Woolrich is a one of the classic American woolen company. Born and raised in rustic Pennsylvania, the Woolrich mills have been supplying quality woolen goods since the 1830, which also means that it is the oldest outdoor clothing manufacturer in the US. As it may be clear after almost two hundred years of business, Woolrich is a huge woolen part of the American heritage that has passed the test of time.
Yet again we’ll tell you a story about an old friend of ours, a bloke from Liverpool called John Rich II, the son of a wool weaver. He sailed to the States in the early 1800s and rented a small woolen mill in Mill Hall, Pennsylvania. Rich was a hardworking man, and by the 1830 he had saved enough money to build his first woolen mill with his new friend mister Daniel McCormick. Together these two men founded the Woolrich in 1830 and purchased a farm in Dunstable Township, along Little Plum Run. Our man Rich built a modest three-story mill from the red clay bricks, where they then did everything – washing, carding, spinning, weaving and sewing. Wool they got from the farms close by.
At Plum Run and its surrounding mountainous area’s the main source of income was logging and timber. So Woolrich’s customers were the tough, hardened lumberjacks who valued the comfort and protection from the frostbite that Rich offered from the back of his mule cart. Rich’s woolen fabrics, socks and yarns were perfect fit to keep workers warm in the harsh Pennsylvania winters.
John Rich on his Mule Cart via Woolrich
The lack of sufficient water supply made the running of the mill hard for the Rich and McCormick. So they brainstormed and decided to move to Chatham’s Run in Pine Creek Township in 1834. From the new location they bought a bit over one square kilometer of land, where they built a sawmill that provided enough timber for a new woolen factory and houses for their employees.
In 1843 our main character Rich bought McCormick’s share of the Woolrich and went on to build a new mill in 1845. The new mill needed a huge number of workers, so as a good boss Rich built houses for his employees around the mill and created a whole new township. This very township would then later become officially known as Woolrich, Pennsylvania.
Woolrich mill 1887 in Woolrich, Pennsylvania.
Woolrich was on a roll and gained more prestige through the years, not only within the lumberjack community but with the military as they also supplied the wool blankets for the Union soldiers during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Woolrich, as many other clothing companies in the early twentieth century, started producing workwear for the railroad workers and supplying US troops in two world wars. By this point it may be evident that the company had woven itself into the fabric of American history, with their iconic black-and-red plaid.
Woolrich jacket from the late 50's.
Woolrich's business took a small dive during the 70’s and 80’s which forced them to outsource their manufacturing and cut American jobs. This was thanks to ever tougher competition on the outdoor clothing market, with brands like L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer and Patagonia. Seventh and eight generation members of the Rich family are still involved in the brands’ management. There were some efforts made to shift more of their workforce back to the States, but unfortunately the last Woolrich plant in the States was closed in the 2019.
Despite the bad news the Woolrich fabrics can till this day be bought by the meter including the iconic buffalo check – a type of plaid pioneered by the Woolrich. The rumor has it that a Woolrich designer created the term ‘Buffalo plaid’ for this iconic Scottish pattern, in honor of his small herd of the animal. Woolrich has also supplied curated fabrics for period-accurate theatre and film productions throughout the years.
Due to the Woolrich’s rich American heritage it’s still held in high regard in the fashion industry. They have collaborated with bunch of brands in vast catalog of products. Just to name a few mentionable collabs which they have done there is Clarks in 2013, New Balance and Supreme in 2017 and the last but not least Aimé Leon Dore in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Iconic Woolrich products
Buffalo Check Shirt
An true Americana classic, Woolrich are also known for their Buffalo Check Shirts. Made of mid-weight wool, with silky fabric lining the neck and cuffs for extra comfort whilst working – the Buffalo Check Shirt is a utilitarian piece -often dubbed the ‘lumberjack shirt’. It features classic two-pocket construction, with a curved hem allowing for easier tucking, and adjustable cuffs for easier sleeve rolling.
Constructed from heavyweight wool with high levels of insulation and water resistance, the Woolrich Mackinaw Jacket is usually made up in bright buffalo plaid – typically in red and black – and features four roomy patch pockets and a robust button closure. The Mackinaw jacket has roots that stretch to before Woolrich began, however, their version was designed for lumberjacks and adopted by outdoorsmen as a sportswear piece in the 1930’s, and is often dubbed ‘hunting jacket’.