Ubiquitous with southern preps in the 1980s, Duck Head khakis are an icon of a by-gone era. Almost every kid from grade school to college owned at least one pair, and were seen almost exclusively in the Carolinas, Virgina, Georgia, and on SEC campuses and football stadiums. They were preferably worn starched, pleated and cuffed; and were very affordable at $5 or less on sale. Made in the USA quality and many discount stores carried them. You can spot a good ol’ southern boy with the famous yellow and green logo at the back of each pair.
Duck Head started out in 1865 in Tennessee when George and Joe O’Bryan cut material from surplus Army tents to make work wear overalls. The name of the tent fabric, known as “duck cloth”, along with the brothers’ passion for hunting led to the name of the company. During World War II, Duck Head became one of the largest manufacturers of military uniforms, churning out almost 5 million by the end of the war. (Here’s a more complete history video taken from their website. Disclaimer: looks like it was made fifteen years ago.)
The khakis were synonymous with fraternities in the south, so much so that GDIs would refer to wearers with a term that sort of rhymed with “DuckHead”…lol
Tintin of The Trad remembered his Ducks very well and described the perfect Casual Friday combo: an OCBD, surcingle, and barefoot in LLBean Bluchers. Try with pants or shorts. Great for the summer barbecue at the lake or a home game this Fall. Shrimp and grits sold separately.
My 2 Duck Heads
The company was sold in 2009 and has yet to make a reappearance. Hopefully we’ll get to see a return soon, but until then you can find these forgotten treasures on eBay. I scored the coveted Olive color Ducks online, and Stone color Ducks at my local Goodwill as NOS (“new old stock”- with tags). Luckily I was able to find them both in flat front which are rarer than the popular pleated version.
My older brother had a pair back in elementary school during the height of its availability. Now, my good friend Matthew and I are the only ones who wear them on my campus, although I did once see a fratter at the ACC tournament last year wearing Duck Head shorts. Perhaps we can brew a comeback?