BORN & BRED IN CLEVELAND, TENNESSEE
Hardwick Clothes, America’s oldest continuously operated tailored clothing manufacturer, has called Cleveland, Tennessee, its home since 1880.
The company, which was originally named Cleveland Woolen Mills, was founded by local businessman C.L. Hardwick, who partnered with John H. Craigmiles, John H. Parker, P.B. Mayfield and Creed Bates to establish the firm. C.L. Hardwick owned several businesses in Cleveland, and he put his son, George L. Hardwick, in charge of running the mill.
Cleveland Woolen Mills found success with an innovative fabric known as "jean cloth," woven from wool and cotton. The cloth was used to produce a popular product called "Dollar Pants."
During its early years, the mill experienced a number of setbacks, including several fires, but bounced back each time by adding state-of-the-art machinery and expanding its operations.
In 1925, Cleveland Woolen Mills changed its name to Hardwick Woolen Mills, reflecting the Hardwick family’s increased stake in the company. Hardwick Woolen Mills had evolved into a vertical operation, weaving the wool yarn at one end of the factory, and assembling garments in the other, giving rise to the company motto: "From the sheep’s back to the clothing rack."
OVERCOMING ECONOMIC CHALLENGES
During this time, Hardwick Woolen Mills was the largest facility of its kind, producing a wide selection of men’s and boys’ clothing. As America entered the Great Depression, unemployment and plummeting demand presented Hardwick Woolen Mills with the toughest challenge in its history. The company reduced costs by nimbly moving its sewing operations into workers’ homes during this time. Hardwick trucks delivered fabric to homes throughout Bradley County, and returned to transport the finished garments back to the factory.
In the 1940s, Hardwick Woolen Mills contributed to the war effort by manufacturing uniforms for the military. During the post-war years, demand for wool dropped with the introduction of synthetics, prompting Hardwick Woolen Mills to sell its woolen operations to focus solely on the men’s tailored-clothing market.
No longer operating as a private label, the company changed its name to Hardwick Clothes, Inc., and began marketing aggressively, rolling out its first advertising campaign. American consumers began to associate the Hardwick name with high-quality tailored menswear. Hardwick’s greatest success was its line of blazers, widely regarded as the best in the world.
A NAME THAT STANDS FOR EXCELLENCE
By the 1970s, Hardwick was once again seeking to modernize its operations. In 1974, the company moved from its original Church Street factory to a new, 175,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Cleveland. The expansive new facility and modernized manufacturing equipment helped Hardwick stay competitive against an increasing supply of cheap, offshore clothing.
Hardwick’s reputation for American-made quality has helped the company survive—and thrive—in the face of outsourcing and cost-cutting. This status has helped Hardwick land contracts with a wide range of large clients, including the U.S. military and Major League Baseball umpires.
Since its founding in 1880, Hardwick Clothes has endured factory fires, economic recessions, two World Wars, inflation and leisure suits. Despite these challenges, Hardwick Clothes has continued to produce unsurpassed suits, pants and jackets for men and women, operating successfully with pride and quality.
Since the turn of the millennium, Hardwick has continued to adapt to changing market conditions, expanding its base of department stores and specialty retailers.
NEW OWNERSHIP, NEW OPPORTUNITY
In June 2014, the company was acquired by Allan Jones, a prominent Cleveland, Tennessee, entrepreneur. Jones stated that Hardwick appealed to him because it was the oldest business of its kind in America. He announced his commitment to increased investment in the firm to help it regain its rightful status at the summit of the American clothing industry.