In 1998, Gary Clegg put sleeves on blankets, and rocked the world to its core.

To some, his development was a bewildering one. To others, it seemed like an astonishingly obvious update to an age-old amenity. But to all, it meant a future of higher comfort.

Slankets (aka sleeved blankets) wouldn’t hit the market until 2007, but when they did, they were a near instant success. They became an international smash overnight, shattering QVC sales records like they were china plates. Knockoff companies like Snuggie and Toasty Wrap started popping up, and the sleeved blanket sensation spread like wildfire. All because one innovative college kid, dissatisfied with the blanket tech of his time, followed through with a great idea.

But who is Clegg? And what is that purveyor of cozy progress up to nowadays?

It has been 11 years since Gary Clegg started the Slanket company with his brother Jeff — 2007 was their first official year of business, and since, he says his life has been a whirlwind.

[Gary Clegg (left) in 2009 – photo via Bangor Daily News]

“It changed my life,” admits Clegg, happily, via phone. “I travel all over the world, we sell Slankets in so many countries. I’ve been on TV, and do TV shopping in Japan, China, France, Italy, the UK, Germany and so, there’s a lot of business travel, but it’s exactly what I have always enjoyed. It was always my goal, so I feel very lucky for that.”

Clegg is living the dream. Travel has become such an integral part of his lifestyle. He sold his apartment in New York City and has fully adopted the life of a roving vagabond.

“I was always a traveler,” he says, “and my goal in life was always to not be stuck in a cubicle 9-5 … [now] it’s just me, my backpack, and my friends around the world, pretty much.”

Recently, though, Clegg has started using his time and ability to travel to give back. What has been a rip-rolling globe-trotting adventure fueled by the success of his cozy creation, has become a humanitarian mission to better mankind.

“I spent five months in Greece on an island working in a refugee camp, so after like 10 years of craziness, enjoying life, traveling with friends … I’ve kind of switched things up, just to try and give back a little more and kind of focus on other things,” he adds.

It’s a far cry from the typical pastime of a successful entrepreneur. But, according to Clegg, it’s an extremely rewarding experience.  

“It was really intense,” he admits of his past. “But with the intense sadness comes intense happiness, and I really was able to help a lot of people. And now, I’m on the board of an educational center in Athens that we’re building with some friends, and geo workers, and volunteers.”

Yet what’s next for Clegg, not even he really knows that for sure. But he’s keeping his eyes and mind open for the next BIG idea …

“I never know what idea’s going to hit me,” he explains. “I never set out to make a product. I just have the idea, I can’t really control what the idea is.”

Clegg is a highly creative person. Obviously. But the title of “inventor” is one he treats with hesitancy. Despite having given shape to a modern marvel of new wave blanket technologies, he doesn’t subscribe to the “inventor” label.

“I know some inventors and they’re like legit geniuses, and I have a lot of respect for them,” he says. “These are guys with hundreds of patents — and for me, those are the real inventors. I’m just a lazy college kid with a great idea and some follow-through.”

Which is, perhaps, the most inspirational part of Clegg’s story. Here’s a guy who, on the tails of his sleeved blankets, ascended out of the hum-drum rat race of the 9-5 workday, into a life of world travel, philanthropy, and total freedom (financially and otherwise), all because he manifested a vision.

Because he brought one dream to life, and it made a world of dreams possible in return.

[originally published January 25, 2018]