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Coming up on a century: How Dickies stays fresh

Dickies is not surprised that you and your fashion editor friends find their product, dare I say, “cool.” That’s because in 50 years of making their iconic 874 work pant, and almost 100 years of manufacturing workwear, Dickies’ primary goal has been to make a quality product for a discerning clientele that stands the test of time.

Dickies, SS18

“I think the fact that the Dickies brand is relevant really speaks to the timelessness of our DNA. When describing things, we use words like ‘uncomplicated,’ ‘simple,’ ‘determined,’ ‘hardworking’ — I don’t think it really matters if it’s 1922 or 2017, the elements of our DNA just resonates with people,” says Brian Sheedy, SVP of Merchandising, Design & Apparel Operations at Williamson-Dickie Mtg. Co. “In terms of the workwear resurgence, in many ways our product is utilitarian which is kind of cool because it presents a bit of a blank canvas for people to embrace and adopt and twist in their own way beyond the primary purpose. They make it their own.”

With international men’s fashion month in full gear, one need only review a few street style images to understand Sheedy’s comments.

Undeniably, between 1990s nostalgia (subscribers can check out our nostalgia report here) and elevated, sartorially influenced streetwear, skateboarding’s influence on fashion culture remains strong. Enter the 874 pant, a virtually indestructible trouser that has long been en vogue among youth skaters, many of whom gravitated toward the pant because of its high level of performance who have since grown up and simply developed a sincere adoration for the product that far transcends the sport.

“We are very much in tune with the action sport and skate markets; they adopted us quite a while ago,” says Sheedy. “We walk a fine line of maintaining the honesty and integrity of our brand which is what I think people really tap into, but we are running very fast to make sure we stay on top of and even ahead of what’s going on, especially when it comes to workwear innovation and performance.”

 

For a near-century-old heritage brand, Dickies is indeed ahead of the curve. Leveraging their Dickies Pro Staff, a network of industrial workers who field test product under real life conditions, Dickies looks to continually develop new product that balances traditional workwear qualities like durability with more contemporary notions of comfort. The result is a more versatile product that addresses the 21st century man’s needs — whether that be working in a mineshaft or skateboarding to work.

Said versatility is perhaps most poignantly seen in Dickies’ collaborative initiatives. By tapping smaller, more creatively aspirational brands with strong reach among the elusive Millennial and Gen Z sects, Dickies has been able to introduce their core product to a set of potential future consumers while testing out ideas that may not be appropriate under their own banner. These co-branded efforts have ranged from introducing its “1922” archival line to the downtown cool kids at Opening Ceremony to more commercial efforts with the mainstream Millennial retailer of choice, Urban Outfitters.

Urban Outfitters X Dickie

In launching these collaborations, balancing opportunity and identity is key. “We have an internal guideline called ‘The Dimensions of Dickies,'” Sheedy says. “We are definitely open for business when it comes to collaborations. We are very selective with whom we partner, as it is very important to us that the partnership complements both brands in the way that it’s a win-win for everyone. There are many opportunities out there that we respectfully decline because even though it could be an opportunity we feel it would not be the right fit for our brand.”

With almost 100 years in the business and as relevant as ever, it looks like Dickies has struck that balance perfectly.

Like this author? Follow Brian here for more menswear updates. 

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