Is there any product more American than denim? Denim is made from cotton, a domestic crop across the South. And denim is worn by blue-collar workers, tech workers and rock stars from coast-to-coast.
If Americans have a uniform, it’s made from denim. But which cut and which brand is the right one for you? Levi’s, Wrangler and Lee all compete for our attention and loyalty. Don’t get me started on the microbrands in this category. This article is about brand camps and how denim plays a role in shaping and magnifying one’s identity.
Like chewing tobacco and pickup trucks, Wrangler is for cowboys. What about Levi’s? Levi’s was made for miners, but today the brand is a classic beloved by everyone from hipsters to jocks. Maybe that’s the problem with Levi’s–too many people wear them. Levi’s are ubiquitous. Which leaves room for Wrangler to make its move and stake its claim.
Real. Comfortable. Jeans.
Wrangler and Chicago ad agency Two by Four hooked up to make some solid lifestyle commercials.
The brand’s Insta is also a showcase for the Wrangler state of mind. Currently, 309,000 people are tuned into this visual stream.
Another Denim Factory Down
For people who are interested in the history of American manufacturing, there’s the brand’s heritage collection and heritage story to consider.
Provenance. How, where and why a product is made is on the conscious buyer’s mind.
Wrangler’s 27406 product is named for the zip code in Greensboro, North Carolina where the company was born and where the denim was made, cut and sewn. The sad note here is that White Oak Mill, maker of the selvedge denim used in the 27406 line closed shop in 2017.
What made White Oak’s selvedge denim so coveted was, in part, its machines. Since the 1940s, the plant had produced its selvedge denim on Draper X3 looms, which were the most advanced machines of their day but a far cry from the mass-production models of today, with microprocessors able to create rolls of flawless fabric. The low-tech X3s, combined with White Oak’s jiggling maple floorboards, created a subtle motion that would weave small irregularities into the fabric—little errant threads and denim buds. Technically they were defects, but the irregularities came to be seen as one-of-a-kind traits and an aesthetic rebuke to ultra-uniform, mass-production denim being made in Asia. It was denim with personality.
You’d think the need for an authentic textile mill making artisanal jeans in America would be a winner in this economy. I guess this is where advertising and economics go their separate ways.