A Bogota-based company specializes in fashionable clothes that will protect wearers against gunshots and knife attacks. One such bulletproof jacket can withstand ammunition from a variety of weapons such as a 9mm, a .44 Magnum and a 3.75 revolver. The protective clothes – now sold in 18 countries, have been worn by the Vice President of Colombia, Francisco Santos, Hugo Chaves – the former President of Venezuela, the Price of Spain and even by action film star Steven Seagal.
Colombia is notorious for arms and drug trafficking and is considered one of the most violent and dangerous countries is Latin America. High-level dignitaries an businessmen here try to protect themselves as best as they can, with owning bulletproof cars and vests being the most typical life-saving accessories. During their University years, Miguel Caballero and John Murphy noticed people’s pressing need for safety and started a profitable business creating stylish and lightweight bulletproof clothing. While citizens are safe in their bulletproof cars, once they get out, they became vulnerable to attack. “Most of these people ride in armored cars, so they need something to wear when they step out of the car and walk into their home or restaurant,” said Murphy – who left the partnership but still sells the innovative garments he and Miguel designed.
After creating the stylish clothing, there was only one more problem standing between the two and financial success – a material that would absorb the shock well enough. Caballero and his former partner used to test their products on themselves to assess and validate their quality. When talking about Kevlar – the material used in the early versions of the products – back in 1996, Murphy said “It’ll stop the bullet, but you’ll have a bruise and maybe a couple of broken ribs.” The pair found that Kevlar was safe but not stiff enough to absorb the shock of a lead projectile shot right into someone’s stomach as Murphy painfully discovered after a shooting demonstration in which he played the human target and ended up with a big bruise. “I couldn’t walk for three days. And that’s when we decided that we had to improve our product,” he said. Thankfully, according to Murphy, “Now getting shot is very easy. “I’ve been shot 15 times. It’s like a punch, like you’re hit with the end of a bat”.
Photo: Metro News
Caballero carried on developing and designing the line of clothing, putting all his efforts into tailoring items that are not only bulletproof but also lightweight and comfortable. Talking about the protective vests security guards used to wear before he started his business, he says “All the time, those guys did not use the best, because it was very uncomfortable and very heavy.” Traditional bulletproof accessories were not only heavy but also restrictive and very warm and people generally hated wearing them. They used to weigh about 4.5 kg ten or so years ago but thankfully, the weight has been brought down to a mere 1.2kg. And anyway, they weren’t fashionable at all – another reason not to be worn by people who wanted to look their best even in life-threatening situations. “They used leather jackets and suede jackets. I came up with a way to put the two characteristics together – security and fashion,” Caballero adds.
Photo: Miguel Caballero
Now a flourishing company, Caballero’s business designs all sorts of clothing items including leather, suede jackets and t-shirts, all bulletproof. And you’re not going to believe this – the staff test out the clothes themselves in a collective fun effort to ensure the quality of their brand. “All the new employees have to take part in a real demonstration,” Caballero explains. And if you want to work for him, “You have to believe in our products,” enough to get yourself shot, while wearing bulletproof clothing, of course.
Since his lightweight bulletproof clothes have proven so popular with adults, Miguel Caballero recently decided to expand his business by creating a line of clothes and accessories for children, as well.