Do you recall in our piece about Hackett’s moleskin trousers I mentioned the second hand – now beautifully described as “vintage” – clothing that we all bought in the 1980’s from, amongst others, 21st Century Box on the Kings Road and Flip in Covent Garden? Well I remember buying two shirts, one a red plaid shirt and a second a deep brown almost “chamois” feel shirt. Thick warm and truly iconic American outdoor clothing. These wonderful shirts were made by Woolrich which has been based in Pennsylvania since 1830, is known as the “Original Outdoor Clothing Company” and popularly believed to be the oldest manufacturer of outdoor wear in the US.
Well today it’s cold and raining and I am wearing a new one – as featured in our image -bought recently from Dave’s in New York. You don’t know Dave’s – trust me you will – just stick with me.
Woolrich, Inc. was founded in 1830 by John Rich II (the son of an English wool carder from Liverpool) and Daniel McCormick to supply fabrics to hunters, loggers, trappers and their families. Land at Chatham’s Run (PA) was developed in the mid 1840’s to include a wooden mill and remains the location of Woolrich’s main operations – the town gaining the name “Woolrich” (PA).
Famed for blankets, socks, woollen plaid lined jackets with a utilitarian simplicity – developed for Alaskan pipeline workers – and shirts that are as comfortable as they are durable.
Competition from younger suppliers in the 1980s resulted in Woolrich, in 1990, having to let go fifty percent of its staff, resulting in the closure of several manufacturing plants and the movement of production to Mexico. Gradually the number of US employees has reduced. However, Woolrich’s core business has continued with new lines including footwear and a JV producing a pale ale being launched.
The current president, Nick Brayton, and vice president Joshua Rich, comprise the seventh and eighth generations of the Rich family to run the company.
Perhaps a lesser known brand in the UK and Europe – perhaps we can help stimulate interest in these iconic American products from those pursuing the legacy of John Rich on this side of the Atlantic.
Photo from Woolrich Inc