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Posts from the ‘history’ Category

The Limited Edition Guide Shirt: 9 Decades of Pendleton Wool Shirts

Limited Edition Guide Shirt for 2014 by Pendleton, photo by Taylor Painter

This fall, we’re offering a limited edition Guide shirt in an edition of 1863. Why 1863? Because, of course, that’s when our weaving legacy’s founder, Thomas Kay, arrived in Oregon. We made the shirt in an amber and brown ombre plaid that appears to be straight out of the Pendleton archives, but was developed just for this year. Each shirt has a hand-numbered label:


This shirt model first appeared in our 1927 men’s shirt line. Back then it was called The Buckaroo. Thanks to the Pendleton archives, here’s a look at the Buckaroo’s debut (you can click to enlarge):


Yes, we understand that it looks comical to the modern eye to have a man going hunting wearing a bowtie and trilby. Perhaps sportsmen really were that much more dapper in 1927.


He also oddly resembles Peter Sellers, but this was long before Inspector Clouseau’s time.

But back to the Buckaroo. As a manufacturer of Native American trade blankets, Pendleton Woolen Mills was (and still is) headquartered in the west.  It made sense to capitalize on America’s fascination with all things western in the early part of the last century, so our garments were named accordingly. But despite the rodeo name, the Buckaroo was meant to be worn in a variety of settings. The dressiness of the shirt depended on the fabric, not the cut; plaids for hunting, solids for fishing, and broadcloth solids or stripes for “dress-up.” The plaids/solid demarcation is a bit baffling. Were the plaids better for forest camouflage? Would plaids startle the fish? Despite these marketing mysteries, America responded to this shirt line with enthusiasm. The Pendleton wool shirt became a wardrobe staple.

Pendleton wool shirt, Taylor Painter photography

Of course, you become a part of this history every time you choose a Pendleton shirt. The limited Edition Guide Shirt is available at and other retailers. Enjoy some special shots of this shirt taken by Portland photographer Taylor Painter, who you should immediately follow on Instagram.

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Before they were the Beach Boys, they were the Pendletones.

ed. note: Happy Summer! This post originally ran a few years ago, but with the weather like it is, we hope you’ll enjoy it again today.

In the early 1960s, a group called The Pendletones adopted their name in honor of the surf uniform of the day: Pendleton shirts worn over tee shirts with khakis. The original lineup included brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine.

The Pendletones soon changed their name to the Beach Boys . Even though only one member of the group had ever been on a surfboard, they sang about the California surfing scene; waves, sunshine, cars and girls. This might have been simple subject matter, but layered instrumentation and soaring harmonies made these songs anything but simple. Under the unique artistic leadership of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys defined surf music. And though their name changed, their uniform didn’t. The band wore this blue and charcoal plaid shirt on the covers of 45s and LPs throughout the early 1960s.

The Beach Boys’ Pendleton shirts were part an existing trend. When surfing came to California in the late 1950s, surfers devised performance wear: swim trunks and plaid Pendleton shirts over a layer of Vaseline. Surfers wore the same shirts over light pants on the shore, and a fashion trend was born.

This look hit the radio 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.”

That’s a Pendleton shirt  cover of that 45, even though they named the song after the pants. You can give it a listen here, and don’t be surprised if you start singing along.  But let’s get back to the shirt made so popular by the Beach Boys.

In 2002, Pendleton celebrated eight decades of Pendleton shirts by bringing back iconic shirts from each decade. To celebrate the 1960s, we brought back the Board Shirt in the same plaid seen on all those record covers. We officially named it the Blue Beach Boys Plaid.

The shirt has stayed in the line ever since. We’ve used it in caps, hats, bags and jackets. It’s still made in the original 100% virgin Umatilla wool as it was back then, but we’ve interpreted it in rayon for campshirts and cotton for sleepwear.

We have done a few colorations of the plaid. Whether it’s in blue, coral,  rust or olive,  the pattern is easily recognizable.

Because of its strong ties to surfing history and culture, this pattern was used in key collaborations with Hurley and VANS in the late 2000s.

There is a discussion now and then in Pendleton’s Menswear division about which is our most enduring men’s item of all time. Some say it’s the Topster, the shirt jacket that defined collegiate wear in the 1950s and 60s. Some say it’s the Westerley cardigan worn by the Dude in “The Big Lebowski.” Others claim the honor for the Beach Boys Board Shirt.

