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.