Cover girl Sarah Calhoun's Red Ant Pants line provides comfort and style for hard working country women.
By Becky Warren
In the world of practical fashion, Sarah Calhoun definitely wears the pants—as do all the hard-working women she outfits in comfort and style.
“I’ve learned from personal experience, it’s impossible to squeeze round female hips into square-cut men’s pants,” says the young entrepreneur from White Sulphur Springs, Montana. Bottom line: She’s built her own company, Red Ants Pants, making durable work pants that fit women’s figures.
“As a girl helping out on my parents’ llama farm, I’d wear my dad’s old hand-me-down work pants,” Sarah recalls. “I did my best to cut and resew them, but they never fit right.
“After graduating with a degree in environmental science, I became an instructor for Outward Bound and went on to jobs maintaining wilderness trails and even peeling logs. I was constantly putting down my tools, yanking on my pants—and getting totally fed up.”
So fed up, in fact, that Sarah contacted apparel manufacturers to say that they were missing an opportunity to outfit women like her. “They told me we weren’t in their market and suggested I start my own brand. I told them, ‘Just maybe I will!’ ”
Women at Work
With no business experience, Sarah spent the next two years designing patterns, launching Red Ants Pants in 2006. Her sturdy double-knee, double-seat pants come in two boot-cut styles—straight and curvy.
A contoured waistband skims the top of the hips in front and rides higher in back, for coverage when bending over. Women have 70 sizes to pick from, and three deep side pockets for everything from tools to cell phones.
“I chose to base my business and open a storefront right here in rural White Sulphur Springs,” Sarah says. “It’s a town built on a solid work ethic, which is what our product is all about. A mother-daughter team with a sewing business in Seattle produces all our pants. And a local cowgirl makes our leather belts, complete with brass buckles that feature our worker ant logo.”
Made from 12-ounce cotton canvas duck, Sarah’s rich chocolate-brown britches have attracted international fans. Besides being worn by ranchers, farmers and loggers, Red Ants Pants can be found on steelworkers, painters, gardeners, veterinarians and outdoorsy residents of New York City. They’re $129 a pair—a bargain, she says, for pants that wear like iron and last longer than multiple pairs of other brands.
“Most of my sales are made via my website, phone orders and my retail store,” Sarah says. “The personal touch is important to me.” How personal? Well, she’s been known to show up in a customer’s living room as part of her cross-country Tour de Pants.
“Ladies who have a potential party crowd can request to be on our tour schedule,” she explains. “They invite friends over, and we bring the pants, refreshments and entertainment. Throughout the year, my staff and I head out in a 1964 Airstream trailer. So far, we’ve taken our road show across the Western states, as far east as Massachusetts, and north to Ontario.”
When she has the luxury of a few days off, Sarah likes tending her veggie and flower gardens and backpacking with her dog, Nellie. She also delights in reading letters and e-mails from satisfied customers.
“A wilderness program director recently wrote saying she’d not worn any other pants for the last two weeks,” Sarah notes. “When her boyfriend surprised her with a nice dinner date, he said, ‘Honey, I know you love your Red Ants Pants, but could you wear something else just for tonight?’ ”
Editor’s Note: For more on Sarah’s work wear for women, visit redantspants.com.