Mules Menswear: Workwear for all!

It was Thomas Jefferson who told us that nothing is certain except death and taxes. There’s another thing we are guaranteed in this life: the appropriation of workwear. Workwear has been and always will be borrowed from the working class and worn by the fashionable.

Levi Strauss made his fortune by selling his durable, copper-riveted pants to gold miners in San Francisco. Levi’s were appropriated by Easterners on their Western dude ranch vacations when they saw jeans on cowboys and ranch hands.

Filson, one of my favorite brands, was originally sold in Seattle to those daring enough to venture towards the last frontier. Their vintage Americana canvas designs age handsomely. Today the brand is headed by a former Ralph Lauren executive, thus completing Filson’s transition to a luxury brand. Filson was able to rebrand for the high-end customer thanks to its history of providing clothing that could see adventurers through the Alaskan wilderness.

Canada Goose was created when Sam Tick saw an opportunity to make a better jacket for Canadian Rangers. These jackets went on to become popular on arctic expeditions, and now they’ve become status symbols. Although the Canada Goose jacket’s original purpose was to be ideal for extreme temperatures, now this commitment to insulation benefits the brave souls walking back to their dorms.

Dickies got their start making denim bibs, and now they make about every work uniform imaginable. Additionally, the Dickies 874 work pant has risen to stardom thanks to skaters and is now an essential part of my life. The leg that refuses to lose its crease will always leave an impression on others. Dickies, faithful to their longtime customers, has also created streetwear line in order to not dilute the purity of their workwear.

Carhartt has had an astronomical rise in popularity over the last few years. Whatever the garment, I know I’ll find its boxiness and drapiness tremendously appealing. Just like the rest of these brands, Carhartt started off as function over form. It has remained true to its roots and, in doing so, has earned a cult following. Carhartt knows staying faithful to the original is the key to their success. To allow themselves to expand without jeopardizing their original niche, they created the Carhartt Work in Progress line, which has allowed them to collaborate with trendy designers and create pieces that are unfit for the construction site. 

However, is this appropriation of blue-collar culture acceptable? Workwear will forever be part of fashion. As long as workwear is not worn in a mocking or ironic sense, I do believe that it should be treated just like any other garment. If we distress clothes to make them look lived in, what is wrong with wearing a brand associated with manual labor that we don’t do? Workwear becomes mainstream thanks to its reputation for durability and affordability. By maintaining their standards, manufacturers have been able to increase their consumer appeal without alienating their original customers. That’s all that matters.