Dickies History: From Workwear to Skatewear to Vintage

Dickies History: From Workwear to Skatewear to Vintage

Here’s the journey of a brand that’s classic, versatile, stylish and a Glass Onion Vintage favourite: Dickies. Find out about its history, their evolvement from Dickies Workwear to Dickies Skatewear, as well as our guide to styling this brand’s vintage pieces. 

The Evolution of Dickies Workwear

For over 100 years, Dickies have explored an array of fashion styles and cultures. Their affordable, comfy and practical pieces remain available to buy today either brand new or vintage. Dressing workers, rappers and skaters over the decades, Dickies can still be found in the wardrobes of many Gen Zedders who consider the brand a classic.  

Dickies History

Established as a workwear brand, manufacturing overalls and coveralls for a growing industrial America, Dickies pride themselves in the durability of their garments, a feature that remains a distinctive part of their name today. Dickies Workwear started its huge road to expansion in the 1970s when industrial became streetwear, and the brand pushed for global recognition. Exploration of new materials and manufacturing techniques as well as the birth of their staple garments such as 874 Work Pants, came alongside the new generation of Dickies. Now a statement worn by many outside the workplace, here’s an insight into the evolution of Dickies.  

Dickies History

Dickies 1920s - 1940s 

Founded in 1922 as the Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Company in Texas, America, Dickies gradually grew from a small family-owned business, founded with the purpose of delivering quality work gear. The early days of Dickies consisted of supplying popular form-fit tailored khaki sets for men, heavily inspired by Army uniforms. After establishing a reputable name for local working men, Dickies began to target the All-American family of the 1930s. This was followed by the 1940s, as they were solicited to manufacture uniforms for the US armed forces. Post war, Williamson-Dickie saw an expansion across the United States curtesy of one of the founders C Don Williamson, son of ‘Colonel Dickie’. This strategic implementation of the brand name across America allowed Dickies to grow as a national clothing company, whose campaigns and high quality products impacted many labourers.   

Dickies History 1950s - 1960s 

With its popular campaign title, “Man of Production”, Dickies qualitative work gear made the Middle East, and consecutively Europe, its consumer. Texas oilmen introduced Dickies to a global market, and so the brand began to adapt its product to a wider range of demands, shifting to casual wear and younger, college men. 

Dickies History 1960s - 1970s

“Campus tiger” ads were introduced by Dickies which aimed to entice students in their college uniform choices. This decade also saw the birth of the iconic Dickies 874 Work Pant, “originally made with 65% Cotton, 35% Polyester, and an X-it stain release finish, a ripstop super-tough material that we still use in our 874 pants today.” (Dickies, 2023). The brand’s original labourer audience began to migrate into a more general work force, and slowly seeped into a casual wear.  

Dickies 1980s

Dickies History 1970s - 1980s

Dickies target consumer shifts again with its “We’re Basic” slogan aimed towards price conscious consumers. The brand shows their versatility even further in the 80s as they expanded into womenswear and aimed to dress those who sought a balance of work and recreation.  

During this decade, big-name rappers start wearing Dickies, bringing the brand into the Pop Culture spotlight. Denim bib overalls and classic branded pants paired with oversized shirts or tees allow Dickies to reach outside of their original consumer, and create a popular style within Black and Latinx communities in the States. Rappers Eazy-E, DJ Yella, Mc Ren and Dr Dre of N.W.A. were often pictured wearing Dickies and so fans of hip-hop during this decade also adapted workwear to streetwear.  

Dickies History 1990s - 2000s

The growing popularity of skater subculture of the 90s had Dickies joining on the journey. Now a brand recognised by a younger demographic, the trend of the ultimate skater uniform spread from America to Europe, and Dickies continued to profit from the durable design of their classic pants. Dickies as urban streetwear had such an impact, that it remains an important fashion trend even in today’s fast paced industry. The likes of Madonna, Justin Timberlake and other celebs have appeared wearing Dickies on stage during the late 90s and early 2000s.  

