly launched Pattern Ops, he researched intensively. Reaching out to other entrepreneurs, he asked question after question. What worked for them? What were their stumbling blocks?
“I didn’t want to jump the gun too fast,” Goldney said, and he would pass along the same advice to any other service member considering starting a small business. “I talked to a couple of friends who owned companies to find out their best practices before I hit the ground running.”
The result: a company that has shipped dress shirts to every state and 13 countries. In just its second year, Pattern Ops experienced a 679% increase in website customers and sales. The collared button-ups range from $48 to $55 and feature various themes from fighters and bombers to special ops and trainers across the branches.
Goldney’s plans for 2023 include expanding Pattern Ops’ offerings, including women’s cuts. Men’s and women’s golf polos and men’s long-sleeved shirts are also on the docket. And like always, Pattern Ops can customize orders with any vehicle ― or whatever else ― customers may want on their shirts.
“My main goal is to establish the company as the go-to for custom button-ups,” Goldney said. “I’m trying to take the idea to golf courses, wineries, yacht clubs, you name it.”
Word has certainly gotten around. Sully Sullenberger, the U.S. Airways pilot who famously landed his commercial jet on the Hudson River in 2009 after a bird strike, bought one of Pattern Ops’ shirts this year. The top had F-4s on it — the jet that Sullenberger flew in the Air Force.
It’s all pretty cool for Goldney but selling to celebrities is not his goal. Instead, he wants to reach enough success to start giving back to nonprofits ― and even open up a charitable foundation named after his dad, Ed.
“I want the company to grow, but I don’t want to rake in all the profits and buy a yacht,” Goldney said. “From here, I want to use everything to help other military people start companies.”
He added that he’s been “very blessed” and plans to help people through those blessings.