02 August 2011

Frameless Duck Head

We believe what we're told and rarely trust our own instincts. A museum is as good a place to start as any. Priceless art hangs on a wall and for years people line up to look and admire. Not so much because they know anything about art, but because they've been told the painting is art and, this is always important, it's worth a shit load of money.

One day the curator learns the painting is a fake and -- what elicited so much respect -- is no longer worth looking at. So what happened? One day it's art. The next it's not. The painting didn't change but perceptions did when the authenticity was taken away.

Museums offer a frame to art. Not the one you see with the painting but the one that gives you a perception. "Well, it's a museum so this must be art." Same with a popular restaurant, "It's impossible to get a reservation so the food must be good." With wine, "Robert Parker and The Wine Spectator gave it a 90. It must be good." Art, food and wine are given a 'frame' to help our increasingly lost and vacuous culture find their way, without much effort, to the "good stuff."

And since all this is about making a buck - too many times the black velvet Elvis painting gets the nice frame while real art sits frameless and ignored in a dusty corner. When Goody's, the southern discount store, was going out of business I was traveling around a big chunk of the Southeast on business.

Goody's carried Duck Heads and I was positive their demise would spell the same for Duck Head. I stopped in every Goody's I could find and bought up every pair of plain front pants for insane discounts.

It's been a few years but Duck Heads are finally back. The classic trousers that are the sartorial symbol of the khak-i-fied south are the same shade of boiled peanuts and just as salty. Duck Head never had much of a frame. They don't need one. I know my memories connect me to these trousers in ways I can't even begin to describe.

You don't need to frame your memories -- 'cause they're something you understand and know. More Duck Head to come. In the mean time visit their web site and Face Book page.

Duck Head is offering a coupon code DHW186520 for 20% off and Free Shipping on orders over $100.


Anonymous said...

Any idea if these are Made in the USA like the old ones?

tintin said...

Anon- With the 20% discount they're $40 and that sadly means off shore. Cheapest US made khakis I've found so far are sold by Beretta for $75.

Anonymous said...

"Any idea if these are Made in the USA like the old ones?" For $50??? - not likely.

They look more refined than the old original style circa. 1980s. As I remember it, though, the old style had the front pockets on the side seam.

Todd Rehm said...

They used to be made in Winder, GA, just up the road from where I grew up. All we wore growing up.

MJP said...

Great news....I lived in Duck Head khakis in prep school and remember always seeing the factory on the road to Athens.

Charles said...

I'd love to buy these instead of those $100 Bills but I'm gonna need you to get some and tell me how awesome they are.

brohammas said...

Where does the name come from?

Farmer Jones said...

The ad provides a great counterpoint to the "aspirational" painted-on khakis currently being propounded over at Unabashedly Prep.

Seriously, if you want paint on your khakis, go paint something!

Unashamedly Crap said...

Castleberry appears to be a decent fellow with limited horizons and flawed judgement, but doing his best to earn a crust and who can blame him for that? I wish him well.

tintin said...

Anon - Pkts were on the seam. And goods were whisper thin - but they were Ducks and not much else mattered but that little yellow box over the left cheek of your butt.

Todd- North of Hotlanta and east. Those jobs are leaving and they ain't coming back. I had some clients back in the early '90s that made clothes in GA. NC too. It was another time.

Patsy said...

Completely off topic, but I don't believe I've ever had a boiled peanut. Can you even get them in the north? Worth looking for?

Kcaj said...

For the curious, I just spoke with Melissa in cutomer service. Asked her where current production is located...

M: "Not sure; let me check..."

Hold to some twangy canned muzak.

M: "That'd be off shore." Being a proud American I ask "Central America?"

M: "No. Asia"

Anyone know how to see much a water fowl trademark sells for?

Alice Olive said...

Loved reading this post. Not trying to sound corny, just loved reading it.

King Cole said...

Re: "Asia"

Change name to Peking Duck Head?

Anonymous said...

How is it that Pointer Brand can make pants in Tennessee and sell most styles for under $50?

Perhaps these Duckhead pants are not exactly the same, but are they really so much more refined that charging the same price for an outsourced product should be excused? Pointer Brand certainly offers a broader size range (another cost inefficiency).

Put another way, are these twice the Asian-made pant that LL Bean is closing out for as little as $20?

I can sympathize with sentimentality towards certain brands, but how much is that really worth?

The Pinehurst Land Rover Society said...

