Pendleton is like the Chrysler of textile companies – almost wherever you look in the 20th century, you can find a colorful Pendleton wool blanket, shirt or jacket. It is the ultimate American company.
Pendleton Woolen Mills was founded in Pendleton, Oregon, in 1863, the only American mill dedicated specifically to producing Native American trading blankets. Native Americans in the West had always used woven, patterned blankets for shelter, warmth, ceremonial use, and as a kind of trading currency. When white settlers came along, the Native Americans came to favor European-style woolen blankets, especially if they had vivid colors.
In the 1920s, Pendleton expanded their production to men’s virgin wool sportswear, including classic plaid work shirts. After World War II, they introduced womenswear, starting with the classic 49er jacket (from 1949) that became a runaway success.
By mid-century, Pendleton was well established in the American popular consciousness, worn by housewives and surfer boys alike. In the late ‘50s, a surfer boy band called the Pendletones came on the scene. They later changed their name to the Beach Boys (have you heard of them?), but continued to wear Pendleton shirts over tee-shirts, including on their album covers!
Recently, Pendleton has managed to stay totally relevant, especially for a 100-year-old company. This is partly because of a renewed interest in Native American patterns and designs; it’s also because of a recession-era desire for solid, well-made goods; and of course it’s because you can’t beat a classic. The company has kept itself fresh by teaming up with various exciting brands. Some of their collaborations include Ace Hotels, Urban Outfitters, Levi’s, Shwood eyewear, Comme des Garcons and Opening Ceremony and of course DwellStudio!