Above image: 1620 Workwear Founders Ted De Innocentis, left, and Josh Walker. Image source: 1620 Workwear.
A New American-Made Brand of Hardworking Apparel
Launched in 2016, 1620 Workwear offers a new kind of workwear to hardworking people who need tough and functional clothing. Using modern textile technology and consumer-focused construction methods, the 1620 Workwear brand appears to be fitting nicely into a niche market of workers who want higher quality, longer-lasting work clothes. Initial purchase pricing may seem steep compared to dominating workwear brands. However, the brand makes good economic sense if one pair of 1620 pants outlasts the several cheaper pair that could have been purchased for the same price.
Here’s how the 1620 website describes it:
The average working guy goes through 5-8 pair of pants a year at an average price of $49. Our pants are proven to be 10X tougher than traditional cotton canvas work pants while providing you with significantly increased range of movement. Reducing fatigue and increasing safety on the jobsite.
My Interview with 1620 Co-Founder Josh Walker
I had a chance to talk with 1620 Workwear co-founder Josh Walker about how the company. I wanted to know more about how it started and what kind of value it offers to the American working man. Here’s what I learned.
How did the 1620 Workwear brand come to fruition?
Founders Ted De Innocentis and Josh Walker were long-time friends, both with early ties to the ski industry. De Innocentis previously worked in the outdoor industry dealing with fabrics and clothing design, and Walker worked in the supply chain of things. According to Walker, “We have always wanted to work together and the stars kind of aligned back in 2016 and we have been going strong ever since.”
Walker said that they knew they could have chosen to produce other categories, like outdoor gear, if they wanted to. But they settled on workwear because “we saw that the workwear market has been devalued over the years and we did some research. It turns out there is a market for really well built and designed workwear.
Why are 1620 Workwear products a little more expensive than other work brands?
There are a few reasons behind 1620 Workwear’s higher prices. Their products are completely American made. Any product that is 100% American sourced and manufactured is going to be more expensive. Another reason is that the company has its own proprietary materials. For instance, 1620 Workwear designs its own high-quality fabrics for specific features. Here’s how Walker explained it:
“The first thing is that everything is made in the United States. 100 percent made in the U.S. We get our fabric here and we have our clothing sewn and made in a few different places, but almost 90% here in Massachusetts.
We also designed our own fabric that is made specifically for 1620 — a super-tough material like cotton, but stretchy and durable. We have our NYCO and Dura-stretch, with our special touch on it. Our blend of NYCO costs a little bit more than normal materials like cotton or polyester, so that is a factor. But the end result is a super tough material that moves with you and will last the owner a long time in tough working conditions.”
Raising the Work Wear Standard
American workwear has changed over the years In the past two centuries, these changes have mostly been good compared to previous times. For instance, when Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss invented denim in 1873, it was a major advancement. But in recent decades many big-name manufacturers have focused on driving prices down. That shift has been accompanied by a predictable decline in quality. When De Innocentis and Walker started 1620 Workwear, they took a look at the industry and decided that they wanted to counter the devaluation that they saw in the workwear industry.
What do you mean when you say the workwear industry has been de-valued?
“…workwear used to be fairly well-built with some good design features. However, over time, companies started copying popular designs in the market (instead of focusing on performance features specific to work clothing). Also, pricing declined as quality and durability declined. Now you have brands that used to be staples in the workwear arena that aren’t better than any other brand but are a known workwear company. That is where we wanted to come on and change things for the better, and also be completely transparent about how we are doing things.”
Value Explained— Proven by a 50% Repeat Customer Rate
I asked Walker how he explains the value of 1620 Workwear construction and features to customers.
How do you get that across to the guy that is going to be busting his ass for 12 hours at a time in your pants or shirts?
At the 1620 Workwear headquarters in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Walker says people stop in to take a look at their products. Most of the time visitors don’t understand why the garments are priced higher than competition workwear until they try them on. One of the key features of the 1620 brand is that the fabric, cut, and design are carefully fashioned to decrease worker fatigue and increase production.
“We end up just having guys trying stuff on and it completely changes their mind. A lot of them can’t believe how comfortable and flexible our products for workwear (are). We sell a ton of stuff that way.
It is very hard to explain how less fatiguing the correct fabric and cut of a product can make people on job sites. Less fatiguing also translates to guys being safer on job sites and overall more productive. At the end of the day we have almost a 50% repeat customer rate, and that speaks for itself.”
Detailed for Functionality on the Job
When I took a look at some 1620 products, I noticed a lot of design details that just aren’t common in most workwear. Besides the high-quality construction out of modern fabrics, the workwear has lots of details that improve functionality. A quick look at the 1620 Workwear Facebook page indicates that customers seem to appreciate the details.
What kind of feedback is 1620 getting on the articulation that goes into your finished product?
Walker said, ” We are getting a ton of good feedback on the way we are doing things. We have a few main things that we take into consideration when we are coming up with a design. We covered the modern fabric part and the good construction of the overall product, but we also focus on detailed functionality aspect. If we can shift a pocket to make a pants pocket more functional or makes more sense for the guy that is going to be wearing them, then we are going to do that regardless of cost.”
Customer reviews suggest that the company is succeeding in its goal. Here are just a few comments I found in the review section:
“Hands down the best, most comfortable and durable work pant I’ve ever used.”
“I don’t know how they can make money these things never wear out!”
“The designers knew what they wanted to do and executed their idea perfectly, using great materials and excellent craftsmanship. I could not be more pleased with my purchase.”
“Tough as hell, materials from the USA, made in the USA by an American grown company. Worth every damn penny.”
Fully Tested Brand Design
Many companies employ individuals to represent the company and talk about products in a positive way with the intention of persuading shoppers to make a purchase. These people are called brand ambassadors. They are an important element in brand image. But in the interview, I learned that 1620 Workwear brand ambassadors have a more integral role in product design.
I see that you guys have a work crew or what some people would call Brand Ambassadors?
“We do and they are very valuable to us. They are normal everyday people that work hard every day and spend most of their time in some form of workwear. So, we thought why not have some people that are awesome at their chosen craft and help out the type of person we are making workwear for.
Another reason these guys are valuable to us is because we don’t just make a new jacket or pants and release them for sale. We design a product and fully test and evaluate the design for a few seasons before we put our stamp of approval on it and release it to sell. That’s something that a lot of workwear companies will not put time or money into. We believe that is something that is very valuable to us and will continue to do. It is also nice to get an honest answer about making a design change or tweak to make our products that much better before it gets released to the public.”
Now that the company has a couple of years under its belt, I wanted to know what it has planned for the future.
BBC: What are the future plans for 1620 Workwear?
“We are going to continue to expand our line of workwear, but at the same time make sure that we can keep up with the supply chain for our current products that we offer. We don’t want to grow too quick and not be able to get the blue-collar guys the products they have grown to love and depend on.”