I believe that Andy Spade actually wrote the copy on that sample ad. He was once a copywriter you know

tintin said...

Patsy- They sell 'em off the highways in the south. They're as plentiful as Stuckys Pecan Logs in 1966. I ain't seen none north of Baltimore .

Kcaj - You came in a little broken up on that last transmission.

"Anyone know how to see much a water fowl trademark sells for?" Say again?

Alice- You are never corny.

King Cole- That's pretty good.

Anon- Three years ago I was with you -- but here's what I've learned since.

1- LL Bean probably makes a lot more khakis than Duck. A whole lot more. Consequently, they get a far better price.

2- I've seen a number of Bean Signature khakis and they're all bad. Bad construction, sewing, cut, quality. I even tested 'em here (See Khaki Tasting) where they came in dead last.

3- LL Bean khakis are not what I would call heritage. They're everywhere and nowhere and they have yet to figure that out. A shame really 'cause they could be the best-- they just gave up on being the best a long time ago.

4- I'll tell the straight skinny on Duck. If they suck and they're not worth the price -- you'll be the first to know.

Lastly, if Duck means nothing to you -- that's ok. Push off and find something that does.

tintin said...

Pinehurst- What copy?

Todd Rehm said...

I'd like to see a "heritage" version made in Georgia. For that, I'd pay $100 a pair. Sure is easier than scouring for NOS pairs and patriotic to boot.

There's a denim factory in north Georgia still. Wonder if they could do khakis.

The Pinehurst Land Rover Society said...

The body copy running down the side of the sample ad that you posted. "Four mindless minimum wage jobs....." Beside being a Land Rover nut I'm an ad guy by day.

Keep up the great work. I read you everyday

Anonymous said...

If the nostalgia makes it worth the price, fair enough. But it is just not true that the pricepoint means off shore. There are genuine American heritage brands making clothes in America for roughly the same price.

great zamboni said...

Wait- what's wrong with velvet Elvis? I'm either confused or tasteless, perhaps both.

tintin said...

Todd- Me too. I'd pay $195 for a recreation of the original canvas duck.

Anon 19:42- who?

Zambo - where have you been? At Holiday Inn art sales?

Anonymous said...

Lived in Duck Heads throughout college and after. Would love to see the brand revived, but no sale on low-quality Made in China stuff.

Anonymous said...

What do you think of the painted one's like Castleberry fabricated on Unabashedly Prep?

Anonymous said...

"... the sartorial symbol of the khak-i-fied south are the same shade of boiled peanuts and just as salty."

Nice writing.

For some reason my framed memories do not involve pants, but instead, jackets and coats. And shoes.


tintin said...

Pinehurst- Are you near Camp McCall? Some old stomping grounds for me.

I know what you meant by copy. I was just trying to be a smart ass since the copy isn't what I'd call copy but the idea of the ad is simple and effective - at least for me. I think people who have had a history with Duck can tell you a lot of stories about their pants. That's the beauty of it. The story isn't made up.

Anon 19:42- Your comment is very much appreciated.

About 6 months ago I had a US trouser maker in PA whip up three pair of pants. Upon wearing a pair a number of openings, 1 -2", wide, appeared along the side seams. I took them to Julie Hertling who inpsected the holes and he told me the thread was wrong for the fabric and the fabric was wrong for the pant. In short, the pants were shoddy. I have secured a pr of the same type pant made in China and they're amazingly solid and far better put together than the PA PAnt. I intend to have a expert take both pair of pants apart and report back.

Anon 20:56 See above and be not so quick to judge.

Anon 00:57 I took a look. I think there's a common desire among the young to distress things so they look old before their time and give them a status they're looking for. I have only this advice - You'll be 50 before you know it. I have a couple Battenkill bags from 1985 and they've taken on an honest patina. And that's why I love 'em. The idea of beating the shit outta of 'em when they were new was no more a thought of mine than was buying a Porsche kit car. You either get that or you don't.

tintin said...

DB- You forgot sweaters:


Anonymous said...

But of course! Nice remembering, Tintin. Include in the mix my body-hugging black Navy watch sweater - you know, for all those times I spent watching for bogies from the bridge of the just-surfaced submarine...


Anonymous said...

I wore Duck Heads all through high school and college. I haven't worn Ducks Heads in the decades sense. It's Bill's exclusively for me these days, but for nostalga I ordered a pair just to try. I'll have them by weeks end and let everyone know my thoughts. I'm a tough fit and I'm pretty picky, so I'm hopeful but not overly optimistic.

