Roots of Hickory

Roots of Hickory

Hickory is a tried-and-tested workwear fabric which has been used to make serious, hard-wearing gear since the 19th century. A Stan Ray favourite, it’s a thick striped denim fabric, which gets its name due to the fact that it’s ‘as strong as hickory wood’. 


Whilst this stuff is synonymous with American train engineers and railroad workers during the early 1900s, it started out as a hardy ‘ticking’ material which was used on pillow cases, mattresses and curtains.


It’s thought this fabric made its way onto the rails in the shape of a simple peaked cap. Flying ash and cinder from a blazing steam engine landing in hair or eyes was a regular hazard for railroad workers, so hats were a necessity. Tough and easily attainable, this striped ticking was the perfect fabric for the job. Dungarees and work-jackets soon followed, and although the ‘railroad uniform’ was full of regional flavour, with countless variations, hickory stripe is seared into the minds of millions as THE fabric of the American railroad worker.


During the mid-20th century, as steam was replaced with diesel, these hardy garments, worn with shovelling coal in mind, faded from the rails in favour of lighter, more casual clothing. That said, hickory stripes still crop up in freight yards from time to time, and well over a century after it was first worn, it still stands as an ideal workwear fabric.


We use it on everything from barn jackets to baseball caps—and it has long been a key fabric in the Stan Ray roster. Our hickory stripe Painter Pants are a true core classic which we’ve been making since the 1970s, when founder Earl Beard started manufacturing work-wear from a small sewing shop in the town of Crockett, Texas. 


As the name suggests, these were originally designed with painters and decorators in mind (and were first made out of natural undyed drill cotton), but as word of these hardy, utilitarian trousers spread, we started receiving requests from carpenters and construction workers to make them out of hickory stripe cotton. They’ve since gone on to be worn far outside the building site, their hard-wearing nature making them favourites with skateboarders and artists alike.


Pretty much unchanged since their inception, our Painter Pants are made from heavyweight 10oz hickory denim, and feature triple stitching, plenty of pockets and the all-important paintbrush loop (extra points for anyone who actually uses this to carry a brush). 


We also make hickory stripe bib overalls. Considering the history of the fabric, these were a bit of a no brainer, and take their shape from a pair of archive Stan Ray dungarees from the early years. They’re made from the same tough 10oz hickory denim as the Painter Pants, and are most certainly built to last. Freight train sold separately.

Explore Hickory styles here.

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