People wearing pieces from the Dickies x Jameson collaboration.
Dickies has been leaning into design partnerships—one of which was with whiskey brand Jameson—to capitalize on fashion trends and drive consumer interest. — Dickies

Why it matters:

  • 101-year-old brand Dickies has been a part of VF Corp., one of the nation’s largest apparel conglomerates, since 2017.
  • Balancing its workwear heritage, cachet among subcultures, and growing fashion credibility, Dickies has remained focused on building retail, design, and community partnerships that feel true to the brand’s mission.
  • Brands like Dickies can be there for Gen Z as they explore a range of life paths, whether that means a career in the skilled trades or a commitment to skateboarding subculture, says Chief Marketing Officer Sarah Crockett.

Dickies, a classic American workwear brand with a history dating back to 1922, is undergoing a transformation as it enters its second century.

With Sarah Crockett at the helm as Chief Marketing Officer, Dickies is navigating the brand’s heritage roots and subculture bona fides to engage both its long-standing consumer base and the emerging tastes of Gen Z.

Though the brand has come a long way in its 101 years, it still aims to serve the same basic consumer needs it has since the beginning with clothes that are durable, functional, and comfortable.

Dickies has been a part of VF Corp. since the apparel conglomerate purchased the brand for $820 million in 2017. VF Corp.’s global brand portfolio also includes skate shoe brand Vans, streetwear pioneer Supreme, and fellow work brand Timberland.

“Our consumers, whether they're young and new or have been part of our brand for decades, all value authenticity and really see Dickies as a classic that has stood the test of time,” Crockett told CO— in an exclusive interview.

Workwear for both big-box stores and high-end boutiques

To Crockett, Dickies consumers are united by a strong desire to go their own way. “This is a group that would challenge the status quo, or [the idea that] you can only have a successful life by being in a white-collar career path starting at college,” she explained.

Though this lens, she said, it is understandable that disparate consumer groups including those in the trades, musicians and artists, and members of subcultures like skateboarding would all be attracted and remain loyal to the Dickies brand. The brand’s retail distribution strategy reflects its broad appeal, as it is stocked at every level from big box stores and trade retailers to department stores and high-end boutiques.

“The great thing about Dickies is that the same style can be worn for different uses and really be interpreted in different ways for self-expression,” Crockett said.

To Crockett, Dickies consumers are united by a strong desire to go their own way. “This is a group that would challenge the status quo, or [the idea that] you can only have a successful life by being in a white-collar career path starting at college,” she explained.

Dickies’ young consumers are redefining workwear – and work

Like Dickies, Gen Z is pioneering unconventional career trajectories, challenging traditional norms, and driving industries into new directions.

Despite being the most educated generation of all time, a study commissioned by gig economy app Thumbtack found that young people value the flexibility and stability of skilled trades, and nearly half (47%) are considering a career in the trades. Trade program enrollment in the U.S. has increased in turn, according to National Student Clearinghouse research.

As Gen Z shakes up both work and fashion trends, Dickies stands as a brand that resonates with those who value self-expression, authenticity, and the enduring wearability of classic workwear apparel, Crockett said.

“Dickies can be the common amongst an uncommon group,” she said. “It's less about demographics and more about connecting through shared values and attitudes.”

[Read: 4 Trend-Driven Ways Brands Are Tapping Personalization for Growth]

A partnership strategy that bridges Dickies’ brand heritage and some unexpected trends

To capitalize on workwear-inspired fashion trends across both menswear and womenswear and drive further consumer interest, Dickies is leaning into design partnerships – some unexpected.

“We love seeing how others interpret our brand as a blank canvas,” Crockett explained when highlighting a few of the most successful design collaborations from the past year. “It's such a benefit to the simplicity of our product.”

Most recently, the brand launched a collection designed in collaboration with designer Willy Chavarria, a lifelong Dickies wearer whose own line is often inspired by classic workwear. The collection was designed to bring Chavarria’s high-fashion vision to a wider audience while maintaining the core values of the Dickies brand.

The launch that drove some of the largest traffic volume and interest to the brand over the past year, however, was perhaps also its most unexpected: a three-way partnership with actress Sydney Sweeney (of HBO’s Euphoria and White Lotus) and Ford Motors. Tapping into Sweeney’s personal passion for restoring vintage cars, the collection combined wearable functionality with more delicate design details to appeal to the Gen Z female consumer.

Meanwhile, the brand’s Dickies x Jameson collaboration with the whiskey brand “raises a glass to the bartenders, the barrelmen, the skaters, the artists, and the tradespeople who share our passion for hard work,” according to the company.

[Read: How To Turn Deinfluencing Into a Marketing Opportunity]

 Headshot of Sarah Crockett, Chief Marketing Officer of Dickies.
Sarah Crockett, Chief Marketing Officer of Dickies. — Dickies

The value of staying true to brand identity

In addition to fashion collaborations, the brand also emphasizes philanthropic partnerships and a commitment to giving back to the community around the many lifestyles of Dickies’ consumers.

These initiatives are some of those closest to Dickies’ own identity – and to Crockett’s heart. In April 2023, the brand sponsored the opening of a community skate park in its hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. “Every time I'm in Fort Worth,” Crockett said proudly, “I get to drive by this incredible facility and see it jam packed with kids and adults of all kinds.” Upcoming initiatives include support for young people considering alternatives to traditional four-year college degrees.

“Dickies has the opportunity to be so many different things,” she said. “But none of those opportunities exist if we get distracted and move too far beyond our core. We are a workwear brand and that is why the broader lifestyle community had found us in the first place.”

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