Pointer Brand's Brown Duck Chore Coat was big in Japan long before anyone stateside noticed it. The light work jacket, with its convenient pockets and flattering cut, sold well in the hip boutiques where Tokyo's fashion-forward snap up American work wear, but it didn't attract an American following outside of the Tennessee town where it was manufactured. Pointer CEO Jack King – his business card says simply "4th Generation Owner" – decided to cease production. That was that for a year and a half. Then a young style blogger posted a picture of himself sporting the coat on his blog and the Internet began doing what it does so well: obsess.
"There was this sudden craze," says King, who embraced the hype by actively engaging with Reddit. "We kept getting requests and we decided to make it again. It is now our best seller."
King laughs about all the attention the jacket has gotten. It is, after all, a simple coat emblazoned &ndash as all Pointer coats are &ndash with a picture of a hunting dog and decked out with brass buttons and a floppy collar. The coat looks great with jeans and perfect pulled tight over a sweater, but King was still surprised that it had caught on in such a big way. He tried to figure out why a coat he'd unsuccessfully hawked for years had suddenly caught on with a new audience.
"We started to pay close attention to our new customers," he said. "We found that they want to know exactly where a product is being made and who is making it."
Fortunately, Pointer had some serious Made in America bona fides. The chore coat is manufactured in a 100-year-old factory in Bristol, Tennessee; out of fabric made in Thomaston, Georgia; thread from Marston, North Carolina; and buttons machined in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. And Pointer hires locals: The company's staff has been beefed up from seven to 31 over the last three years, and King hopes to have as many as 75 workers on the factory floor by the end of 2014. "Shoot," he adds, "you can't beat that."
Growth is hard to beat, but King hopes he can do one better by doubling down on high-quality products and skilled workmanship to create a fashion brand. The offshoot, named L.C. King after Jack's grandfather and the manufacturing company that owns Pointer, is set to debut in 2015 with a spring line that King says will stress higher-quality components and superior workmanship. It doesn't hurt that Pointer is the longest-standing client of Cone Denim Mills, the selvage-denim production house that supplies many high-end menswear brands. The venture may seem like a bit of a leap, given the company's current focus on outfitting local farmers, builders, and Redditors, but Pointer isn't hiring a known designer or attempting to change what it is.
"We're just going to get a little more refined," says King, citing Filson's move toward urban style as an inspiration for the decision to launch L.C. King.
In the meantime, Pointer will keep churning out Brown Duck Chore Coats. On a busy day, as many as 200 of the minimal jackets are being cut or constructed in the aging factory. Orders keep coming in and King watches happily as his employees ship fresh packages out. He's planning for the future, but the present is looking pretty good. [$87.25; pointerbrand.com]