“I’m a guy who refuses to limit himself,” Rodney McLeod tells me, as he reflects on the stories and styles that have gotten him to this point in his life. Deep in the stay at home quarantine that is our reality, Rodney has an even keeled inflection of persistence that clearly carries the conversation. “Fashion is effortless for me at this point, I’m not here to impress anyone,” he states. There’s a deep understanding of himself that’s woven within each fit he wears. But, the layers of Rodney’s style story begin at his roots, his hometown in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, where he still continues to add pages to.
“Fashion interested me from a young age, it comes from me being from the DMV area, something I’ve always noticed being from that area, is, we’ve always had our own sense of style.” Telling me that the early influences for style in the area was always centered around music, the Go-go genre and the parties that would go down. What remains constant with fashion in the DMV, is the deep embedded loyalty that he says still exists. “A lot of people from my area are just very loyal. Especially when it comes to brands and styles that were created there. Dreams of Triumph for example is a brand that started in DC. People love representing where they come from in the city.” Rodney’s strength comes from seeing the stories that lie within the struggles. As he reflects on his early journey, his days at the University of Virginia, going undrafted in the NFL to finally becoming a Super Bowl Champ, there’s a prideful energy that elevates our conversation. It’s apparent that with Rodney, he’ll never forget the people, places and programs that were monumental in his story; making sure to loop that notion into his off-the-field ventures, both in business and philanthropy.
In November 2017, Rodney and his three business partners, launched their retail store, Back of House, under the mantra, “Break Barriers and Build Individuals.” Placing their brick and mortar location in the DMV area, it’s a fashionable homage to their past. For McLeod, he tells me that the legacy he wants to leave is not simply personal, but reflective of his city, a goal to use Back of House as a way to “put D.C. back on the fashion map.”
“For Back of House, we see purpose in every individual and knowing your value and self-worth, nothing can stop you. The four of us who created Back of House, we embody that. We’ve faced so many barriers in our lifetime and we were still able to overcome so many of those obstacles.” The name, a nod to those who work behind the scenes and whose purposeful work often goes unnoticed, carries over to the WHY of the brands carried within the store. “We want to reflect that by the brands that we carry. There’s so many brands out there, it’s not always the brands that you hear about in mainstream media, but the brands that have great fabric, great quality BUT also have a great story.”
As Back of House shifts their efforts to a more online presence in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, McLeod tells me that their goal right now is to “preach positivity into the world.” While barriers and routines are crumbling by the minute, Rodney’s leaning into his story and the Back of House mantra, to help “build individuals.” Beyond the cozier fits that are being purchased more often than usual from the site, McLeod says he wants to support and stay focused that “in every obstacle, there’s opportunity.”
There’s again, an inflection of honor, as Rodney divulges into the hands-on process they have in selecting brands for the store. For McLeod’s personal and game day style, it all boils down to confidence, a layer that’s also very apparent in buying for the store. By inserting that confidence within their customer, they continue to fuel a circle of stories rooted in positivity. “When a customer comes upon a brand in the store, it’s meaningful to be able to engage and indulge in their story, it adds a different element and feel to the piece, it adds value.”
Again, reflecting on those obstacles in life, Rodney and his wife, Erika launched the Change Our Future Foundation. “We had the ability to excel because of the programs that we were able to utilize in our childhoods, so we want to give back on that sense.” With Back of House leaving a legacy in his hometown, Change Our Future Foundation is a nod to his chapter in his new town, Philly. Their recent $25,000 donation in response to the pandemic, directly benefits youth and at risk families in the area. As the foundation grows, McLeod knows these two tales and initiatives will collide, finding ways to involve youth in the power of style, always with a stitch of confidence.