Damn La Difference!
October 21, 2002 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Damn La Difference! Europe (and apparently Japan) seem to be going through a Dickies craze. You say work wear; we say American blue-collar chic. You pay $20 for an industrial shirt; we pay $100. Should we call the whole thing off? [More inside.]
posted by MiguelCardoso (38 comments total)
The same happens with Carhartt ( some people blame George W.Bush for this), which is basic in America, but bourgeois avant-garde in Europe. So the coolest boutiques around here (specially surf shops and chi chi urban outfitters) are full of Dickies and Carhartt clothes at five times what they cost in the U.S. Can it be payback time for the usual trend: Americans buying European junk, like Diesel, at hugely inflated prices? Just a cunning marketing plan? Or is it (my little theory) a healthy response to the stifling, Europa-drenched atmosphere brought about by the EU, to go with Harley-Davidson motorbikes, Waring blenders, Hamilton watches, Zippo lighters, General Electric fridges, straight rye whiskey and, one lives in hope, Beer Nuts?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:56 AM on October 21, 2002

It's just rock and roll. Dickies are experiencing another revival here as well. Luckily, we can buy them at Wal-mart for CDN$29.99. I think the revival owes more to the current popular music scene swinging back towards garage rock influences (Hives, Strokes, Vines, and others).

Though I do think the musical shift might have some connection to world economies, but...
posted by UncleDave at 7:19 AM on October 21, 2002

Dickies has expanded beyond work wear in the US (see Dickies Girl). They've had popularity within skateboarding and hip-hop circles for a while now; perhaps Europe and Japan are picking it up from the subculture rather than the blue-collar americana angle.
posted by skyline at 7:20 AM on October 21, 2002

I do not wear Dickies to be fashionable, nor do I wear fashionable Dickies or the ubiquitous Carhardt canvas jacket. But I'll tellya this:

Dickies relaxed fit work jeans (prewashed and soft). I had a pair in which I did, like, extreme construction for a year. They lasted me probably a total of 4 years with nothing but two tiny rips. You can still pick up a pair with or without the double-panel on the knees for under $25 (USD).

The only thing I like as well for toughness, durability, comfort and cost-effectiveness is surplus cotton field pants, the vintage kind with pocket flaps on front and back (and they never die...)
posted by Shane at 7:22 AM on October 21, 2002

This sort of blue collar couture shit is why I have to pay $120 for the same Doc Martin boots my grandfather bought for the equivalent of $35.
It's the clothing verison of those stupid domestic humvees.
posted by dong_resin at 7:30 AM on October 21, 2002

Considering I was a fairly fashion clueless-dork in my teens, I vaguely seem to remember Dickies making an overpriced appearance in the Texas malls at chain stores like Gadzooks in the 90's. As a label becomes trendy, so do the prices, no matter where you live. Which is why buying Diesel is still out of my budget, despite living in Italy.
posted by romakimmy at 7:32 AM on October 21, 2002

I think you're right, Skyline. It's kinda like the mid-90s popularity of the prison-issue denim complete with ID numbers that were worn among hip-hop crowds. Many tried to claim it was a statement on the racial composition of U.S. prison, and though that may be the case, most just wanted to look like Snoop Dogg.
posted by UncleDave at 7:33 AM on October 21, 2002

oops. Misplaced my hyphen. Fashion-clueless dork.
posted by romakimmy at 7:33 AM on October 21, 2002

Dude, extreme construction? Is that like Junkyard Wars? I know what you mean, though, about using trendy work clothes for their intended purpose. I used to have some cool, black work boots that I would stomp around wearing. Turns out they were great at work for waiting tables and bartending, because they had steel toes. No more squashed toes from getting stepped on in crowded dining rooms.
posted by monkeyman at 7:40 AM on October 21, 2002

Is that like Junkyard Wars?

Heh! I forgot, everything is "extreme this" and extreme that" on TV lately...

posted by Shane at 7:47 AM on October 21, 2002

I remember being at a show at ABC No Rio in the summer of 1997. A girl from Berlin came up to me and said, "Where did you get your trousers?"
They were the tan Carharts, and I said, "In a hardware store."
She said, "can you get me a pair? I'll give you 50 dollars."

