Want a $12,000 Bulletproof Golf Shirt?

On my first day in Colombia, two women in an old Toyota drove me to an industrial park on the outskirts of Bogota. There, in a building that from the outside looked like a warehouse, the man I’d come to interview—early forties, black hair, not tall—shot me in the abdomen with a .38-calibre revolver. I felt a thump in the gut, then nothing. The man was Miguel Caballero. He’s the founder and chief executive of a company that makes “specialized personal protection,” and when he shot me I was wearing one of his products, a black suede jacket with lightweight bulletproof panels in the lining. The company, which is called Miguel Caballero, makes fashion-oriented body armor, and sells it mainly to executives, celebrities, political figures, and others who have security concerns but don’t want to dress like members of a SWAT team. Popular items include a three-button blazer, a V-necked wool sweater, a Nehru vest (for customers in the subcontinent and, conceivably, for anxious idolizers of Sammy Davis, Jr.), and a polo shirt, which, because of its extra bulk, may usefully promote a compact golf swing. Caballero also makes bulletproof camouflaged hunting clothes,to protect hunters from misdirected shots fired by their companions—an eventuality that he referred to as “a Dick Cheney accident.”

Before shooting me, Caballero hollered across the main manufacturing area to warn the several dozen workers there—most of them women sitting at sewing machines-to put on ear protection. They complied without apparent curiosity. Carolina Ballesteros, who is the company’s design director and Caballero’s fiancée, told me that being shot by her boyfriend is “very normal”: he has more than two hundred employees and has shot most of them (including Ballesteros) at least once, a practice that encourages team loyalty and close attention to quality control. Caballero, nevertheless, is aware of the dramatic possibilities, especially when the target is a visiting journalist. After removing his revolver from its case, he held out an open box of Colombian military ammunition, and—saying, “We respect the human rights”—invited me to select my bullet. He positioned me at a slight angle to himself, near a tabletop shrine to the Virgin Mary. (“This is a Catholic country,” he’d explained earlier, when he noticed me looking at the shrine.) He told me that he was going to count to three, and that when he began counting I should take a big breath and hold it. He asked me to point to my belly button, then held the pistol’s barrel a few inches from my descending colon and closed his eyes, as if praying or collecting his thoughts, while one of his suppliers took photographs with my camera. The jacket felt a bit heavy, but pleasantly so—like a dentist’s X-ray apron. After firing, Caballero lifted my shirt to check my abdomen for bruising, and found none. Then he used a pair of long-nosed pliers to extract the bullet from inside the suede. It was flattened and rounded like a mushroom cap, and it was still hot.

I wrote about Caballero and his company in The New Yorker. He has a retail boutique at Harrods, in London, where some of the golf shirts sell for the equivalent of about twelve thousand dollars.There’s no further mention of golf in my article, but  bulletproof technology is pretty interesting. Below is a brief video of me being shot. The video was made by Caballero’s public-relations assistant, on her iPhone:

2 thoughts on “Want a $12,000 Bulletproof Golf Shirt?

  1. Fun story, enjoyably written. Might have been cool to go for the semicolon after “Bogota” so that you could have been shot in the first sentence. Or maybe that’s just show-offy.

  2. Only question is, does it help on the golf course, when the only bullets around a little white balls? He should have a taken a swing with the driver at you 🙂

Leave a Reply