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The Pendleton Company has a rich and interesting history not unlike so many enduring American Brands that are still popular today. Throughout the 20th century, many clothing trends have emerged from workwear and transitioned into the fashion mainstream. Like many of the fashion styles and brands we have come to know, the Pendleton Company (most famously known for its' hallmark product the Pendleton Shirt) was to become famous because of the imagination of its' founders.
Having their early history in the late 1800's making vibrant colored Indian blankets for the American Indian the Pendleton Company owners in the 1920's decided that there were more potential applications for using the "Umatilla" wool fabric they were weaving. One of the first and as it turns out their signature product creation was the Pendleton Shirt.
The wool used in making the Pendleton products was called "Umaltilla" named for the area surrounding the mill where the sheep were raised. The high quality of the fiber created a more wrinkle resistant collton and was more elastic and stain resistant, well insulating and more absorbent. The wool also allowed for breathability and had a softer texture making it more comfortable to wear.
Applying the quality applications they had developed in making their earlier blanket products and with the use of the brilliant colors appliqués the rich color Pendleton wool plaid shirts were introduced to the market in 1924. It was a startling success at its' launch and until World War II, Pendleton production was brisk but slowed due to the Pendleton mills need to support the war effort with uniforms and blankets.
It was in 1949 that Pendleton successfully introduced a women's clothing line. In the 1950's the Pendleton Shirt was advertised as an outdoor fashion or casual sportswear and was targeting an every growing market of that time.
In the 1960's the shirt started to achieve "cult" status and one of the reasons was the surging popularity of famous American artists called the "Pendletones" who named themselves after the wool plaid shirts they wore. They later changed their name to the Beach Boys and having achieved fame on the stage endorsed Pendleton Shirts to young Americans.
In the 1930's Pendleton created the Board Shirt featuring two chest pockets with flaps and rounded corners. Up until the late 1940's the pockets matched the pattern of the shirt but in the 1950's the pattern was intentionally mismatched in a 45 degree angle to create a more youthful look.
Other classic wool shirt models that Pendleton has created are:
- The Trail Shirt – has a straight collar and elbow patches with one button-through pocket.
- The Fireside Shirt – has a button down collar and one plain pocket.
- The Lodge Shirt – has a straight collar and one pocket.
- The Field Shirt – has the two button-through flap pockets.
- The Board Shirt – the shirt prized by the Beach Boys, has a straight bottom, sport collar and two flap pockets. This shirt works as a shirt or a casual jacket.
- The High Grade Western Shirt – has a snap front and cuffs with front and back peaked yokes.
The labels on the shirts can help date the shirts to a certain period. In the 1930's and 40's the Pendleton tags did not have any sizing information on them.
In the 1950's and 1960's the shirts have a different pattern matching on the pockets and they also added an additional collar lining. The shirt tags began to display sizing in the bottom right corner.
The Pendleton Shirts from the 1970's to early 1990's can easily be identified from the woolmark tag inside. This tag remained unchanged until the early 1990's.
From 1994 until 2009, the shirts made during this period do not have the yellow frame on the tag anymore and feature a different font style on the label.
In 2009, the font on the tag was changed once again and "TRADEMARK REG US PAT OFF" was changed to read "REGISTERED TRADEMARK".
Today, Pendleton shirts are no longer made in the U.S. however the wool is still sourced from the the U.S.A.