The launch of PennBilt Brand is a continuation of a life’s work dedicated to the effort of making “genuine” American khakis. It’s never been about tan pants to me. It’s been about designing and manufacturing a product I believe in. Something tangible in a world that feels increasingly temporary. My sentiments haven’t changed over the past 35 years.
It all started in the mid 1980’s when I found a pair of original WWII khakis at an Army/Navy store near my college in Ohio. At the time, rummaging military surplus was our idea of today’s “thrifting.” The old pair I discovered that day was the best pair of khakis I had ever found; which got me thinking about why no company had taken a craft approach to khakis.
Khakis were the definition of a commodity category; ironically led by a college favorite and southern legend called Duck Head; a brand I recently relaunched on behalf of Oxford Industries from 2017 through 2020.
In 1990 I founded Bills Khakis (no apostrophe) to address a glaring white space - make the best khakis on the market and be known for it. Finding purpose in the effort grew from the connection to history and the cause of American manufacturing.
At the time, my design standards were driven by authenticity by looking backwards. Fast forward, PennBilt takes a more commercial stance by asking how to faithfully evolve a classic to what consumers want today. This is why I describe PennBilt as “The New Authentic.” To me, if Bills was a Willys Jeep, PennBilt is a new Ford Bronco.
Our first production looks good. I’m checking each pair, keeping the steam iron hot, and occasionally mending a broken stitch. That’s just reality and I’m kind of enjoying that part of it. Staying close to the product, our retailers, and our customers is what it’s all about.
We are soft launching this holiday season with limited supply available through 20+ retailers. If you live close to one of them, I encourage you to support our initial retail partners and shop locally. If not, we have limited supply at www.PennBilt.com. If you cannot find your size, we will steadily build inventory throughout the first half of 2023.
Thanks for your patience and support as we get this thing rolling!
~ Bill Thomas