A New Day for Dockers

Dockers Alpha Khaki in White

Well this journalist  never thought I would  be writing a glowing review about Dockers. Sure, I wore them to Sunday school back in the 80s but that was about the last time I (or my mom) ever considered buying them. We give a huge high five to the crew over there who has brought the company back from the abyss of the used-to-be to one of the most interesting, affordable and well branded companies around today.

Personally I try to wear denim as little as possible just to avoid the lazy factor. Putting on something besides jeans for every occasion makes me think harder about putting together a good looking ensemble. Dockers has made this frightfully easy with their plethora of colors and fits. And they are all hella comfortable.  We spoke to khaki master and Senior Vice President of Dockers, Global Design, Doug Conklyn to hear more about Dockers, color trends and (to me) those irritating button flys.

Tell us how you approached revamping Dockers?

For me it was all about thinking small… Dockers had become this huge global company, but to my way of thinking, lacked a simple point-of-view.  It lacked soul.  We had two major issues, a lack of brand DNA and khakis in general were suffering from an identity crisis.

The DNA cure was a relatively simple exercise in stating the obvious… Dockers is American, Classic, Authentic and San Francisco.  Once we stated these facts, they informed everything we designed at every price point and created a link between everything we do.

Those four basic tenets inform every color, silhouette, trim, pattern and wash decision from our most basic core items to our more leading fashion product.  The khaki “cool-factor” was a little more frustrating.  I had never before worked for a company where khakis weren’t revered, respected and put on a pedestal.  Some of the most classic, romantic, masculine and cool images I know featured both war heroes and cultural icons wearing khakis, yet somehow that romantic image of khaki had been replaced over time with a more mundane, less compelling image.  I’ve always worn khakis and I’ve always felt like a bad-ass wearing them, so we started introducing more “attitude” in our pants, starting with the Alpha khaki.  The slim, tapered fit and the breadth of color of Alpha has really started to resonate with a whole new audience and has definitely upped the cool factor and wearing occasion of khakis.

Break down which styles you see for which occasions?

That’s a great question because most people assume just one wearing occasion for khakis… when jeans are too casual and a suit is too formal.  I wear khakis every single day, but I wear them differently every day as well.  My “go-to” khakis are my Alphas which I wear for every occasion that would normally call for jeans.  I wear them with everything from Vans and t-shirts to cordovan loafers, an oxford shirt, and a tweed blazer.  We are making some amazing authentically-inspired cargos which I have been obsessing over for the past year or so and while they generally feel best with some rugged boots and vintage henley shirts, I often throw in a club tie and an old herringbone jacket for good measure.  Finally, for the times when I need to step it up, I reach for my SF Khakis.  The fit was based on the slim-tapered fit of Alpha, but with more refined details such as dress extension waistbands, 1/4 top pockets and clean rear welt pockets.  It’s one of my favorite pants because it’s dressier but it’s not at all uptight.  They’re great worn with a killer slip-on or double monk strap shoe (no socks, naturally) a refined dress shirt and either a slim cardigan or well-tailored jacket.  Between the fit ranges, details, colors and patterns, there is literally a different khaki for every occasion.  My mission is to help men re-think khaki… it’s really more versatile than most give credit.

What color trends are you seeing in pants?

For Spring 13 we’re seeing interest in quite a few colors, from pure white to our most vibrant reds, oranges, greens and blues… all of which were inspired by the fruit and vegetable stands at local San Francisco farmers markets.  In addition to color, we’ve also had a really strong reaction to print, from authentic camouflage to classic menswear yarn-dye patterns that have been interpreted into subtle prints.

What about fabrics? More cottons/tech fabrics?

Dockers has traditionally been a cotton-based pant company and we continue to be.  Within cotton we offer a range from light-weight canvas and poplin, to heavier twill constructions.  Stretch has really been the new news in bottoms and continues to grow each season.  For some of our slimmer, more directional styles, stretch is a necessity for proper fit; for other less directional styles it has simply provided a measure of performance in terms of both comfort and shape retention.  We also offer seasonals for Spring 13 in the form of cotton-linen blends.  As far as technical fabrics go, we offer cotton-poly blends and microfibers, which both offer better drape and wrinkle resistance than most pure cotton fabrics.

How the hell do you decide when to use a button or a zip fly and why? 

It’s actually rather simple.  The pant as well as the intended consumer usually dictates the type of fly closure.  Typically, our higher-end casual product, which is often inspired by our vintage archives, will get a button-fly.  Our cargos and military-inspired khakis will often get a button-fly, but the vast majority of our khakis have a zip fly.  If it were up to me, everything would be button-fly, but then we’d probably go out of business… apparently, conventional wisdom suggests that most consumers prefer the ease of zippers over buttons!