The first trade show I ever attended as a Heddels correspondent was in 2017 in New York City and I had one brand I wanted to see most of all. I wanted to see Stan Ray, the American workwear brand based in Crockett, Texas, makers of similar sub-brands like Earl’s Apparel and Gung Ho.
My excitement at the time was tempered by the brand’s then-reality. At that time, as many American workwear brands did, Stan Ray was embarking on a journey abroad, introducing *gasp* slim cuts, and designer-y new pieces. It felt that, as Stan Ray departed for foreign shores, and started listing their prices in pound sterling, they were perhaps losing the thread. Luckily for us, however; Stan Ray never really left the U.S., you just needed to know where to look.
Made in U.S.A.
In 1972, Earl Beard and his wife, Billie Jean founded Earl’s Manufacturing in their hometown of Crockett, Texas. Even in the early 1970s, more and more brands were exporting their labor to dubious locales outside of the country to cut down on costs and raise profits. The Beards, on the other hand, had two goals with the christening of their new factory: make hard-wearing work-clothes and keep the quality high. As most manufacturers know, the best way to keep that quality high is by doing the work in your own backyard. Working in Crockett not only created jobs for the community, it meant the Beards could keep an eye on production.
Stan Ray and the two other brands made at the factory became best-known for their classic workwear pants. Painter pants, fatigue pants, and others were worn by working folks across the country, but wouldn’t exactly have been considered fashionable. Across the Pacific, however; Stan Ray was beginning to reach a cult status that would buoy the brand through hard times and all the way to the present day. As early as the 1980s, Stan Ray pants were appearing in vintage markets in Japan – as is so often the case, the Japanese were ahead of Americans in appreciating the simple, rough-hewn goodness of the clothes made in Crockett.
As time wore on and more and more of Stan Ray’s competitors gave up and left the states, the Beard family hung on. Though sadly, Earl Beard passed away in 2020, his grandchildren now run the brand, keeping it on the straight and narrow.
Stan Ray Abroad
Much in the way Carhartt Wip broke new ground for that well-known American brand by experimenting abroad, Stan Ray took to foreign markets to continue doing what it did best. My experiences at the trade show and then online, searching for Stan Ray confused me. Had the brand moved to England? What were they doing?
But trawling through the archaic work-supply websites where Stan Ray has always been sold, it became clear that the house that Beard built was still standing. Several years after my initial misapprehension, the lines between Stan Ray Europe and Stan Ray USA are a little more firmly drawn. And best of all, both lines are still made in that same old factory in Texas, often by employees who’ve worked for the brand for years.
For what it’s worth, the European market can keep their tie-dyed, patterned Stan Rays. We still have the classics here and that’s all that matters.
Now in the Heddels Shop
We’re proud to be a new stockist for Stan Ray! We’ve bought a small selection of the brand’s basics and we’re excited to share them with you. All pieces are made in the U.S.A from lightweight cotton fabrics from Mount Vernon Mills in Georgia. Supplies are limited on this first buy, but we hope to expand our selection and keep you outfitted for the last few months of summer and well into the fall.
Full selection available at the Heddels Shop