Duck Head has been sitting on the bench since the last time the heritage brand fowled out. Now it’s back in the apparel game with a new coach, or rather owner: Oxford Industries, which also owns the Tommy Bahama and Southern Tide brands.
You can see by the newly relaunched Duck Head website that they’re aiming at a customer they already know. The model is not a scrawny kid but a well seasoned man of fifty. He also rides a motorcycle. And whereas the guy in charge was a Ralph Lauren alum who wanted to create a preppy brand, the new feel is more workwear.
The chino is priced at $114 and features an extra-fancy rear label:
And a button that’s just ducky:
Shirts continue the workwear theme with denim, chambray and plaid:
The polo comes with a logo, of course, but the logo on the oxford is a bit different from other brands:
And as with any heritage brand revival, there are plenty of t-shirts to help spread the word.
May the brand once again take flight, and this time remain airborne. — CC
No way I’d pay that for imported pants that have spandex in them. I also wouldn’t wear any of their shirts. I am from the South and have fond memories of Duck Head from my youth, but it sure seems like this company will die again soon.
Note the Triumph moto. 😉
Spandex, WTF! Spandex is for foundation garment waist bands and the tops of socks. OK it’s also football pants.
Truth is, it seems like everybody is doing this. Personally I like the wrinkled look.
Doesn’t answer the question of why people should buy from them instead of Bill’s for a wider selection of US-made goods at around the same price.
I’ll pass. LL Bean’s khakis are less than half of that price and without the silly marketing (and half tucked shirts). The LLB Double L khakis are excellent quality and fit well. They’ve managed to make non-iron look like must iron.
Of course I’ve been keeping an eye on this (my Duck Head fetish being long- and well-chronicled in these pages), and when the new website went up, I looked for any info. on where the new duds are manufactured. Not finding any, I actually posted an inquiry to the site asking where the fabrics are made, and the clothing assembled, and have never received a response.
Like JLH and Paul, I have fond memories of Duck Heads. While essentially work pants, they were well-made, traditionally cut, all-cotton khakis with an alterable waist and on-seam (or slightly angled) pockets for about 50-60% of the cost of the more refined Corbin or Berle khakis which were also available at the Virginia college town shops, like Eljo’s in Charlottesville or Alvin-Dennis in Lexington. They were pre-hemmed with a plain bottom which was acceptable for play clothes, but I would buy them several inches too long, and have them cuffed. I also razored off the yellow label on the back which helped them to pass for dressier khakis. For a lot or students at schools like W&L, Hamden Sydney and UVA, they were part of the standard uniform, and I wore them, cords or straight-legged Levis more or less daily until I got a real job. They ran about $30 or so in the mid-80s, if I recall correctly. I think there would be a market for good, cotton pants for $75. Unfortunately, most of what I see is ether low-rise and tight, or non-iron, or both. I think Eljo’s carries a decent pair for around $100 or a little less, and I still have a couple of pairs of Bill’s Khakis hanging in the closet that may see me through for a few more years.
After I read this post I quickly flipped thru the well-worn pages of my original “Preppy Handbook” and I saw no reference to branded/logoed t-shirts as part of the preppy wardrobe. The whole point of the preppy wardrobe is a lack of self-promotion.
I’ll pass. And to quote the late, great Phil Hartman as Frank Sinatra: “Slap on all the paint you want, the house still needs renovations”.
The rear label is criminal. It’s like the middle-aged dad equivalent of those mid-aughts women’s sweatpants emblazoned with “juicy.”
I think the only way this is successful is if it catches on with the fraternities. That’s the Southern Tide market, but from my view right in the middle of it (large Southern university with an enormous Greek system), that market is flooded and these kids have no fond remembrance of Duck Head like some of us.
Thank you, no.
In keeping with CC’s theme, I find $144 a rather stiff bill.
” I saw no reference to branded/logoed t-shirts as part of the preppy wardrobe.”
As some who lives right down the road from Exeter, I can tell you that’s ALL the preppy kids wear these days. Long sleeve pocket T-shirts with big logos. Vineyard Vines, Polo, Southern Marsh, etc. It’s replaced the Oxford as the staple piece.
The depressing fact is that, if the market for Duck Heads of the type we all remember and love from our days in Southside & Tidewater Virginia was big enough, they’d already be making them just like that. Which is to say, it isn’t.
“Sometimes you need stretchy pants…” -Nacho Libre
Just watched the short video on the DH site. At least they got a model who looks like a dude and not some skinny punk who you have to look twice to tell the actual sex. This model is one I remember from M and GQ (when GQ mattered) in RL ads. That is a head of hair that I would not mind having. I believe the model must be in his late fifties or so.
Lilly Pulitzer is also an Oxford Industries brand, of course
If they would’ve launched with their legacy logo I’d have considered. The new logo is a travesty. They could’ve gotten half of us back involved via nostalgia alone if they would’ve kept a semblance of the original logo.
