The annual West End business and Professional Association Hickory Shirt/Heritage Day’s celebration will take place Oct. 7-11. The hickory shirt has long been a staple in the logger’s wardrobe but how did it happen?
From the early 1940s until the mid-1980s the Lee company was the industry standard for the Hickory shirt, button front or zip. It also is called the railroad shirt and the fabric is known as hickory fabric, a relative of denim and as durable as hickory wood. One could say this is the shirt that built this country.
It was a 100 percent cotton tough, soft, classic, all around kind of shirt. It blocked the wind; it easily vented with the buttons; it got sweaty if you did and then it cooled you as the sweat evaporated.
The Lee Company eventually discontinued its hickory shirts and logger jeans.
These days Ben Davis and Carhartt make hickory shirts. Inmates in Pendleton, Ore., may be making the last American-made hickory shirts. They are 100 percent cotton and are $33.99 and they can be ordered on line.
A hickory shirt will cost around $38, which in the normal world would mean a retail price of about $120, and no working guy is going to spend that on a shirt that used to cost him $25 or even $20. The cost of making in America is why many companies have gone off-shore, as they call it.
The life expectancy of a hickory shirt? Hard to say, a new hickory shirt on the crew bus may not look new long. It’s a shirt you won’t throw out or wear out. It will outlast any other shirts in your closet, so the cost per wearing is low. So, maybe they are really worth $120?
When the Lee Company discontinued its hickory shirt it also discontinued its loggerpant “Boss of the Road” 77’s, but amazingly I found where they went. The Japanese have them. I found a vintage pair of Lee 77s for 31,500 yen or according to the conversion chart $408.87 U.S. Why are we not still making and selling these to the Japanese? Trade … go figure?
If you possess a hickory shirt that is faded, ripped, muddy, greasy, bloody, but not too bloody, then you have really got yourself something there!
But, one would have to admit it is sad that the shirt that built America is now mostly made in China.