Behind our Favorite Stripes

in 2016 we launched our Painter Pant in "Conductor Stripe," an industrial strength fabric somewhere between a railroad stripe and a mattress ticking. 

Since then our Conductor Stripe fabric has become a mainstay, and we have launched similar stripes (Hickory Stripe and Blue Ticking) in different fabric weights and stripe patterns.  

Gravel & Gold has always been concerned with the middle ground between the high and the low, the precious and the utilitarian. And these industrial strength stripes might be a perfect example of that unique space. 







Worker tufting a mattress covered in ticking at a mattress factory in San Antonio, Texas, 1933. Photo credit: Library of Congress

The fashionable liberty stripe, hickory stripe, express stripe, wabash stripe, and railroad stripe all hail from a strong, utilitarian, striped fabric originally used to cover mattresses, called ticking. Woven tightly, with strong cotton fibers with an indigo warp, ticking fabric is dense and strong enough to keep straw or feathers from leaking out of mattresses and pillows. The stripe helped to conceal stains and also served as a visual guide when weaving. 

 When the industrial revolution and railroad expansion came to a head, lowering prices and increasing access to ready made products, ticking fabrics became commonplace in local shops and households. Over time, these common stripes evolved into different pattens, colors and weights.

English quilt made circa 1830 using a variety of fabrics, including several ticking patterns. Gift of Miss Bertha Schaefer; 1958-131-2. Photo credit: Cooper Hewitt.

The Union Pacific Railroad claims that the widely known Engineer Cap, was developed by the wife of a train engineer, out of striped ticking fabric she had lying around her home. Her husband was an ex semi-professional baseball player who was looking to update the design of baseball cap, to be more suitable for working the trains. The hat design caught on and was adopted by engineers across the country, eventually leading to the railroad stripe overalls we commonly associate with train engineers today. 

George and Ida Kromer, creators of the train engineer cap. Union Pacific Railroad Museum. Early 20th century.

 After manufacturing highly durable clothing (specifically, overalls) for the US Military in WWI, OshKosh returned home and began manufacturing clothing to market to American farm and industry workers, primarily employing the highly durable, readily available, hickory stripe fabrics. As a tactic to appeal to train workers, Osh Kosh began to produce the already-popular engineer hat at a larger scale, along with matching hickory stripe overalls. 

When the Great Depression hit, the use of this utilitarian fabric expanded even more, as a cost effective means for DIY clothing and household soft goods. 

in the 1940's, an interior designer named "Sister" Dorthy Parish came on the scene, influencing the popular aesthetic of American Interiors. During the depression, Parish, like many other American's had adopted Hickory Stripes in new ways, as curtains and as upholstery.  These stripes are foundational in her "American Country" aesthetic, which avoids matching, and embraces a maximal clashing of florals and patterns. 

Since then Hickory Stripes have become a mainstay in interiors and are available in all variety of fibers, weights, stripe patterns and color ways. In other words, the function has become fashion. 

At Gravel & Gold we strive to make clothing that stands up to wear and time. We value materials that are tried and true and imbued with purpose and meaning. This catalog of what we're calling "industrial strength stripes" is a continual source of inspiration for us. 

Shop all our stripes here . 




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