This is a story of an American brand that was started by two cousin brothers- Colonel Dickie and CN Williamson back in 1922 under the banner Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing company. Before establishing Dickies, Williamson and Dickie were in the vehicle and harness business and later sold hats.

Dickies Founders
Dickies Founders: CN Williamson and EE Dickie
Image credit: Dickies website

The very first product under the Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Company banner was an all-cotton button fly overall. The quality of the overalls was of impeccable standards and as sales grew they extended their product line to full workwear. Their workwear included casual and safety footwear, work trousers, and jeans, safety wear such as overalls and hi vis vests as well as accessories.  The brand became known for comfort, toughness, and value.

During the World War II, Dickies became the choice for the US government to manufacture 9 million uniforms for America’s armed forces. When returning service men went back to work, Dickies provided them with a uniform – the matched Khaki set which was very popular amongst workers of all kinds.

Filmmakers in Hollywood also took note of Dickies, whenever there was a scene requiring workers the wardrobe department turned to Dickies.

During the 60s, Dickies adopted a marketing strategy to appeal to young men attending college. They were selling to the “main man on campus” – targeting those who would buy the brand’s “campus casual” range. This is a move that repositioned the brand from being workwear brand to a fashion brand.

Dickies Campus Campaign Advert
Dickies Campus Campaign ad

In South Africa, the Dickies brand has become synonymous with the Pantsula culture. Pantsula is a tradition and also a highly energetic dance form that originated in the black townships of South Africa during the apartheid era. Dickies’ pants, shirts and bucket hats form part of the Pantsula’s uniform. In emergence of Kwaito in the 1990s, gave popularity to the Pantsula culture. Famous Kwaito groups used to rock Dickies.

Pantsulas wearing Dickies

As Kwaito started to become an unpopular music genre, so was the Pantsula culture hence the fall of Dickies in South Africa. The brand is however making a comeback and is targeting millennials.  In 2018, Dickies opened its very first flagship store in South Africa. The store is located at Southgate Mall in the south of Johannesburg.

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