When General Sportwear decided to launch a signature collection of its own, management needed only to peer into company archives to find DEVIL-DOG Dungarees, a perfectly crafted heritage story worthy of the company’s sterling reputation.
Originally located in the Catskills town of Ellenville New York, General Sportwear was founded by Louis Rosenstock in 1927. Rosenstock had served his country during World War I and was suitably impressed with the tenacity of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Legend has it that German troops nicknamed the Marines “Teufel Hunden,” or “Devil Dogs,” after U.S. forces were caught in the grueling—yet victorious—battle of Belleau Wood, where Marines were seen crawling on all fours, steadily advancing through the enemy’s onslaught. Upon Rosenstock’s return, he started General Sportwear, and later launched DEVIL-DOG Dungarees as a tribute, with the slogan “Tough as a Marine.” When the company moved its factories to Zebulon, North Carolina in the 1950s (to be closer to Southern cotton and fabric mills), the manufacturing arm of General was christened Devil Dog Manufacturing Co.
Like so many U.S.-based apparel companies, Devil Dog eventually moved into private label manufacturing. It began relocating its manufacturing operations to Central America in the 1990s but kept the Zebulon facility as the company’s distribution center.
Fast forward to today when third generation brothers Jeff and David Rosenstock recognized a need in the marketplace for a direct factory sourced denim collection with a credible heritage at a great price point. They brought in Sean Connelly to create the new product. It didn’t take Connelly long to find references to DEVIL-DOG in the company’s vaults. The family still owned the rights to the name and, in fact, there’s a large, vintage DEVIL-DOG Dungarees sign still hanging at the North Carolina location (a favorite selfie background for Marines and motorcyclists passing through town). Upon further investigation, Connelly found that some of the brand’s original production had made its way into the precious caches of discerning Japanese denim collectors. And no, thank you, they were not willing to sell any of it back for reference. It’s just that good.
Put a checkmark in the heritage box. The brand’s packaging uses vintage graphics and logos for an authentic, archetypal appeal. Check out @devildogjeans on Instagram for a taste of DEVIL-DOG Dungarees’ antiqued aesthetic.
Second generation Herb Rosenstock knew immediately that the “new” product should have a charitable component that honored his father’s values. As Jeff Rosenstock put it, “We’re a small brand…but let’s go big!” Because of the straightforward military correlation, the team approached the esteemed Wounded Warrior
s Project (WWP), which loved the concept. A dog tag with the organization’s logo now hangs on every pair of DEVIL-DOG jeans and an upfront donation was pledged to WWP before one jean was even sold.
Rivaling the brand creation story, though, is the company’s commitment to responsible, sustainable manufacturing. Management is committed to maintaining the highest standards at its company-owned WRAP Platinum Certified factories in Honduras, established in 1993; and Nicaragua, 2007. “We have employees, not workers,” says Rosenstock. “We make sure that everyone who works here is treated with respect and fairness.” Of course, superior human resources are backed up by exceptional manufacturing, distribution, and pricing. “As a truly vertical company, we can pass value and efficiency on to retailers and consumers.”
In their washes and in their marketing, DEVIL-DOG is all-American heritage but they’ve added a taste of contemporary flair in its use of different fabrics and fits. “This is a guy who’s looking to make his own mark. He’s grown out of the brands he wore as a teenager,” says David Rosenstock, “but isn’t ready to wear his dad’s jeans, either.”
The jeans themselves incorporate Unifi’s sustainable Repreve yarn, made from recycled plastic bottles. The fabric also includes Unifi’s Sorbtek fibers for moisture wicking and temperature regulation, as well as Lycra’s dualFX for elasticity and shape retention. Yet with all that innovation, “They still have comfort and a nice soft hand,” says Connelly. “The collection is all stretch, with denim quality guys expect in perfect weights. We wanted them to look and feel like a classic pair of men’s jeans, only better.”
The collection comprises four fits and 16 wash variations. “There are slim, slim-straight, and straight fits, but we’re especially excited about our athletic fit that’s a bit roomier in the thigh,” says Connelly. “We’re not offering a skinny…this is definitely a men’s brand, targeting guys 25 to 45 years old.” (A slim-taper fit will be added to the collection for Holiday.) Jeans will retail for $79.
Premiering at last season’s MAGIC in Las Vegas, DEVIL-DOG Dungarees won the show’s “Best Emerging Brand” award. This August it will show at Project Las Vegas. The brand’s direct-to-consumer website made its debut on July 1st, and retailers who bought the collection in February can expect delivery late July or early August.
What’s next for DEVIL-DOG? The brand is about to launch a collection of casual pants, including twill basics with all the stretch and performance of its denim collection. Also, watch for fashion workwear to be added in 2020.
Oorah! Semper Fi!