Chinos (khakis), polo shirts, a braided leather belt and penny loafers: the mallard Duck Head staring out from a sea of bright yellow was as much a part of the 80’s preppy uniform as any of these. Not just the universal label for conservative prepsters, Duck Head clothing represents the patriotism of the American people.
In 1865, brothers George and Joe O’Bryan created the O’Bryan Bros Co., makers of rugged work clothing. Much like Levi Strauss of Levi Denim, the O’Bryan Bros. took a non-clothing material and turned it into tough and dependable clothing. ‘Duck’ cloth was a sturdy fabric used for tents, but it also happened to produce durable work clothes. The trademarked name became ‘Duck Head’ instead of just ‘Duck’ because of its availability at the Trademark Registration office.
In the 1930’s, Duck Head contributed to the war effort by producing the khaki uniforms of the United States military. After the war, Duck Head returned to work clothes, this time specializing in western wear. The company turned to country music because it represented a traditional, down-home lifestyle as represented best by country star Hank Williams. The craze for western wear exploded, and Duck Head was there to create fashionable but rugged duds for cowboys and cowgirls.
The 80’s label-conscious market popularized Duck Head for a whole new generation. Young, urban professionals (yuppies) adopted Duck Head as their casual wardrobe: a prestigious label for a relaxed look. The conservative youngsters, aiming to emulate their mentors, made Duck Head their label of choice.
Though the 80’s have passed, the Duck Head continues to grace casual wear stylish enough for Casual Fridays, but rugged enough for Saturdays.