I brought her back to my house and gave her my pants for 50 dollars.

This was definitely during the Clinton Administration.
posted by goneill at 8:01 AM on October 21, 2002

I never wore Dickies, but when I worked on boats for a while I bought Carhartts for the job (nowadays my Carhartt's jacket is authentically tar-stained). I didn't really know they were trendy (at the time, they generally managed to get me sneered at in Manhattan bars, so perhaps they weren't yet, or maybe the tar stains were too authentic) but amongst the boat people they were standard wear, and they did work better than any other work clothing I've ever seen. Later on that job I wandered into the uber-hip Canal St. Jeans Co. and found their basement full of Carhartt's and military surplus.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:12 AM on October 21, 2002

This UK bloke will stick with his Ultra Nectar thankyouverymuch. Nobody can get it over here (yet)...
posted by i_cola at 8:23 AM on October 21, 2002

I brought her back to my house and gave her my pants for 50 dollars.

That sounds like the beginning of a great short story or at least a poem or something.

As far as work-wear chic goes, dickies and flannel and boots are cheap and comfortable and never out of style cos they were never in style to begin with, really. Thus wearing them shows a disdain for fashion that is the bedrock of a good principled life. :)
posted by jonmc at 8:35 AM on October 21, 2002

I have a Carhartt coat (there is nothing warmer during the winter), and it has since received pizza grease stains in the pockets. When I was in high school, we'd make trips to a local pizza place for lunch, and I'd get little boxes with single slices of pizza, and stick them in the huge pockets of this jacket, because when walking through the high school, if an instructor saw you with food, it got taken away. and, that's my story.
posted by trioperative at 8:40 AM on October 21, 2002

...dickies and flannel and boots are cheap and comfortable and never out of style cos they were never in style to begin with...

Grunge was kinda scary. Used to be, you wore your flannel shirt open over a tee (maybe your favorite concert tee, way back when?) to school and you were a burnout, or someone who didn't give a damn except about being comfortable. Then for a while during Grunge it was Flannel-everything-and-everybody, buy your Flannel at Land's End for $60...
posted by Shane at 8:41 AM on October 21, 2002

This is hardly news. The whole thing has been popular since the mid 90s. The popularity of Dickies and Carhardt actually caused Levi's to come up with the Sta-Pressed line. Remember Flat Eric?
posted by arf at 8:45 AM on October 21, 2002

And regarding Miguel's theory: It has nothing to do with Dubja, or an Anti-European feeling. It is simply a street style adopted from the skateboarding and hip-hop crowd.
I'm from Germany and I bought my first pair of Dickies in 1997 for approx. 60 Euros. Does this qualify me as an authority?
posted by arf at 8:56 AM on October 21, 2002

Also, Carhartt's are anything but comfortable when bought new. It's like wearing sandpaper for the first year or so.
posted by goneill at 8:56 AM on October 21, 2002

YOU TOO can EARN extra CASH submitting thinly veiled ad posts!
posted by HTuttle at 9:07 AM on October 21, 2002

As a label becomes trendy, so do the prices, no matter where you live.

dickies have been popular in california for over 10 years. the prices are still the same and readily available at your local k-mart/wal-mart(massive budget retailers for those fortunate enough to not have one in your town/village).
posted by donkeysuck at 9:09 AM on October 21, 2002

Indeed HTuttle:
Anyone who wants a pair of 'worn-by-a-real-American Carhartts' for (I sense a market niche) 70 dollars should email me immediately. I have access to an almost unlimited supply.
posted by goneill at 9:17 AM on October 21, 2002

I like dickies. They make nice clothes, and they are pretty cheap around here.
posted by corpse at 9:30 AM on October 21, 2002

I own a couple of pairs of Dickies pants and Carhartt jacket. I have the delightful job of being in the office, dressed as a professional, for half my day, and the rest of the day on site working construction, and the like. I swear by the Dickies long sleeve overalls. Working a torch and getting burned is not fun, but my Dickies have saved my stupid ass so many times, and I only have one hole that goes all the way through. I'm with you Shane - in extreme construction environments, Dickies hold up great. Luckily I live about 30 minutes from a Farm&Fleet [on the way to a job site, no less] - so prices won't go up. I'm with goneill on the ''worn-by-a-real-American Carhartts" for sale, maybe we could expand an already oversaturated market, since no one in their right mind would pay for my used underwear [probably not work safe - by the way,those sites totally baffle me].
posted by plemeljr at 9:31 AM on October 21, 2002