Dickies Now

Still a prominent part of popular culture, Dickies have recently celebrated 100 years. A century of high quality products that are a must have in anyone’s wardrobe and whose durability allow products to be sold as amazing vintage. Dickies can currently be seen worn by the likes of Bella Hadid, the Kardashians, or Emily Ratajkowski in an off-duty model look or styled as urban streetwear by Snoop Dog, Justin Bieber or Asap Rocky.  

Dickies Vintage

Dickies has a rich history, from its roots in workwear to its current status as a respected skatewear brand. Its influence on both workwear and skatewear is undeniable, and it continues to be a beloved brand among many different communities. By exploring the history of Dickies, we can better understand the brand's impact on American fashion and culture including workwear and skatewear. Some of Dickies most popular pieces include their 874 worker pants, worker jeans, workwear shirts, overalls and one pocket tees, all which can be found as vintage pieces in our Dickies collection on our website (available for men’s and women’s).  

The History of Dickies in Skate Culture 

Dickies have a prominent feature in Skate Culture, you can probably find 874’s in most skater’s wardrobes. From 1922 to 2023, Dickies have provided exceptional durability in their products, a main feature skaters look for in their gear. Dickies Skatewear continues to be a style that allows the brand to sell brand new, however vintage has been found to be an affordable and environmentally sustainable option for a conscious Gen Z. Numerous campaigns featuring athletes and celebrities as well as brand collaborations are continuing to successfully market Dickies Skatewear and keep a classic, unchanged product fresh and trendy.  


Dickies Skatewear FAQs

When did skaters start wearing dickies?

Although skateboarding was practiced loads in the 80s, the sport gained most of its popularity and ultimately became a subculture in the 1990s. This is when Dickies became a main brand associated with skaters.  

Why do skaters wear dickies?

Dickies Skatewear became popular due to its strong material and low cost. It’s simple, yet authentic vibe, baggy fit and wearability is perfect for skaters.   

What is the fit of Dickies skate pants?

Dickies Skatewear, in particular the pants are intended to have a baggy fit which doesn’t restrict skaters from rides and tricks. Dickies have even designed their special Skate range and take on advice from skaters when creating the perfect fit.  

What are the best Dickies pants for skating?

The original Dickies 874 pants are recommended as the classic, comfy and durable option, fit for skateboarding, work and of course provide a great styling piece. Dickies Skateboarding Slim Fit Shorts are also a great alternative, as well as Straight-Fit Cargo Work Pants.  

How to style Dickies pants?

If you’re not a professional skater, and you’re interested in styling up your Dickies pants for an urban look, here’s what we at Glass Onion Vintage recommend you to achieve the perfect outfit:    

  1. Start with Dickies pants: Dickies pants are a staple in any skater's wardrobe. Opt for the classic Dickies 874 work pants or the looser-fitting 873 work pants. Choose a neutral colour like khaki or black. If you’re looking for a summer option, you could choose a Remade Dickies Maxi/ Mini Skirt or Remade Shorts as an alternative. 

  1. Pair with a graphic tee: Choose a graphic tee that reflects your personal style. It can be a band tee or a bold print. Stick to a loose, relaxed fit to balance out the fitted pants.

  1. Layer up: Add a layer with a hoodie or flannel shirt. Choose a contrasting colour to your pants or tee to add visual interest. If you’re going for a full Dickies look, check out our collection for branded tees.

  1. Accessories: Add a beanie or baseball cap to complete the look. A pair of Vans or Converse sneakers will also give you the classic skater vibe.

  1. Mix and match: Don't be afraid to mix and match different styles and colours to create your own unique look. Experiment with different combinations to find what works for you.

Remember, the key to styling Dickies pants is all about mixing classic workwear pieces with modern streetwear elements to create a look that's both timeless and stylish. 

Shop Vintage Dickies

Now you’ve learnt more about the history of the iconic Dickies brand, how they’ve adapted to audiences and continued creating long lasting pieces for over a century, we hope to encourage you to shop sustainably when thinking about your next pair of trousers. Glass Onion Vintage’s Dickies collection for both menswear and womenswear offer you an affordable option for stylish workwear/skatewear; their discussed durability means your products will be in top shape! Our Remade Dickies pieces are also all created in our South Yorkshire HQ from product originally destined for landfill, so your purchase will also be helping the environment.