This shirt is almost as beloved as the band that made it famous! It’s one of our top-sellers each year, regularly chosen by winners of the wool shirt giveaways we have on our Menswear Facebook page, and still worn by surfers, boarders, musicians, sons and fathers. The shirt is still going strong, and so are the Beach Boys. The band is currently out on tour, and they still love Pendleton.

Patriotic Blankets for July 4th

We have woven many blankets that celebrate American patriotism over the years, from the Grateful Nation and Code Talker blankets that celebrate the contributions of our veterans, to retired blankets like Chief Eagle and Home of the Brave.

Here are two beautiful blankets that summon the patriotic spirit of this Independence Day.

Dawn’s Early Light:


“O say can you see by the dawn’s early light.” These words were penned on the back of an envelope in 1814 by young lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key. Key was held captive on a Royal Navy ship as British ships in Chesapeake Bay bombarded Fort McHenry throughout the night. When dawn broke, the fort was still standing, the American flag still waving. It was a turning point in the war of 1812, and the birth of our national anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner.” This blanket, woven in our American mills, commemorates the Bicentennial of that momentous morning in U.S. history. Fifteen red and white stripes and stars represent those on the flag at that time. Each star is shaped like an aerial view of the fort, which was built in the shape of a five-pointed star. Striations and imprecise images give the design a vintage Americana look.

Brave Star:

Brave_StarThis contemporary interpretation of the American flag is a celebration of the patriotism of Native Americans. In 1875 Indian Scouts carried messages from fort to fort in the West. Native American soldiers saw action with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in Cuba. And soldiers from many tribes battled in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and Iraq. Five Native Americans have been awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery “above and beyond the call of duty.” The design marries modern asymmetry and vintage Americana. The unique striations, using pulled out yarns, reflect an era when dyes were made from plants.

Have a great Fourth!


Mad for Mad Men

As much as we dislike half seasons, the decision to spread Mad Men’s last episodes over two years puts off the inevitable, painful farewell to a fascinating show.

We’ve seen Pendleton on Mad Men’s men, in robes and Topsters. Peggy disguised her pregnancy under the waistband of an ever-higher Pendleton reversible skirt–or Turnabout as it was called back then.


The early seasons captured an iconically Pendleton look. The characters seemed to step right out of a Ted Rand illustration.








Time has passed in the world of Mad Men, and the characters are wearing miniskirts and bell bottoms. As always, the costumes are pitch-perfect.  And, as always, we will be watching–for just as long as we can.



“The Pendleton” featuring Luke Ditella for PONYBOY


We’re just a little bit crazy for these images shot by PO­­­NYBOY featuring Luke Ditella in vintage Pendleton wool shirts. Luke is a surfer (read about him at The Surfer’s View ) who works with Click Models NY.


As the magazine says, “We were pleased to feature Luke, and his rugged good-looks worked so well for this story.” He models an array of classic Pendleton plaids from tartan to exploded to ombre to check to glen to windowpane, shown tucked into high-waisted vintage wool dress slacks.


And, he wears a solid wool shirt reminiscent of the Tony shirt we have at this spring.


Based on the plaids and lengths of the collar points, we see shirts from nearly every decade we’ve been making wool shirts in our nine decades of quality shirtmaking. Check out our Instagrams tagged #pendleton9decades to see some of the recreated shirts we’re doing this fall to celebrate. And you can follow Luke’s Instagram at LUKEDITELLA.

See the full Ponyboy feature here with many more shirts.


Serapes for Spring


Ah, the serape. Just looking at it makes you happy. This blanket reads modern, but it has been around a long time.

The serape’s roots are in the Mexican weaving tradition, but it is now common to both Spanish and Native American textiles. Here’s a photo of a Native family in a historic Babbitt Brothers wagon with a serape peeking over the edge. This was taken in the Southwest, where the Babbitts plied (and still ply) their trade.


Colorful, sturdy and functional, this blanket shawl was part of life in the traditional Mexican home. It could serve as clothing, bedding and shelter!

The serape is known by many names throughout Mexico, including chamarro, cobiga, and gaban. It can be woven of a variety of materials and patterns but is generally lighter in weight. Different regions use different palettes, from the elegant neutrals of the Mexican highlands to the bold gradients of Coahuila.

Pendleton’s serapes are woven of 82% wool/18% cotton in bands of gradient colors to achieve that beautiful eye-popping dimensional effect. This is your perfect spring and summer blanket, just waiting to be invited along wherever you go.

