The Dickies logo is one of the most widely recognised on UK farms
The Dickies logo is one of the most widely recognised on UK farms. Featuring on a wide range of work clothing, the parent company has been manufacturing workwear since 1922 in the USA. David Williams visited the UK headquarters at Midsomer Norton, near Bath to find out what has made the brand so successful.Originally set up by a group of friends in 1918 as the US Overall Company, it was renamed the William-Dickie Manufacturing Company in 1922, trading locally until, having gained a reputation for manufacturing hard-wearing garments, the company was contracted by the American Government to produce millions of uniforms for World War 2 soldiers. After the war, growth continued and, in the late 1950s, the company expanded into Europe and the Middle East, where the work-wear worn by Texan oil workers in the developing oil industry found favour with locals.Meanwhile a Norfolk businessman had based his new company in Somerset. Clares, supplying cleaning products for milk churns and a clothing range designed for use in dairy parlours, had expanded to supply work clothing for contract-clothing and cleaning companies and, with its reputation for quality and service, was a perfect match for Dickies and was bought by the American business in 1989, becoming Clares Dickies. However, by 1994 the Clares name was dropped and it became Dickies (UK), and from its Somerset base, where it currently employs approximately 300 staff, it supplies clothing to Dickies outlets across Europe and the Middle East. Head to toe clothing
Overalls remain a speciality and, while many UK agricultural dealers stock a selection of the most popular items, the variety of styles and colours which are displayed in the company’s showroom at Radstock has to be seen to be believed. Versions designed for the far north of Europe hang side by side with lighter variants for use in hotter climates, and there are also special fire retardant and enhanced waterproof fabrics available, all in a wide range of colours and styles.Other work products include boots and shoes, with and without impact protection, gilets and jackets, raincoats, tabards and a wide range of formal and casual shirts. The footwear range includes safety shoes and boots with conventional steel toe protectors, or with composite protection which offers the same performance but with significantly reduced weight.The Wellington boot range includes value, mid-range and premium insulated options. The premium Landmaster boots are the most popular with agricultural users. “Landmaster Wellingtons are one of the lightest and most comfortable wellington boot on the market,” says Dickies sales and marketing director Maurice Morton.”Because polyurethane is extremely light and hard wearing, the boots are especially suited to farmers who need to wear wellingtons all day, whether driving around the farm or to market, feeding sheep or walking cattle from the fields to the parlour. Landmaster has improved resistance to oil, fats and manure, greater slip resistance and a good grip sole profile. They still feel fresh and comfortable after a full day’s work so have earned the nickname; ‘The Farmer’s Slippers.”The Dickies mobile showroom is a common sight at dealer open days.As well as its own-brand clothing, Dickies also manufactures ranges for large distributors, including the John Deere collection which it has supplied since the early 1980s, and a supply agreement with Agco, Countrywide and the core dealer network of United Farmers and most leading independent dealers, and UK feed merchants.Consistent quality
Most of the Dickies range is manufactured overseas, but with its reputation for quality, the company goes to great lengths to ensure every batch of products meets its rigorous specifications. An on-site laboratory is equipped to check almost all the items in the catalogue, and can even ensure colours match perfectly before fabric is used to make a new batch of clothes, from colour samples sent on-line for analysis. This is particularly important for corporate or team clothing where consistent colour match is essential.Fabrics are tested for resistance to stretching and tearing, for ability to withstand wear and tear and remain waterproof where necessary. Tests are also carried out for colour-fastness, and for shrinkage during washing, for the ability to withstand plucks and pulls and zips and fasteners are tested for durability. BrandingA growing number of Dickies’ customers are using the clothing to advertise their businesses, and to create a team spirit with their workforces, and personalising the items, either with the names of the business or the individuals is a service which the company has offered for many years. A dedicated team of embroidery specialists operate up to a dozen state-of-the-art machines, producing high quality, durable images and logos on the items prior to delivery.Personalised and branded clothing is a Dickies speciality and a large area within the main warehouse is dedicated to embroidering designs on almost any item of clothing from the range.
Expanding rangeWith demand for Dickies-branded casual and country outdoor clothing growing, Dickies is introducing is new Farm and Country range, aimed specifically at the farming and country sports markets. A dedicated team of buyers and designers has been given the responsibility of determining what is required, and samples have been analysed to make sure they meet the company’s high standards.Within the extensive range are wax jackets and leggings, a selection of padded gilets and smart casual shirts, all designed to look attractive and distinctive while offering practicality and durability.”A fit for purpose range for the 21st Century, all current products are being refreshed by adding additional wearer benefits such as fit and styling but, importantly, we are also adding a significantly wider range of styles available from February,” says Maurice.Dealer satisfactionMain Agco dealer, Thurlow Nunn Standen has had a long association with Dickies, having previously supplied products under the Clares brand name. “We enjoy selling the range of clothing as it offers practical cost-effective products to suit most people’s pockets within the agricultural and groundcare industries,” comments parts director Richard Pipe.”Overalls and hi-vis jackets as well as safety and non-safety Wellington boots are our best sellers, as well as waterproof clothing including trousers for washing down machinery, livestock pens or for vegetable growers out working in the fields. Many customers like the embroidery service and in January we are launching our own new branded clothes for customer-facing dealer staff, all of which are being supplied by Dickies.”In Dickies’ in-house test laboratory Lucia Parsons (left) and Vicky Taylor are pictured testing a sample of fabric for resistance to tearing.Richard said the supplier is very easy to deal with. “Not many companies are offering the breadth of products available from Dickies, and while others have cut their ranges, Dickies has continued to offer a wide variety, and its staff are constantly reviewing what is offered. We are well-supported too. Our Dickies area sales manager visits us every year with samples of the new products and it makes it easy for our team to decide what to stock. Five of our six branches have Dickies showroom displays, and we are pleased that during the past few weeks Dickies has been named as an Agco-preferred supplier, which means its dealers are encouraged to use it.”