As the children’s song says, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” And that’s what one Syracuse, NY company is loudly encouraging sports fans to do with its patented gloves.
“I invented Fan Hands back in 2007 to enhance the sound of the hand clap for fans when they go to sporting events,” said Fan Hands’ founder, inventor and CEO, Marc Jones. “Sure, it’s not gonna save your life, it’s not going to help you out in a dangerous situation, but everybody is a fan of something.”
Officially launched in 2013 online, Fan Hands now has sold “tens of thousands” of pairs of the special gloves. Each pair of sports performance fabric-based gloves have a special plastic that is adhered through a patented process. When the pair is clapped together, the sound of the clap is amplified tremendously. (Check out this video to hear the sound.) First available online, which is still the primary purchasing option, Fan Hands can be found at certain retailers, including Amazon and soon Walmart. In addition, the company works with schools and organizations, like the American Cancer Society and Citizens United Research in Epilepsy (CURE). The company is also in talks with major sports leagues for licensing agreements.
“Everybody wants something different, and everybody wants to be innovative,” said Jones. “Everybody says to me, ‘Oh my goodness, why didn’t I think of that?!’”
Jones, who had owned an apparel company for years prior, said the idea came to him in a matter of three minutes, nine years ago.
As a former college football player at the University of Tennessee, he said he’s always been a fan of every sport the school plays — football, basketball, volleyball, softball — he’d watch it all. In 2007, the women’s softball team made it to the World Series of College Softball and were playing the University of Arizona. Jones was watching the game with his one-year-old son.
“The camera panned across the stadium, and I saw a person who I didn’t think was clapping,” recalled Jones. “He kind of had a novelty product on one hand and nothing on the other. I thought he would make more noise.”
Then, Jones looked down at his son who was playing with Lego building blocks, which were clanking around.
“I thought, ‘Huh,’ and stacked them together and made two sticks with them and started clapping with them,” said Jones. “It made the perfect sound of what I thought was an improvement of the normal handclap.”
Jones called out to his wife, Carol, who was in the back of the house. Given the fact that she could hear the sound, Jones realized that he may be onto something. He knew he had an old pair of football receiver gloves in the house and wondered what would happen if he attached those lego sticks to the gloves. Quickly thereafter, he came up with the name Fan Hands.
But creating the product took much more than just toys and a pair of gloves. And as a startup, he said, “I have a lot of those [startup] scars.”
The first one was to custom-make the machine that would hot-press the plastic into the fibers of the glove.
“A lot of people think the plastic is just glued to the glove; it’s not. It’s actually adhered to the fibers in the glove,” said Jones. “My biggest concern was that I wanted to make sure the plastic didn’t come off for liability reasons. I didn’t want one of those pieces to fly off and hit somebody in the eye. I wanted them on there for good.”
On top of that, the product that he had initially thought of went through 60–70 prototypes and iterations.
“A lot of this was trial and error. I had to hire someone to help me develop. The look I had in my mind had to be tweaked because of how the process would have to be done,” said Jones. “I wish I could get a lot of that back, but I had never done this type of product before.”
And as for the fabric, he knew it needed to have appeal in not just cold weather for sports like football but also warmer weather, depending on the sport and its fans. He wanted to make sure that the glove was similar to a sport performance fabric, similar to Under Armour or Nike.
“But we tested the performance fabric in California, Texas, Arizona and Nevada at baseball games in the hot, humid heat,” said Jones. “We came back with the results that people wore and liked them because the fabric was very lightweight and they could wear them for hours and their hands wouldn’t sweat.”
But at the core, however, Jones says he’s all about giving. Fan Hands partners with schools to help them fundraise by using the product to raise money for specific events or activities. But the company also works with national organizations on fundraising.
“When I started Fan Hands, I wanted to start a division that gives back. That’s why I developed the ‘Clap Out Series,’” Jones said of the program that donates $1 for each pair of Fan Hands sold. “It’s my fundraising theory: Let’s clap out all these diseases together.”
Jones said he realized he’s not solving the world’s problems with Fan Hands, but he said it’s a product that can cross borders with a simple clap.
“It’s weird and quirky, but it’s never been done before.”