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All made in the USA and available at .

Buffalo Exchange

A brand builds a base in many ways. Pendleton has been around long enough that we have fans who’ve been shopping with us since the second World War. We also have generations of brand fans who have come to us through vintage shopping.

That’s why were were especially excited to be featured in the in-store publication of Buffalo Exchange.

WEB_coversThey have a nice write-up about our brand history, with photos featuring apparel from our mens, womens and The Portland Collection, as well as some of our blankets.


And, they have an accurate shirt label guide on the last page.


We’d like to point out that the “2000s” example is from The Portland Collection. On Menswear, the label you’ll see is more like this one:


Thanks, Buffalo Exchange! If you are a vintage shopper, please check them out.


Visit Pendleton’s Past in Downtown Portland

Through February 28th, Pendleton’s history is on display at the Oregon Historical Society. This beautiful building on Portland’s South Park Blocks is very near Portland State University and the Portland Art Museum. Sounds like a great day downtown, doesn’t it?


The exhibit is a fun way to learn just how Pendleton is woven into Oregon’s history. The desk on display was an old oak roll-top from our corporate headquarters. It was reserved for use by the mill manager when he made his way to Portland from Washougal. Our current manager may have opened a laptop on it a time or two, but times have changed and the desk sat unused for decades.

As we approached the 150th anniversary of the opening of Thomas Kay’s mill, our visual manager, Shelley Prael, decided to incorporate the desk into a display at a sales meeting. When she opened the drawers, she found them full of items belonging to Thomas Kay’s nephew, C.P. Bishop, who used the desk in the old Bishop’s store in Salem.

Numerous treasures, including his college yearbooks, journal and eyeglasses, were accessioned into our archives. But don’t worry, some are on loan to the exhibit, along with other artifacts and a timeline that takes you from 1863 to the present.

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More information here.

1932 Olympic Blankets

Ah, Olympic fever. Despite mixed reactions to the USA uniforms (thanks to Lizzie for this post) and some alarming tweets from the press about the hotels, we’re still excited for the official opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Most fans have been watching the skating and snowboarding, enjoying the games in advance of the opening ceremonies.

Of course, Pendleton has an Olympic connection. In 1932, we won the commission to provide blankets to the Olympics. Here is a photo of the blankets leaving on a train for Los Angeles.


There are several known colorways for these blankets. In our archives, we have only one, with a very warm color scheme. There are also a light blue and a brights-on-white patterns out there, but we haven’t been able to track down examples. There might even be more. Here is our archival blanket.

WEB_1932 Olympic blanketHere is a close-up of the label.


That’s a VERY CLOSE close up, isn’t it? Even so, the label is worn enough that you might want the label’s text:

100% Virgin Wool

Olympic fever is nothing new, and Pendleton traded on it with themed displays.

1932_Olympic_Display1In the displays, mannequins wear tasteful blanket coats that look modern. We are not sure if those were sewn and offered for sale by Pendleton, or sewn just for display to encourage consumers to get creative with the blankets. Pendleton did manufacture labeled blanket coats for women over the years, but our first women’s sportswear line debuted in 1949 with our 49’er jacket as the centerpiece.

1932_Olympic_Display2And yes, at $7.95, you can’t beat that price.

It has been a winter of winters here in the US, so as you sit back and enjoy the competition this year, we hope you stay warm. And if you have an example of the other colors of the Pendleton blankets, drop us a line! We would love some color photos.

Children and the Mills


We are haunted by this beautiful shot of a young girl in the North Carolina mill where she worked. It was taken by Lewis Hines, who took over 5,000 photos of children while working for the National Child Labor Committee in the early 1900s. This photo is part of a feature in the Charlotte Observer about the efforts to identify unnamed subjects of those photos.

Child labor was part of life in early textile mills. Our own founder, Thomas Kay, got his start in Yorkshire mills as a bobbin boy in the 1840s. According to Wikipedia, “A bobbin boy was a boy who worked in a textile mill in the 18th and early 19th centuries. He would bring bobbins to the women at the looms when they called for them, and collected the full bobbins of spun cotton or wool thread. They also would be expected to fix minor problems with the machines. Average pay was about $1.00 a week, with days often beginning at 5:30 am and ending around 7:30 pm six days a week.”


The boy above is Tony Soccha, a bobbin boy in the Chicopee, Massachusetts mill. And if you would like to know who the pensive little girl is in the photo above,  you can read the full story here.


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