Thursday, 21 August 2014

Making Heritage Contemporary – The Pike Brothers Wabash Series

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

I’ll make this clear from the outset, Pike Brothers is one of my favourite labels.
Pike’s core line, focussing on European and American inspired military and workwear, speaks to my depths. One of their guiding principles is that their clothes, whilst remaining true to first principles, still function as practical working garments.
With the release of their new Wabash series – a couple of waistcoats and a jean – they’re expanding this range whilst staying true to their roots.

A Striped History

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

Although mostly associated with railroad workers, the Wabash fabric has seen much wider use. Its ruggedness makes it perfect for heavy labour. Just like Hickory stripe, it gives a different appearance to work attire, smartening up the workman’s wardrobe.

In the early stages of Wabash production, stripes or dots where resist dyed. However, from approximately the 1930s onwards, to speed up production, patterns where woven in.
Pike’s fabric has been made to these standards; a shuttle loom weaving the stripes into the fabric.

A Question of Modern Fit

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

The fit is fairly relaxed, with 3 outer patch pockets and an inner pocket. It’s also lined with a layer of grey cotton twill.
Yes, this is a heritage garment, but it’s been cut slightly longer than vintage examples would have been. I guess the motive was to accommodate today’s lower waistlines.
I particularly like the real ivory nut buttons – and the little detailing quirks like the selvedge on the coat hook.

The waistcoat is available in both grey and blue 13 oz. Wabash denim. The jeans are based on Pike’s 1942 Hunting Pant, and for now are just available in grey Wabash.

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

As ever, Pike Brothers suggest that you wear their stuff in from dry – the denim is sanforized, but my previous experience with their jeans is that you’ll loose just under an inch off the leg after a pre wear warm soak. Either way I’m looking forward to seeing how this Wabash ages.

All the rugged Pike detailing we’ve come to expect is there; the heavy bar tacking and lock stitched hems. Another definite period feature is the D ring and watch pocket. There are little flourishes too. The decorative stitching on the front pockets looks fantastic, yet is still functional, helping to reinforce a natural stress point.

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

The jeans are cut quite traditionally – with a loose fit and mid-rise, brace buttons, and zinc cinch at the back to adjust the waist. The 1940’s were very much a cross over period when it came to braces vs. belt, so there are also belt loops.

Call me obsessive when it comes to buttons, but it would have been great to see the same ivory nut used for the brace buttons, rather than the coated metal ones they sport now. Still, they're meant to be a rugged working trouser, right?

My only other slight grumble is that it would have been useful to have cinch on the waistcoat too. (However, that’s perhaps the author’s fault for being a skinny bugger.)

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

A Modern Take on the Past

With the Wabash series, especially in terms of how it has been cut and made, I think Pike has perfectly struck the balance of taking 19th century heritage and making it relevant and stylish for today. Arguably, this is a challenge faced by the wider heritage fashion industry.

Now, I can’t be the only one out there thinking that Pike Brothers need to release a matching Wabash jacket? My covert mission to look like Al Swearengen from Deadwood will then be complete!
You can check out the Pike Brothers Wabash series here.

Pike Brothers Wabash Series