From 11MHZ to 007 - The Story of Wrangler
In 1897 a twenty year old C.C. Hudson left his home town in Tennessee to seek his fortune in the emerging textile industry of North Carolina. He found work sewing on buttons, a less than glamorous and lucrative start, and after a few years his livelihood was threatened by the closure of the workshop. The enterprising Hudson then joined forces with his brother and some of his colleagues to purchase the sewing machines from the defunct operation and founded the Hudson Overall Company.
The Hudson Overall Company initially focussed on fashioning overalls for railway workers and it was successful but later began to diversify. The name was changed to the Blue Bell Overall Company. Legend has it that this was because railroad workers had given C.C. Hudson a bell which hung in the factory and over time it had become covered in the blue dust from the denim that filled the air. In 1943 Blue Bell acquired the Casey Jones Company and with it the rights to a little used brand name - Wrangler.
Jeans for Cowboys
At the time jeans were popular with cowboys but the existing styles were far from perfect for riding. Blue Bell decided to design jeans specifically for cowboys and sought the help of celebrity tailor Ben Lichtenstein who was better known as Rodeo Ben. The new jeans featured stronger, deeper pockets to hold cowboy's personal items securely. The watch pocket was repositioned for security and comfort and there were seven belt loops to prevent the waistband from gaping when riders were in the saddle. The front belt loops were widely spaced to accommodate a large belt buckle. Flat rivets were used to prevent damage to the saddles and a large zipper was included so cowboys could grab it whilst wearing gloves. Felled seams resulted in less rubbing to the inside leg.
The first Wrangler jeans were called Cowboy Cut 11MWZ (Men's Western Zipper) and were later renamed 13MHZ. The jeans were an instant hit with the cowboy community and the world champion at the time, Jim Shoulders, agreed to endorse the jeans. He was known as the Babe Ruth of Rodeo and went on to win 16 world championships. He remained an official endorser of Wrangler until his death in 2007 and this 58 year relationship with the brand was the longest in the history of professional sports.
Wrangler were instrumental in the subsequent craze for western wear across the world. The rugged hard wearing jeans proved popular as fashion statements and Wrangler joined Levi's and Lee as the cornerstones of the denim world. By 1996 one in five pairs of jeans purchased in America were Wrangler and they continued to be the first choice of Cowboys.
Wrangler still feature the 13MHZ in their collection and Wrangler jeans are still popular with cowboys but the range now includes diverse styles and cuts for both men and women. Wrangler have produced innovative jeans like their cellulite busting Smooth Legs skinny jeans but Wrangler jeans remain best loved for their durability, comfort and associations with cowboys. Wranglers are a no nonsense, unpretentious choice and so it is no surprise that the celebrities who choose Wrangler styles today are very much people who are comfortable in their own skin. Wranglers are worn by stars who have nothing left to prove.
Wrangler originally used cowboys to endorse their jeans but things are a little different now. The current principle faces of Wrangler are ex Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre and racing driver Kimi Raikkonen. The choice of Favre and Raikkonen reinforces Wrangler's essentially rugged, masculine image. Endorsement is one thing but who chooses Wrangler denim when they are not being paid to do so?
Well, actor Jared Leto seems addicted to his Wrangler shirt and he is in good company because the musical legend that is Bono is also a fan. None other than footballer, entrepreneur and fashionista David Beckham favours the Wrangler Blue Bell destroyed denim shirt. Indeed, double denim, that is the wearing of jeans with denim shirts or jackets, is making a serious comeback! Double denim was once considered a bit of a fashion faux pas but has resurfaced as an appealing and understated look. However, it is a look that it is all too easy to get wrong. If you are doubling up then remember to mix and match your washes and choose darker jeans to pair with a lighter shirt or jacket.
Hollywood star Tom Hanks is fond of Wrangler jeans as is Harrison Ford. Actually the Star Wars icon is so fond of his Wrangler jeans that he wore them to his own wedding when he married actress Calista Flockhart! Jeans at a wedding? Now that is super cool! However, the very essence of cool and indeed blokiness has to be James Bond and so it is fitting that 007 himself, Daniel Craig, just loves his Wrangler jacket.
Wrangler jeans have always been an investment in durable, practical and understated casual wear. People wear their Wrangler jeans rather than their Wrangler jeans wearing them. Wrangler are the jeans of the self-assured, the people who neither start trends nor follow them because they are uniquely themselves. Wrangler jeans never go out of fashion because they have never been a fashion. They are more a way of life. Which Wrangler styles are your Wranglers?