It’s safe to say that the heritage menswear revival is alive and well in the South.
Earlier this year it was the return of Louisiana’s Haspel, and now Garden & Gun brings word that Civil War–era Southern brand Duck Head has relaunched their line of sturdy chinos and polos just in time for the dog days of summer.
As far as heritage brands go, all of the bona fides are there: founded in Tennessee by two brothers after their tour with the Confederate Army; started with chinos made of leftover duck canvas from war tents; supplied the US military with overalls during WWII; spawned a chino craze among Southern fraternity prepsters in the 1980s; everything went downhill when they moved production overseas... And now they’re back—with a couple of Ralph Lauren vets at the helm. Most importantly: so is their iconic label, stitched with a mallard’s head.
Every year around this time, the pantheon of fine menswear purveyors sets up shop in a warehouse deep in the hinterlands of Manhattan. And every year around this time, we trek downtown to check it out. Since most brands show clothes that won’t be available for about six months—and because the show is enormous—we decided the best thing to do was break it down, using our patented scientific formula.
So far the big luxury houses have mostly sat out the heritage movement, but it looks like they may have a few factory-minded tricks up their sleeve.
Prada recently launched their “Made in…” project, focused on digging up the heritage items from around the world. In particular that means alpaca sweaters from Peru, tartan kilts from Scotland, and Chikan embroidery from India, all handmade locally by artisans born into the craft, arriving in stores next year. It’s good stuff—and the kind of thing you’d normally be hard-pressed to find without leaving the continent.
And for anyone looking to move beyond waxed cotton and work boots without losing touch with the way their clothes are made, it’s a pretty good place to start.
It’s been a pretty good couple years for archival labels—yes, we’re looking at you, Gitman—so it was only natural a few bigger names would get in on the action.
This shirt, for instance, came from the “50s cowboy” section of Levi’s impressively rigorous archive. It’s a whole lot more adventurous than we would have expected (especially the asymmetrical buttoning), but unsurprisingly, it goes pretty well with a pair of jeans.
Which, for a company that's still in the denim business, may have been the whole point.
An insider’s tip: when Christian Audigier starts copying your style, things may have gotten out of hand. Add in a winking style guide or two, and the recent renaissance of heritage brands and workwear starts to look dangerously close to played out--at least from a trendwatcher's perspective.
Western shirts aren’t exactly on trend these days, but that mostly applies to the exaggerated cowboy version. Pendleton is too much of a heritage brand to focus on things like trends, or even much marketing for that matter.
As a result, this shirt isn’t that different from the ones they were churning out ten years ago—that is, the ones that started the trend in the first place.