How often do you hear a friend or neighbor say "they just don't make anything here anymore"? In this age of globalization, that statement has become familiar to all of us, but particularly to those in the apparel industry. However, with over three decades experience in the clothing business, we know it isn't entirely true. There are still menswear companies -- such as Allen-Edmonds Shoes, Alden Shoes, Bill's Khakis and Colonel Littleton -- that are bucking the trend and instead of turning to cheaper imports, they've continued making their goods right here in America. And when it came time to open American Suit Store we knew of a classic menswear company in Tennessee that not only tailors its clothing in the Volunteer State, but is in the fifth generation of ownership by the same family. The Hardwick family is matched in that longevity only by the many current employees who are the sons and daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren of former Hardwick employees. This dedication to quality and service by the family, employees and community has served Hardwick Clothes well over the past 133 years, making them an obvious and logical choice for American Suit Store when it became time to find a supplier.
Hardwick Clothes The History
Founded in 1880 in the Tennessee River Valley community of Cleveland, Tennessee by C. L Hardwick and a group of local businessmen, Cleveland Mills had modest beginnings. Early success was found weaving what was known as "jean cloth", a 76% wool 24% cotton blend that was crafted into a popular pant known as "Dollar Pants".
C L Hardwick
The Early Years
The early years saw the expected adversity associated with start up manufacturers and, in addition, several fires. After each fire the mill was rebuilt and equipped with modern machinery, helping to keep the young manufacturer competitive. Eventually Cleveland Mills evolved into a manufacturing plant in addition to being a mill. During this time the name was changed to Hardwick Woolen Mills to reflect the ownership.
Hardwick Clothes Prospers
By the 1920's Hardwick Woolen Mills was a vertical operation, weaving the wool yarn in one part of the factory and tailoring finished garments in another. At it's peak, Hardwick Woolen Mills was the largest facility of it's kind. Garments produced were suits, overcoats, knickers, and boy's wear. The company motto was, " From the sheep's back to the clothing rack".
Cleveland Daily Banner Woolen Mill
The Depression Years
Like the country as a whole, the 1930's were the most challenging years Hardwick ever experienced. The times demanded, "thinking outside of the box" and Hardwick Mills and the community of Cleveland responded. In the early years of the Depression much of the sewing was done in the homes of workers as Hardwick converted to more of a "cottage" business. Throughout Bradley County, Hardwick trucks were seen delivering fabric to homes and transporting finished products back to the factory. Despite the odds Hardwick Mills continued to grow during these bad times for our nation. After the passage of New Deal laws regulating working hours, production moved back into the factory.
The Mill Truck Sewing Department
The War and Post War Years
WWII saw Hardwick Mills become a supplier to the war effort by manufacturing uniforms for the military. The post war years brought more change as the demand for wool lessened with the introduction of synthetics to the consumer market. In the early 50's Hardwick Mills sold it's woolen operations and focused solely on the men's tailored clothing market. To reflect these changes Hardwick Mills became Hardwick Clothes, Inc.. Long a "private label" maker to retailers, Hardwick Clothes became more known to the consumer through advertising. Also, Hardwick became a leader in the marketing of blazers, boasting one of the largest in-stock blazer programs in the industry.
The Past Fifty Years
As the 60's moved into the 70's Hardwick Clothes made an investment into the future by leaving the old factory on Church Street and moving to a modern 175,000 sq. foot manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Cleveland. The move enabled the clothing firm to modernize equipment and warehouse facilities and to stay competitive against an increasing supply of cheap offshore clothing. By the 21st Century Hardwick had expanded it's base of specialty store retailers with catalog and department store accounts, and taking advantage of domestic production increased contract manufacturing with entities as diverse as the U. S. Military and Major League Baseball umpires. By the time of the 125th anniversary of Hardwick Clothes the 5th generation ownership had unveiled a new motto: "We've survived 2 world wars, a stock market crash & disco, Believe us, we're not going anywhere".