The History of Wrangler Jeans: How They Started & Where They Went

The history of Wrangler jeans starts in the early 1900’s, with the Hudson brothers. C.C. Hudson worked in the textile town of Greensboro, North Carolina, sewing buttons on overalls. After the workplace closed, C.C. and his brother, Homer, decide to buy some of the closing business’ sewing machines and start their own overall company. After 15 years of success operating under the Hudson Overall Company, the Hudson brothers rebrand and start the Blue Bell Overall Company.


Around 1930, Blue Bell Overall Company was purchased by Big Ben Mfg. This merging led to the creation of the Super Big Ben Overall, famous for it’s sanforized fabric that reduced shrinking to under 1%. In the history of denim and the history of blue jeans, this introduction of sanforized fabric became a new industry standard, with many companies following suit shortly after.


Nearly ten years later, Blue Bell acquires the Casey Jones Company and with this merging, is where Blue Bell gains the rights to the name Wrangler.

history wrangler jeans vintage denim clothes

Wrangler began producing western jeans in the late 1940’s with the help of celebrity tailor, Rodeo Ben. It was in the late 1940’s where Wrangler western jeans began to take off. From rodeo attire to workwear, to endorsing some extremely popular celebrities of the time, Wrangler blue jeans continued to grow and grow. The next twenty-plus years did Wrangler well in terms of marketing Wrangler denim.


The Wrangler brand success spread into new markets of Europe as a new Wrangler denim plant opened in Belgium. Right around the same time, Wrangler western jeans became a one-of-a-kind in the blue jean industry by introducing 14oz. Sanforized denim fabric into their western cut. At the time, this was the heaviest weight of denim ever made. Add that to the famous Wrangler western silhouette, and you have a great cut of jean in a fabric that can withstand wear-and-tear from rodeo cowboys and more.


In 1974, Wrangler shirts and jeans became the only (to this day) western wear brand to be fully endorsed by the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association. As this expanded the reach of Wrangler blue jeans and Wrangler denim shirts followed suit. A few years later, Wrangler became the primary sponsor for Nascar legend Dale Earnhardt. It’s 1981 and Wrangler is fully endorsed by the PRCA, creating and selling plants out of Belgium, and Dale Earnhardt is racing the famous “Wrangler Jean Machine” car in front of thousands of people and millions televised. These huge marketing developments lead Wrangler jeans into even more success in the early 90’s.


In 1986, Blue Bell Mfg merged with VF Corporation, making the new VF one of the two largest makers of blue jeans in the world. The history of Levi Strauss alongside the history of Wrangler jeans show many similarities in success, quality, and marketing, however, Levi Strauss led the blue jean industry at the time. In 1992, George Strait began strutting around in Wrangler jeans on the big screen for the movie “Pure Country”. Wrangler supplied clothing for the cast and had the leather Wrangler logo front and center for the country world to see.


A few years later, in 1996, Wrangler became one of the top denim brands in the world. Wrangler blue jeans were on one out of every four males in 1996, when Wrangler became the #1 market share leader in the United States. The Wrangler brand was a staple for American’s of all ages. The one-of-a-kind silhouette of their western jeans, their usage of heavy denim fabric in a new way, and the impact of that famous Wrangler leather patch, truly paved the way for one of the largest, most successful denim brands in history.


Today, vintage Wrangler jeans are making their way back into wardrobes due to their classic western style, lasting construction, and the allure of the Wrangler jeans label. At Feel Good Vintage, we have women’s vintage Wrangler jeans and Wrangler jeans for men, in addition to a curation of other vintage goods.


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