One old American label that I’ve neglected is Woolrich. It was founded in 1830 by immigrant John Rich, who built a mill in Pennsylvania and proceeded to make woolen products for outdoors workers. Over the years they became leaders in the buffalo check business, selling to hunters and other outdoorsmen. They also made blankets and motoring robes.
At some point in their long history they began making men’s shirts out of the wool that was woven in the Woolrich mill. This was more of a casual wear shirt rather than something a man might wear in the field. They also began making casual wool jackets for women.
Later, probably in the 1970s, the company began to diversity its products. Instead of making all the Woolrich clothing from Woolrich fabric, they, like many other American companies, began to add imported goods to their product line. In 1980 they started a woman’s label, “Woolrich Woman.”
I can’t say when exactly Woolrich changed from a strictly sportswear company to more of a fashion company. And I use the word “fashion” quite loosely. It’s more like conservative clothing for people who like the woods, though I’ve seen that the company has recently upped its game.
As for the knickers that I did not buy, there are several reasons they stayed in the big blue bin and did not make the leap into my shopping cart.
The first problem was the condition. You can see a hole near the knee in the top photo, and there were several other holes, some repaired.
I thought it was interesting that the legs closed with velcro instead of buttons. Look right above the velcro and you can see where the velcro has caught the fabric.
Velcro was invented in the late 1940s, but it was not really used until the 1960s. Even then it was not a common closure.
This is the label, which was first used in 1965. As far as I can tell, it was used into the 1990s. I’m basing this on listings on Etsy and Ebay, but the clothing is hard to accurately date due to the unchanging, conservative nature of it. Due to what I’ve observed, my best guess is that the label changed to a similar, but dark blue label in the early 1990s.
A really nice feature of these knickers is that they have a double seat. Also, the pockets are functional.
But I didn’t buy them because of the condition, and also because it was my gut feeling that these were from the 1980s. My interest pretty much stops with the mid 1970s.
However, I did find and buy another pair of vintage Woolrich pants. There were men’s trousers, made from a very heavy wool herringbone. A former owner had cut them off quite short and did not hem them. Thank goodness I am also quite short, and after a good hem the length will be just right for me.
They are a little too big in the waist, but being men’s pants they are easy to alter. The waistband is faced, and the center back seam is easy to stitch to a smaller size. I’ll probably remove the suspender buttons.
These have the same label as the knickers, and they are so classic that I’d have a hard time accurately dating the, I’m guessing early 1970s due to the flat front and the width of the legs.
For comparison, this is the label that was used in the 1950s and up to 1965. Note the R (registered) symbol. This trademark was registered in 1949. This label is from a pair of very heavy wool hunting pants. They are my snow pants.
Woolrich is still is business today, but most of the things with their label are imported. They are still making wool fabric in the mill, and I wish they would follow Pendleton’s example and offer more products made from their wool. They do have a hipster label, Woolrich Woolen Mills, where many of the products are made from their cloth in the USA, but they are not promoted as being so on the website sales pages. Not only that, there are three different websites, two of which do not tell if the items are imported or domestic. But I’ll forgive then, just because of these: Cute Woolrich Wool Ballerina flats.
16 responses to “What I Didn’t Buy – Woolrich Tweed Knickers”
Was in the Jefferson Hospital Thrift Shop today and thought about you maybe 10 times! I was going to take pics but it was so crowded !
I’m so glad to leave such an impression on you!
You have no idea how much to be honest : )
Your post is bringing back a vague memory of knickers being “in style” maybe in the 70s or 80s? I can’t remember, but it seems that I had a pair of knickers and it was the thing to wear for a while at school. I wouldn’t know if they were Woolrich. I just remember my father (a small Michigan farmer) wearing Woolrich flannel shirts while working. 🙂
They were in style at some point in the early 70s, I believe. I’ll have to consult my Seventeen magazines from the period.
I remember too my mother wearing knickers in the late 70s, early 80s. I always associated them with the “disco” period (at least that’s what my child memory tells me!).
Yes, knickers were “in” at some point in the 70s. I just saw a vintage Yves St. Laurent sewing pattern with knickers on Ebay, but I didn’t go there. As a high school student at the Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan, our girls’ uniform, designed in the 20s, consisted of navy blue corduroy knickers, a light blue oxford-cloth shirt, and light blue knee socks. The knickers were extremely comfy, and we were very fond of wearing them, believe it or not.
Okay, I’m really wanting to see a photo of you in your uniform.
I don’t think I have one! Someday when I go through my old pictures I’ll see if one’s there. Apparently students at Interlochen can still elect to wear knickers. Since it was a school for the arts, the uniform was a socio-economic leveler.
These look very much like a pair of climbing breeches I have from the 1970s, made in Derby tweed by Blacks of Greenock; they also use Velcro closures at the bottom of the leg.The breeches were owned by my brother who I know went on school trip to the Alps at about the same time, hiking around Mont Blanc. I found an ad for the same breeches in an Alpine journal from 1971; I’m guessing, therefore, that they must have been pretty much state of the art for climbing gear at the time and would have set you back a fairly sizeable £6.20 (£90-100 in today’s money). So, though they may have been fashionable, these knickers/plus fours were also still being sold very much as functional sports garments.
That’s interesting. Perhaps these were meant to be used as a sports garment. It would help explain the double seat.
Thank you for sharing. I throughly enjoyed reading it! I have my Father’s old hunting jacket and we are trying to remember if he bought it in the 70’s or 80’s. He can’t remember. The label is navy, so I am assuming early 80’s. The shell is dark green nylon and wool on the inside. Luckily he grew out of it and I nabbed it before my sisters knew! I use it every winter and always get it dry cleaned.
Just keep it away from those sisters!
I have a pair of the Woolrich cross country skiing knickers I bought 36 years ago in 1976.They are identical to the pair you pictured. Mine has a tag by the zipper numbered 1902, 85% wool, 15% nylon, wpl 6635, dry clean only.My X left with the mid thigh wool socks that I wore with them. Wish I could still wear them. They’re 30 inch waist I’m 34 inch now.
I received mine as a gift in the mid-70’s. They cannot be beat for XC skiing. Warm and durable. I found this page on a Google search because my Woolrich knickers are too small for me now – waist size 30, I think – and I’m interested in a larger pair. 40 years after I got them, they are in truly excellent condition – the fabric is robust, tightly woven, with even color, yet still supple after so many years. Truly an excellent garment.
Your post was very interesting. As someone who works for Woolrich, we are happy to let you know that we are increasing the number of items we offer featuring our mill wool and this year created new pieces for women that are Made in USA for the first time in 20 years. If you have any more questions about the brand or would like to learn more please feel free to contact me.