I used to wear their chinos religiously. Never again I suppose.
If their market is older men, I think they’re in for a surprise. I’m not impressed by logos, nor cool buttons, nor a price for imported khakis of over $110. Just got two new LLBs for less than that, and can get two Orvis top-line for just $50 or so more. Didn’t think they were anything special when they first came out, and I don’t see anything more now.
$110+ for a beat around khakis?? Come on.
Perhaps due to reading Birnbach in the 80s or just to having a preference, I cannot stand wearing khakis with slant pockets. Wouldn’t touch these.
Terrible. Why does everything have “stretch” these days. A bad idea and a bad look. They are toast.
“Why does everything have “stretch” these days.”
This is an example of a phenomenon the anthropologists have called the Fashionista Flocking
Instinct. This behavior is endemic to the apparel industry.
Both LL Bean and Lands’ End produce more-than-adequate khakis at reasonable prices.
I only wear clothes with exploded seams.
I am wearing a pair of the old Duck Head trousers now, a pair my brother had when he was at W&L (late 80s to early 90s).
A little off subject, but not much. A couple of years ago I read that Bill’s had been sold and quality there had gone to hell. Later, I read that “Bill” had moved to Dockers. Does anyone know if this is accurate and if Bill’s is unchanged quality wise?
Here we go again…. Don’t know why Oxford would want to buy the label. At best, they’ll just cannibalize sales from their Southern Tide brand. At worst, they’ll be just spinning their wheels. Just let Duckhead die with dignity and move on.
What does “quality” mean when we’re talking about khakis?
I wore DuckHead khakis–pants and shorts–throughout high school and college. The twill was lightweight, the construction was okay. Nothing very special. We expected loose seams and the sudden disappearance of buttons. The taper was slight. Certainly not the “Ivy Heyday” fit some desire nowadays. It was an inexpensive pair of pants–perfect for a high school or college student. When the outlets came along (early 90s), $75 would cover three or four (discounted) pairs. And that was sufficient for the following eight months on campus. When Bills’ Khakis arrived in the early 90s, they were a game changer because of (a.) the heft of the cloth and (b.) the full (M1) WWII-era fit. I still own and wear Bills I bought around ’94.
Orvis Ultimate Khakis are WWII hefty as well and usually cost (I think) $95. They often run discounts when you buy two. They also offer some lighter ones for the summer months.
@ Roger Sack: I don’t know anything about ‘Fashionista Flocking’, but I suspect the incorporation of ‘stretch’ is a recognition of their target customers’ early-middle-age waistlines (and I include myself in that group).
@ SE and others: Bill’s is the one brand I’e never tried, I think mostly because I’d read that their standard fit as quite balloon-ish?
One final thought: I’ve spent a lot of money on various brands of khakis in the last 5 years, including several hundred dollars on the last Duck Head re-boot; I’m sad (and a little ashamed) to say the chinos that have been the most dependable for me, in fit and feel, are *not* American-made, and are *not* in any way ‘heritage’ – they’re Old Navy’s loose-fit all-cotton khakis.(loose-fit, because their other cuts are straight gigolo)
I recognize the weirdness of walking into the office on Fridays in a pair of $25 Old Navy pants, and a $150 Mercer shirt, but that’s where things are these days.
RL Prospect pants are the best and last for decades. Bill’s a close second.
Lame. Everything on their website. You have to try really hard to get it all wrong.
There was a bad batch of sour mash go’in around about the time they were pricing those khakis.
I can’t be the only person who doesn’t care if something is American made or not. I’m ok with sweatshops as long as the product is of good quality and fit.
Maybe the revival is really geared towards current frat boys like their Southern Tide brand. “Whoa Brosef! My dad used to wear Duckhead. I’m gonna get a few shirts. Sweet.”
I’ve never seen a Duck Head product so I don’t really care about the brand. But is it just me or is there no little irony in the fact that a full handful of people commenting in response to this post appear to extol the wonders of the cheap imported clothes that have pushed so many classic brands into near-oblivion? Everyone likes a good value and there’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of if one lacks the means to purchase $150 khakis and OCBDs (though I wonder how many Ivy Style readers lack that kind of wherewithal). So many of those who lament the passing of their favorites seem to be fueling the fire of the selfsame fast fashion they bemoan.
On a related point, it was with genuine disappointment that I read this week of Cone Mills’ decision to close its White Oak selvedge denim plant, which has been supplying quality fabric for over 100 years. The reason given: competition from third world mills. Consumers’ appetite for “cheap,” over and above all else, seems insatiable. What we don’t support we can’t expect to last.
Interesting that someone mentioned the pocket tee as the new OCBD/staple for preppy kids these days. It’s all I see on campus as well.
