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How two islanders captured the Gulf culture with a logo

When Billy Ray Wagner showed up at his soon-to-be business partner’s door 10 years ago, all he brought with him was a concept that embraced his love for the Gulf and the culture that lies just beyond its surface.

The idea was to apply a stylized logo — SaltWater Soul — to apparel for those who shared his love of surfing and deep-sea fishing.

Tom Vaughn happened to share his passion for the sea.

“I’d been in the T-shirt business for 20 years at that point,” said Vaughn, Wagner’s partner in what came to be known as Wag Vaughn Sports and Adventures Inc., the company that owns and licenses the SaltWater Soul trademark. “I couldn’t tell you how many people had come to me with this idea or that idea, but I realized Billy’s idea could work.”

“All I had was the logo, a high school diploma and no marketing skills,” Wagner said. “But I’m an extrovert.”

If anything, that’s an understatement. The 47-year-old Wagner is kinetically energetic — “hyperactive,” is how Vaughn describes his partner in the Galveston-based apparel company. Not to mention enthusiastic, optimistic and passionate.

“I’ve never seen Billy with a doubt,” Vaughn, 51, said. “There’s always a spark lit by that passion that he has.”

“There’s something about being out on the saltwater, or in the saltwater, that gets in your soul,” Vaughn said. “People who get it, really get it. The brand is authentic. My wife and I and our kids, hey, if there are waves, we’re out surfing.”

“SaltWater Soul is a passion-driven brand,” Wagner said. “When I get away from the saltwater air, my nose starts bleeding. I’m not kidding you, I mean that.”