True, donkeysuck, but I seem to remember the Trendy Kids getting schnookered (sp) on the prices at malls. If the name is hot at the moment, the price is going to go up, generally speaking. (For 80's- late 90's in Texas, See Z.Cavaricci pants, Liz Claiborne and Dooney&Burke purses, NoFear, etc.) Never having been much of a label whore, I had a good chuckle to myself last year when the club kids mistook my 8 euro sunglasses for the latest Gucci offering, priced at 200 euros. Viva champagne tastes on a beer budget ;-P
posted by romakimmy at 9:42 AM on October 21, 2002

Most people I knew would invest in a pair of $28 Carolinas, which were available as the jungle boot knockoffs ("civillian tread") or zip-backed
Pair-A-Troopers. Barbacks and anyone who could afford them would pour their bucks into some Catepillar boots.

But Dickies? That's what your cousin wore.
And uncle or neighbor chose Carhartt.

I eventually settled for some steel-toed Lehighs; they were what the cops wore, and without tucking in your pant legs, could pass for dress shoes during a job interview.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:50 AM on October 21, 2002

Also, Carhartt's are anything but comfortable when bought new.

True, I'm a Levis man.

RTEMT swears by carrharts though, wont wear anything else.

Flannel, however, is the greatest fabric on earth.
posted by jonmc at 10:20 AM on October 21, 2002

I must be seriously untrendy. I have no idea what any of this thread is about!
posted by salmacis at 10:29 AM on October 21, 2002

ben davis are the best.
posted by muta at 10:34 AM on October 21, 2002

yes, muta, bringing it all back around...

Scientifically, Carhartts can only be worn in buy construction workers or train hoppers. This should help sales.
posted by goneill at 11:03 AM on October 21, 2002

Ben Davis!!!
Gotta love em. Cheap and they last forever.

Visit you local army surplus store (at least in cali.) to get them.
posted by yertledaturtle at 11:20 AM on October 21, 2002

I started wearing Carhartt coats when working on a friend's farm in the early '90's. I continue to buy them as a creature of habit and my wife likes the way they look on me. (I'm in love with the woman, what can I say.) I remember traveling to Paris when we were first married (1995) and seeing Carhartt coats everywhere for over $150 dollars. Paris now has a Carhartt store near the Place de las Bastille and I was quite surprised to see it, thinking the trend had passed. Nevertheless, I was at a party some months ago wearing my Carhartt work pants (I do actually work in them but love 'em so much I wear them casually when they're still in presentable shape) and someone asked where I bought them. Well, in America, bien sûr!

Want great European work wear? Check out Snickers.
posted by Dick Paris at 12:44 PM on October 21, 2002

I like to cut the legs off my dickies and wear the butt on my head. Sometimes I use the fly to make a ponytail out of my long hair, but usually I wear 'em more as a showercap-style hat-thingy.

Also, I like cat meat.
posted by DenOfSizer at 6:08 PM on October 21, 2002

I'm so fashion-clueless I thought this thread was about these or maybe these.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:17 PM on October 21, 2002

Fashion-challenged as I am, I grew up when most of the citrus cowboys we had off of ranges in central Florida were wearing Wranglers. They're what's cheap in Wal-Mart and Target, so they're pretty much what I buy.

Also, I'm wondering when recycling clothing is going to come back into fashion and everybody's going to be hitting the thrift stores again.
posted by alumshubby at 7:54 PM on October 21, 2002

Soon, evidently.
posted by dong_resin at 2:27 AM on October 22, 2002

Miguel: I think the point of your post has been lost. When you stop having to pay through the nose for American chic, you'll know you've been fully conquered.

So what does a can of Old El Paso refried beans cost in Lisbon?
posted by ParisParamus at 4:00 AM on October 22, 2002

2 bucks, Paris. Is that a lot more expensive? ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:53 AM on October 22, 2002

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