Rojo – Your brother would have been at W&L just after I had graduated, but I bet he bought those Duck Heads at Alvin-Dennis for around $30 like the rest of us. They were perfect for a student budget. I am surprised that they have held up this long. I have a few suits and even OCBDs I bought at Brooks 30 years ago that I still wear, but even the best of my khakis (Bill’s M2 fit) seem to give up the ghost after 10 years or so of wear and laundering.
whiskeydent – Are the Orvis Ultimate Khakis no-iron? If they are heavy, must-iron cotton, I may need to try a pair. For the record, I am wearing a pair of Land’s End khakis today with a BB sack blazer and penny loafers. They’re okay, but no match for the couple of pairs of Bill’s I have left.
@ Vern Trotter – yes, according to Bill Thomas’s LinkedIn profile, we did indeed go to Levi Strauss & CO. as Director of Dockers Premium, described as “Direct and manage Dockers’ Premium growth initiative in the United States. Assess current competitive environment, expose market opportunities, identify and navigate barriers to entry, develop and execute strategies and tactics to increase brand value through elevated product design, assortment, branding and distribution” Apparently he held that title until August of this year and is now running a company called Brand Farm LLC.
As to the quality of Bills, I bought my last pair in 2015, so I couldn’t say.
They have must-iron and no-iron, though I don’t know whether the latter is as heavy. They also have that spandex-added stuff. I refuse to touch it.
And, for the record, I’m currently wearing faded Wrangler Cowboy Cut jeans, a white guayabera shirt, and dark brown roper boots. That’s a type of Texas trad but obviously not Ivy.
@Vern Trotter I’ve bought Bill’s for about twenty years. In my opinion their khakis are still top notch. Maybe even cut a little less full. Their shirts are a different story. They are hideous primarily due to a very shortened button down collar. No more of their shirts for me. I probably own thirty to forty of the old version before they ruined the collar.
Charlottesville — My brother’s Duck Head trousers from his days at W&L spent years in storage. After he graduated, I went through the clothes he brought home from Virginia but then left behind at our mother’s house, and I kept what I thought I would wear and gave away most of the rest. Somehow this pair of trousers got put into storage at her house, until I happened upon them and decided I wanted to wear them.
Does t really matter whether chinos are made in Third World sweatshops or by Third World immigrants here in the US?
Straight fit khakis here. Think Bills M1. 19″ bottoms?
One other thing: If I see another t-shirt in which the front is tucked in so you can see the belt buckle, I think I’ll just barf.
I recall the previous incarnation of duckhead (not the original) as being very perceptive to the opinions shared in this forum. I believe that one of the owners or major stakeholders even commented on one of the Ivy Style posts regarding the relaunch.
As for the newest regime, I caught this gem in the copy describing their OCBD,
“The traditional collar includes a longer collar point that will naturally develop a role for a lived-in, true prep feel.”
Duck Head would do itself a huge favor and (re)gain a huge following if it would simply manufacture and sell the 1980s version of its chino pant for a reasonable (e.g., $50-$60) price. I wear both Bills and Orvis chinos but hate paying $145 and $109, respectively.
Rojo — That explains the longevity. Thanks.
I agree wholeheartedly with you, Mr. Bandy. However, I thing they must be after a different market than those who remember the 80s version.
Whiskeydent — I think a pair of must-iron Orvis khakis are in my future. Thanks.
You’re welcome. Lemme know how the fabric compares to the must-iron pants.
Went onto the “What Price Glory” site, and they sell EM khakis, WWII repro, for $45. Has anyone had any experience with this outfit, and these pants? Seems like the answer for those who want “authentic”, but they don’t provide any specs other than “cotton”.
Dreadful execution and for the love of god why do companies splash their tacky logos on everything????
Still have two pair of Duck Head khaki shorts I bought at our local Goody’s sometime in the past decade. They finally got too tight in the waist. I think Belks carried Duck Head pants for a while in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The last few pair I had were also bought at Goody’s for $25-30 a pair. While they may have been imported, the fabric was heavier than most. I’m not paying 3 figures for khaki pants.
I’m so disappointed in this relaunch. I don’t see this lasting a year. The Prospect folks, despite their pricing, had ridiculously sharp apparel. Their presentation was carefully constructed from the new logo to the website and even catalog. Oxford’s new logo alone is awful. What’s with the feminine duck for a “masculine” brand? The website and social media are as half-ass as the clothing options. On to the next one. In the mean time I’m buying up all the old Duck Head found on clearance online.
“Re-launch” alone sounds depressing. I could get behind a Made In USA mom&pop effort, but I’m not sensing that here. Full disclosure: I was not a fan of Duck Head in the mid-80s; it was gimmicky (and NOT cheap!) even then. But are these chinos made in USA, Yes or NO? (Foreign-made, and almost exorbitantly priced.)
Not seeing this more recent post, I left a long ‘memory lane’ reply here: