In 1924, a man could have a wool shirt in any color he wanted – as
long as it was grey. Wool shirts were utilitarian items; warm, durable,
an excellent first line in the defense against the elements. They were
uniformly drab. Of course, all that was about to change.
At Pendleton Woolen Mills, Clarence Morton Bishop envisioned a different
kind of fabric for a man's wool shirt. Pendleton's sophisticated
weaving capabilities were producing vibrant Indian trade blankets. Why
not bring that same weaving and color know-how to flannel shirting?
He wrote to his father, Charles Pleasant Bishop, "I believe we should
add such goods as shirts and hosiery." C.P. Bishop agreed, replying "I
am more and more impressed with the opportunity we have here in Oregon."
While his son investigated production options, C.P. Bishop did the
early marketing work. He wrote to his son that "I am impressing it on
the minds of my employees and patrons...that we are putting a new fabric
on the market, something better than other mills can or will make."
After much weaving experimentation and hard work, Pendleton's innovative
Umatilla shirting fabric rolled off the loom. The rich colors in
Pendleton's woolen plaid shirts were completely new to the market in
1924. The positive response was immediate. It has also been enduring.
The Emergence of Sportswear
production was initially brisk, but slowed during the 1940s as much of
Pendleton's production capability was needed for uniforms and blankets
in the war effort.
After World War II, the concept of sportswear emerged in American
society. This new concept of dressing was best explained as what Dad
wore when he wasn't wearing his suit. While hunting, fishing, or
pursuing his hobbies, Dad very often wore a Pendleton shirt.
Throughout the 20th century, clothing trends have emerged from workwear
and traveled into the fashion mainstream. The wool shirt was a perfect
example. The American Look prevailed into the 1950s. Casual and
colorful, leisurewear symbolized the end of privation and the return of
the good life.
Pendleton Shirts and Surf Culture
In the early 1960s, Pendleton shirts hit the airwaves courtesy of The Majorettes, ) whose song, "White Levis" became a number one hit in 1963.
As the lyrics said, "My boyfriend's always wearin' white Levi's...and
his tennis shoes and his surfin' hat and a big plaid Pendleton shirt."
Levi's and Pendleton have always paired up well, but wouldn't connect
for a labeled collaboration for another 47 years.
Soon after, a group called The Pendletones began to sing about the California surfing scene. They changed their name to the Beach Boys,
but kept their uniform of Pendleton shirts worn over tee shirts with
khakis. The band wore their blue and charcoal plaid shirts on the covers
of 45s and LPs throughout the 1960s.
In 2002, Pendleton brought back the Board Shirt
in the same plaid, re-named The Blue Beach Boys Plaid. Because of its
strong ties to surfing history and culture, this pattern was used in
collaborations with Hurley and VANS in the late 2000s. The shirt is
still going strong.
Pendleton's wool plaid shirts are more popular than ever with a diverse
group of consumers. The Board shirt is still a favorite with surfers,
and sported by snow and skate boarders as well. Car club enthusiasts
know that nothing sets off their beautiful automobiles like the right
Pendleton. And men who work outdoors still turn to the natural warmth,
breathability and durability of wool as a first line defense against the
The Pendleton wool shirt has been featured in collaborations with
Opening Ceremony, Comme des Garçons, Nike, Adidas, VANS, Hurley, Levi's
and more. On the runway or on the waves, it's still a Pendleton.
Over the years, styles, patterns and fabric weights have changed, but
one thing remains the same; the consistent quality. Pendleton controls
every step of production, from buying raw fleece, dying the wool,
weaving fabric, cutting and sewing.
Each Pendleton shirt is crafted from 26 to 38 different components. All
pieces of a shirt are cut from one bolt of fabric for absolute color and
pattern consistency. Meticulous attention is given to matching
patterns, balancing collar points, collar linings, labels and
buttonholes. Then, it's time for rigorous quality inspection and careful
Pendleton handles every element of producing this American classic. This is why each shirt is "Warranted To Be A Pendleton."