Dickies Denim Inspired by Vintage Pieces

When it comes to denim, Dickies (asi/49675) has a rich history. The workwear giant has been manufacturing blue jeans since the 1920s, and many of its vintage pieces still have a cherished home in the company’s archives, like a pair of indigo denim riding pants that button down the calves. The circa 1928 jodhpurs were on display recently at a denim preview event at Dickie’s showroom in New York’s Garment District. Other items on the wall of fame included heavily patched bib overalls from the 1970s and a denim jacket from the late 1940s. “We’re always on the lookout for our old items,” says Ann Richardson, director of strategic initiatives at Dickies.

The event was more than just a walk down memory lane, however. It was also a chance to look at the newest denim styles from the 94-year-old brand. “The new line is truly inspired by the vintage items,” says Jessie Tang, head designer for Dickies. “When you look at the past, that’s who and what you are. We’re continuing that heritage.” The old-school inspiration is evident in everything from the washes used in the denim to smaller details, like the hardware and golden thread at the seams. Deco stitching on the back pockets forms a stylized W, a subtle reminder of the company’s full name: the Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co. “Everything has a story behind it,” Tang says of the design choices.

Dickies also added some modern twists to its vintage-inspired denim, like introducing the “perfect amount of comfort stretch,” Tang says. “If you add too much spandex, it’s perceived by our customers as too feminine or not durable enough.” After much testing, the company determined 2% spandex is just right. Maintaining the perfect mix of comfort and durability is paramount for Dickies designers, according to Tang. “We’re not a fashion company,” she adds. “We’re workwear.”