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Fine Lines: American Pick Ups – American Denim

December 1st, 2010 by Ian

This all started with an old, rusted out Chevy pick up I spotted in front of a West Village deli some weeks back. The owner, a rugged looking gentleman who had just come back from grabbing his morning dose of joe, returned to the old beater sporting a denim on denim ensemble many of you may know as a Canadian tuxedo. I would normally pronounce a Marlboro Man homage like this to be completely unacceptable, but in this case, I couldn’t imagine the captain of this ship wearing anything else. I had no camera on hand and, to make matters worse, my iphone was dead. So I took a strong mental picture, and tried to recreate the experience with the post you are reading here and now.

The truck, whose flatbed was stocked with all manor of lumber and ladders, was bottle green and covered in rust flakes that were oxidizing to a pleasant shade of moss similar to what you find on old pennies. His jeans looked like the remnants of a Jackson Pollack-Pitbull encounter; completely shredded and re-patched, and covered in white paint. A denim workshirt was just barely hanging on, with the collar and cuffs fraying white yarns in all directions. As the faded indigo moved closer to the sun-bleached bottle green,  I couldn’t help but smile. Peas and carrots…nice knowing you. Denim and pick ups, welcome…you truly are the work horses of America.

This got me thinking about the origins of denim and the American pick up. These 2 items have literally been at the core of building America since their introduction. Both created out of sheer necessity, the need for durability, strength, and comfort. From the rural farmlands of the Midwest to the concrete jungles of NYC, when there is work to be done, when there is something to be built, when a vision transitions into a physical reality, you can bet your bottom dollar that plenty of pick ups and denim will be there.

There’s really 3 brands that matter when talking American pick ups – Ford, Chevy and Dodge. And when it comes to American denim, Levi’s, Wrangler and Lee immediately come to mind. Each one of these brands has created, innovated, designed and defined what we consider to be the standards. The qualities that they share, both in design and integrity, deserve a little acknowledgement. Between 1873 and 1911 all 6 of these major companies emerged in the USA.  It all started with Levi Strauss in 1873, making riveted denim jeans in San Francisco.

Check out the full post after the jump. And check out this super cool timeline we put together.

This red on red 1965 F-Series (top left) certainly stands out in a crowd. Against the white trim it really pops. As for Levi’s, a little red goes along way.  The iconic red tab is unmistakeable (top right). The two-tone 1960 F-100 (bottom left) is a beautiful white and deep navy combo in a matte finish. Similar to this pair of 1939 selvage 501’s (bottom right),  indigo and white yarns.

Photos courtesy of Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Wrangler, Levi’s and Lee archives

These trucks were made to haul.  This 1963 F-100 (top left) hauling some hay stacks.  Below, the 1959 F-250 moving some fencing.  This is a rivet on the oldest pair of 501’s from around 1879, and it’s still holding strong. Like Levi’s says “It’s no use you can’t rip ’em.”

A bottle green 1963 F-250  driving throgh some rocky terrain.  An old Levi’s ad depicting some downtime at the rodeo.

Out on the plains a horse works just as well as the old Chevy, but they both go hand in hand.  Most likely that cowboy is wearing a pair of these Wrangler 13MWZ’s (top right), which are the original cowboy cut from 1947. Notice the farmer below (bottom left) rockin his double denim, so poised in front of his Chevy. He might be sporting the original denim western Wrangler shirt which also debuted in 1947.

You can always expect to see the Chevy logo on the backside of the flatbed.  In 1948 Wrangler added the W stitch to backside of their denim. Where there is hay to be towed, and horses to be fed, Chevy is there. When there is a horse to be ridden, Wrangler is there.

1953 (top) and  1954 (bottom) Dodge pick ups, both pictured outside of a factory, ready to take care of business. Lee denim jackets, built for comfort and durability.

A brand new 1966 Dodge pick up(top) being showcased in all it’s polished glory.  Below sits a 1950’s Dodge, and it’s definitely not it’s first time to the rodeo.  This is a shot (top right) from an early Lee ad, when denim was starting to become a fashion item.  One of the original Lee denim jacket styles, updated with a contrast collar.  Both examples of trying to stay rooted in the rugged origins, but also appropriate to take into town.


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