Pendleton wool products have been an American staple for well over 100 years. Their famous blankets, in fact, have become sacred to the numerous Indian nations with which the company has traded. Many Native Americans are both born into and buried with a Pendleton blankets. The colorful patterns of the blankets reflect a long heritage and culture of trade with Native Americans.
Early on in the company's history, the blankets and wool shirts spun in the famous mill were basically limited to Native Americans, workers, and those who needed protection from the elements. But as the decades rolled on, the company developed unique plaid patterns whose popularity and ubiquity persist to this day. Jack Kerouac no doubt referenced his own Pendletons when he talked about the "wool shirts" worn by the road-weary beat culture of the 1940s and '50s.
In the 1960s, Pendleton made its first public entrance into the surf culture when the Beach Boys donned the plaid-patterned wool shirts for an album cover. "My dad told me he and his friends used to wear Pendletons to stay warm, in the days before wetsuits were really popular," says Ryan Hurley, Vice President of Men's Design at Hurley International. "They'd rub their Pendletons down with vasaline and wear them out in the water, surfing in Huntington Beach."
But it wasn't until eight years ago that the name "boardshirt" appeared in the company's vocabulary. The story goes that Pendleton Company President Jim A. Buckner, while vacationing in Hawaii, wore a pair of Hurley boardshorts. Appreciating the catchy name and remembering the strong presence Pendleton once had in surf culture, Buckner decided to name a shirt accordingly.
Meanwhile, Hurley International CEO Roger Wyatt, who wears Pendleton shirts on a near-daily basis, helped hatch an idea for his company to release a plaid shirt that had the same durable construction and classic feel. But not far along, says Senior Vice President of Design John Cherpas, the company found itself asking, "why not go to the people who really get this, who are really doing it." So, Cherpas, who spearheaded the collaboration, took his design team on a trip to Oregon to speak to executives at Pendleton about doing a project together. It is important to note that Pendleton is not famous for its collaboration with other apparel companies. It is a company that does business much in the same way it always has, resisting change and standing on its own. But where others have failed, Hurley's team succeeded. In Oregon, they found a great mutual respect for authenticity, heritage and family. It was a match. Hurley brought with it a sense of authenticity from the world of surfing. Pendleton brought its own unparalleled heritage in America's national narrative. Hense, the new collaboration's tag line is "Ten years of Hurley authenticity meets 100 years of Pendleton heritage."
So successful was the meeting of minds that took place on that trip, that the two companies rushed to create products that blended the two companies' talents and styles. In an unprecedented gesture of cooperation, Pendleton opened their archives and their designs to Hurley. Hurley's designers, meanwhile, sought to create a product that was still classic to Pendleton and preserved the company's unique heritage. The result was a series of uncompromisingly traditional wool shirts, fit to be more relevant and tailored for today's surfing consumer.
This year's line is the first in what Hurley hopes will be an ongoing relationship between the two clothing companies. It includes three boardshirts, a western shirt, a military-inspired jacket and a series of classic trucker hats. The whole line of Hurley products by Pendleton will be on shelves by November 15th at American Rag, Bloomingdale's, 225, Fred Segal and more, along with a handful of specialty shops.