Duck Head University – A Legacy Brand Triumphs.

Duck Head has done something remarkable that I wanted to bring to your attention. We have seen how not to reinvigorate a legacy brand (ahem) right? This release from Duck Head is a masterclass in how TO do it. Let me explain.

The Fall/Winter Collection just got released and I had a chance to review it. It is pitch perfect in accomplishing what I think J. Crew was trying to do in that it has the perfect trad flavor for traditionalists, it has enough innovation for those like me who like to mix it up just a little, it has an interpretation of some Ivy that is great if you want to experiment and know you will succeed, and the collection is offered at a price point that makes Ivy accessible while representing the quality of the clothing.

When you have enough pieces in your collection that you can create a category called University, then we all know we are on safe ground. Here:

Ball. Out. Of. Park.

Or… here.


The other thing that this collection accomplishes is a geographical expansion. Duck Head pretty much owns Southern Ivy. But flipping through the pieces, I don’t see anything that wouldn’t be right at home here in Bedford. Or anywhere in New England. (Or anywhere period, for that matter.)

Exhibit A. The Mallard Tie. Which you would wear to Thanksgiving in Boston, too.

You don’t become a legacy brand without mastering the details. Collar spread. Palette. Button material. Pattern ratio. All the details are right in the middle of the Ivy wheelhouse. Still, as I say, younger reader I am looking at you – Duck Head was not afraid to mix it up a little. And, as I say, we have seen that… not work? Here, literally everything works. An example of something I could not pull off but would be at home on campus:

The Classic Fit Camo Gold School Chino. If your years on campus were a few decades behind us now, you might be saying, “Pass.” BUT, if your age starts with a 1, 2, or 3, you might be saying, “Hells yeah.”

At any rate, if you waited to read this whole article before clicking over, you don’t have to scroll to the top again. Congratulations to Duck Head on a fantastic presentation. An introduction to Ivy for some at an accessible entry point, classic pieces for others, and a few proposals for entry into the Ivy canon.


25 Comments on "Duck Head University – A Legacy Brand Triumphs."

  1. Duck Head has its roots in Nashville but it left its heart in Boston: Nantucket Reds, Mallard-embroidered neckties perfect for Thanksgiving on Beacon Hill, and chinos made from organic cotton.

    Move over, Polo Ralph Lauren. Duck Head has all its ducks in a row.

  2. Remember them from the ’80s. mostly for t-shirt and shorts/khakis, so it’s nice to see them around again. My main gripe here is that the khakis all seem to have stretch in them, a dealbreaker for me, but overall this seems alright if you want a slightly more subdued Vineyard Vines look.

  3. Hardbopper | August 6, 2023 at 6:43 pm |

    The necktie(s) (and belts) could work. I’d have to try it to see if it knots well. I’m in the nude for fall.

  4. Charlottesville | August 7, 2023 at 9:22 am |

    I discovered Duck Head khakis in the 1980s, when they were a well-made alternative to Corbin, Hertling, Berle and the others supplying 100% cotton khakis to college-town shops. I would buy them long and have them cuffed, and use a razor blade to remove the stitched-on label from the rear, making them nearly indistinguishable from their more-expensive counterparts. As I recall the price was about $35, which is comparable to today’s $98.

    I prefer on-seam pockets and could do without the stretch component and visible logo, but it is better than much of what I see around. I wish the company well.

  5. whiskeydent | August 7, 2023 at 9:44 am |

    The collection looks great, but I have a quibble that applies to other brands. As an Air Force brat and past duck hunter, I think camo is worn for killing things — people and animals. I will never understand why guys want to wear it beyond a battlefield or duck blind.

    I realize it could just be me. It probably IS just me. But still…

    • It’s not just you, W.

    • John Burton | August 7, 2023 at 2:58 pm |

      It isn’t just guys. At my gym, ladies wear camo exercise pants.

    • Charlottesville | August 7, 2023 at 4:56 pm |

      Same here, Whiskeydent and Hardbopper. Camo always looks odd to me when worn off the hunting field.

      • John Burton | August 7, 2023 at 5:32 pm |

        On the other hand, the camo is DH’s #1 selling item since the launch.

        • Charlottesville | August 8, 2023 at 10:40 am |

          Of course, I recognize that the company is in business to make money, and traditional products are not generally the big sellers. My pick of the DH lineup would be the khaki or stone color, but then I am not the target customer.

          I had not noticed camo as a fashion item. Out in the hinterland where I live (at the foot of the Blue Ridge, about 20 miles west of Charlottesville), there are a lot of hunters, and they are the ones I mostly see wearing camouflage, whether on or off the hunting field. The city version of camo reminds me of the lumberjack look that was popular in NYC 3 or 4 years ago. To each his own.

  6. MacMcConnell | August 7, 2023 at 4:43 pm |

    I’ve always thought of Duck Head as upland game hunting gear growing up in the South. I seem to recall quail hunters wearing briar front pants. I don’t think I ever saw college kids wearing Duck Head till the 1980s. The soft shoulder clothing shops I shopped and worked at never stocked them. All that said, they seem to make a good product.

  7. Southeast V | August 7, 2023 at 8:06 pm |

    Full cut, soft, all-cotton, plain front khakis for below $20 a pair in the early ’90s. Just an observation.

  8. Expat Yank | August 8, 2023 at 7:17 am |

    DH chinos were standard issue at my Southern university. It’s great to see they are both holding the line yet pushing boundaries. Bravo.

  9. Rugbys look ok. Zero collar roll button downs (made in Indonesia), with alpha sizing, for more than Kamakura, inclusive of shipping? Hard pass.

    Khakis, also imported? Nah, will pay 2x for Bill Thomas’s, which will last. Do like the mallard tie.

    I will say the shorts are fine, once the duck logo tab is removed. Had to buy a few pair up here on MDI last summer. Don’t believe they restocked DH this summer.

    This version of DH does seem to have more legs (wings?) than the prior 700 versions, even without Bill Thomas.

    • John Burton | August 8, 2023 at 2:11 pm |

      Hi Rake, DH may not be for you, BECAUSE you will pay 2x for Bill Thomas’ – the point is that they have created ANYTHING that you would say ok to (not an easy room) and that to attract people who may not want to spend 2x (to be fair I have DH khakis that are now 3 years old and are fantastic) or may not have 2x to spend, this is a fantastic next step in Ivy. And the logo is part of any legacy brand.

      • Re: logos – Really? Where’s the logo on Andover Shop and J Press khakis?

        I have a pink DH shaggy dog from a 5-8 yrs ago that’s great. This version seems like a more authentic iteration of the brand, and that’s a positive thing, even if I’m not a buyer, but if you can’t create an Oxford with an acceptable roll what are we even doing here?

      • Some points well taken. Saying again because my follow up seems to be lost in moderation: regarding logos being an important part of legacy brands, where are the logos on Andover Shop, J Press, and heck, even J Crew khakis/ chinos?

  10. John Burton | August 8, 2023 at 4:17 pm |

    Christopher, my email is Please do write me.

  11. Commonwelth Colonel | August 9, 2023 at 11:06 am |

    Growing up in the late 90s, early 2000s I remember always having that Gold Duck head logo patch above my back, right pants pocket. I was in college when this revitalization started and have been happy to see it since!

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