Anonymous said...

(New)Castlebeery is a puff.

18milesperhour.com said...

Andy Spade did indeed write these. Always loved the writing. He even mentions "a coat check girl named Kate" in one. That would be THAT Kate Spade. Good stuff.

tintin said...

18 Miles- He even mentions "a coat check girl named Kate" in one.

THAT would be this ad.

J Henley said...

I was with Duck Head back when Andy worked on this ad-campaign. He and his team spent time on the UGA campus buying "duck heads" from college kids they saw wearing them. The chinos along with the stories collected and featured in these ads were as authentic as the M35 model that was still being made in Monroe, GA just down the highway from Winder GA.

tintin said...

J Henley- Many thanks for your contribution and insight. Wonderful to get the background on the ad as well as the brand.

Unclelooney said...

Duck Head was a hunting/work clothes company who made a lotta stuff outta duck cloth. They tried to trade mark that term but could not so they called the company Duck head. In the late 70's their sales manager noticed the resurgence of interest in 60's collegiate style and had the factory make up some chinos. he shopped 'em around at campus shops and school bookstores, created the logo and and a southern college boy staple. Duck heads were actually the first all cotton chinos (in the '80s) sold around here. Tatters, a used clothing store carried them. otherwise you made do with the 60/40 blend Oshkoshes.(Why Oshkosh did not try to move into the same market is beyond me)

Anonymous said...

My Duck Heads arrived today and as promised I am writing again with my observations and opinions. The entire shipment goes back tommorrow for reasons of fit, fashion and perceived value. Read on only if you need more details.

The shorts I ordered are made in China. The polo in Pakistan. The craft is good but not stellar. Department store brands and mail order catalogs rival the same quality and for about $20 less.

The fit is trimmer than the 1980's version I remember. (In fairness to Duck Head my fit is less trim now than in the eighties.) It seems Duck Head and I have grown apart!

I ordered my true waist size but found the shorts run one size small. My 42 waist measures only 40 1/2". The front rise measures 12" from top of waist band to crotch seam. The rear rise measures 16" from same coordinates. The inseam is just shy of 10" and the leg opening is 24" in diameter.

The pockets are plenty deep but the material is thin. I suspect the pockets will suffer piling after a few launderings and probably puncture after dropping in ones keys repeatedly.

The plastic buttons are etched with the shorts namesake but the stitching is suspect and minus any slack to ease buttoning and unbuttoning or to alleviate stress when buttoned. The buttonhole stitching is clean.

The navy shorts are not the 1980's purplish blue that got better with each washing. Instead they are the same ole same ole navy.

The logo label is just like I remember but at age 42 I have outgrown wearing tags. This tag is especially noticeable which may have served me well in a high school obsessed with labels but which seems juvenile now.

I will same my pennies and continue to buy Bill's because not even a rush of nostaglia can make these Duck Heads "go-to" pants.

Anonymous said...

I'm a copywriter and this is one of my all time favorites. There's another one that talks about seeing the Replacements and spending a summer painting houses. Andy may have "written" these ads, but I took a portfolio class taught by the agency copywriter on the account at the time. He looked like these pants.


tintin said...

DH offered to send me some apparel to test. Still waiting.

Danny- Thanks for that. Would love to know some history on the copywriter who taught the class. I'm doing a story on DH for another publication. Would you email me at the.trad@yahoo.com ?

Jeff said...

Those pants won't do for you what these will:


Derry said...

Miss those Duckheads. Broughton High School (Raleigh) was literally a sea of Duckheads in the mid 80's. I had them in khaki, grey, green, and (as a previous poster astutely mentioned) that "purple-ish navy blue." Wore 'em all through HS and college. I even wrote a poem about my favorite pair: cold February Dove hunts, frat parties, a pissed off girlfriend splashing a drink on them and washing them afterwards in the sink, gingerly, like a newborn baby. Tintin is right about the memories of Duckheads; they were very much a Southern Trad's go-to pants for pretty much anything during their heydey. Wish I could find the old kind...durable, soft as chamois with every washing, warm in winter, but not too heavy for summer.

I think those pants and that old ad might have contributed to my career choice in advertising???

Anonymous said...

Well, it looks like they're back--again--and now 100% made in the US of A, including the Cramerton cotton.

$135 ain't cheap for a pair of chinos, but it ain't as bad as it could be. www.duckhead.com

Looking forward to your review, Tintin.