Miguel Caballero isn’t your typical boss. He’s shot at every one of his employees — and they’ve all survived.
He wants them to believe in the product they make. Not the gun, but bulletproof clothing he produces in Bogota, Colombia.
“Several times I’ve shot my wife, I’ve shot my lawyer, my brothers, and I’ve shot myself,” Miguel Caballero told me, pointing to his abdomen. “It’s in order to get a good quality product.”
For 25 years Caballero has been outfitting the world’s VIPs with his stylish, bulletproof clothing line that shares his name. His client list includes Michael Bloomberg, Steven Seagal, King Fernando of Spain, and it’s rumored he made bulletproof attire for President Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
“We can say in the past, that many presidents are using our clothing, yes,” said Caballero. “But we have a restriction [on saying] the name of many presidents in many countries.”
Caballero makes everything from formal wear to raincoats and leather jackets. The presidents of Kenya, Nigeria, El Salvador, Paraguay, Panama, Guatemala, and Uruguay currently wear his threads. His tank tops, which retail for $1,500, are the most popular item with world leaders.
“In the case of our VIP clients, like the presidents, they need to reduce risk but also be discreet,” said Caballero. “They don’t want to show to anyone they are using this type of clothing.”
The U.S. Secret Service wouldn’t comment on whether or not any U.S. president has worn Caballero’s clothing. But former secret service agent and security expert Bob Babilino says U.S. presidents have worn bulletproof vests on occasion. According to the Secret Service, there have been assassination attempts on more than a dozen sitting U.S. presidents, and four have been successful. Babilino warns that compromising comfort for safety can be dangerous.
“The biggest challenge has always been a balance between comfort and protection and concealment,” said Babilino. “If it’s uncomfortable, they are not going to want to wear it.”
Caballero’s designs are certified by the National Institute of Justice — which means the U.S. government has signed off on their effectiveness. The bulletproof tank top can withstand twelve bullets — six in the back and six in the front, from 9mm or .357 magnum rounds. And the tanks are only 7 millimeters thick. His jackets and thicker vests can withstand a more powerful firearm like an MP5 submachine gun.
Heads of state are most vulnerable in large public crowds, and even more so when they’re interacting with the public.
“You pray that he doesn’t walk to the side and start shaking hands with the crowd,” said Babilino. “That’s the biggest area of concern.”
Caballero’s custom pieces for VIP clients can run up to $4,000. He has three retail stores with a new one set to open in Iraq. There, he’ll face a new challenge.
“We have to adapt the tunic for them, with bulletproof protection.”