From humble beginnings, the Wrangler brand has become known worldwide for its high-quality jeans and fantastic fashions.
In 1897, 20-year-old C.C. Hudson left Spring Hill Farm in Williamson County, Tennessee. The young man was looking for work and found himself in Greensboro, North Carolina – an emerging textile town in which he found work in a factory that manufactured overalls.
7 years later in 1904, the factory closed down. The Hudson Overall Company was formed when C.C., his brother Homer, and a few others, bought some of the sewing machines from the now-closed down factory.
By 1919 the company was going from strength to strength. Sales were so good that the company made the move to a larger headquarters while changing its name to the Blue Bell Overall Company. In 1926, Kentucky-based Big Ben Manufacturing purchased Blue Bell and they merged into the company that remains today – Blue Bell.
In 1936 a major development would come in the form of Super Big Ben Overalls. They featured 100% Sanforized fabric, which it claimed reduced shrinkage to below 1%. Naturally, they were a huge hit and set the standard for workman’s textiles going forward.
Wrangler Is Born
In 1943 the Casey Jones Company was acquired. They were a manufacturer of work clothes and had a rarely used brand name, the rights of which were transferred to Blue Bell as a part of the purchase. That brand name was Wrangler.
The first Wrangler jeans hit the market in 1947, designed in conjunction with Rodeo Ben, a celebrity tailor. Jim Shoulders, Bill Linderman, and Freckles Brown – all professional rodeo cowboys – signed off on Wrangler’s comfort, reliability, and quality after extensive testing.
The following year Jim Shoulders, World Champion Cowboy, became an official endorser of Wrangler jeans. With them, he went on to 16 world championship victories, cementing the brand’s reputation for excellent durability and comfort.
A Global Brand
In 1962, the Wrangler plant in Belgium was opened. This signalled the launch of the brand throughout Europe. The following year, sanforized 14-ounce denim became a part of the Wrangler manufacturing process in their Western jeans – called “the heaviest denim ever made”.
Wrangler became the first Westernwear brand to be officially endorsed by the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association. This applied to both Wrangler shirts and jeans. The endorsement came in 1974, and Wrangler remains the only Westernwear brand the body has officially endorsed.
In 1981 Wrangler became the primary sponsor of Dale Earnhardt, the legendary racing driver who became equally notable for the blue and yellow “Wrangler Jean Machine”, a racing car in the Wrangler livery.
By 1996 Wrangler had the number one market share in the US. It was estimated that one in every four men wore a pair of Wrangler jeans. This further solidified their place in cultural history.
Jim Shoulders passed away in 2007. He and Wrangler shared a 58-year partnership, which is the longest sport licensing endorsement in professional sports history.
At the end of 2013 WranglerNetwork.com went live. It’s a website which features live rodeo streaming, as well as scores, statistics, and country music.
Wearing a pair of Wrangler jeans, such as the Wrangler Texas Stretch, today is to wear a piece of American history. It’s not a brand that gets by on historical romance, however – Wranglers are still known primarily for their rugged durability and comfort.