Picture a 30 year-old low-tech equivalent of what the iPhone is today. Something that every person has or at least seems to have. Well, every single Southern male in the 80s had at least one pair of these pants and most had plenty more than that. There were four basic colors at first—khaki, navy, olive and a really cool gray, but they would later expand their range considerably including a Masters green that could be spotted from a distance of about 5 miles. They made shorts, too, and back then inseams were pretty short, all the better to let just a sliver of your boxers hang out of the bottom hem, a kind of tasteful obverse to today’s “urban” fashion of flashing your underwear above the waistband, although today’s irrepressible kids tend to show a bit more than a half-inch sliver, it must be said.
Quality control was far from the best—side seams had a way of starting where they belonged at the waistband only to twist around like a vine of ivy as they worked their way down to end up somewhere near the shoelace knot, but what did you expect for $24.99? Heck they might have even been $19.99, I simply can’t remember. The cotton twill was great, though–it would eventually get real nice and soft and the navy pants would fade into a truly unique shade of purple. Most importantly, the yellow square with the mallard’s head on it was as charismatic as a slapped-on exterior label ever got–the ugly black rectangle that is still used by Banana Republic is positively laughable in comparison.
In the 90s, general preppiness declined as people inexplicably started to consider nylon track bottoms and oversized below-the-knee basketball shorts acceptable staples of casual wear, and that coupled with a series of disastrous management decisions signaled the end. It was like someone had taken dead aim at this poor duck with a 20 gauge Remmy and the company plunged into the reeds. I think the brand has been bought out and attempted to be revived a couple times now, but it may be the world isn’t quite ready yet.