1968 Pattern Trousers

A long time ago we considered the 68 pattern jacket here, tonight we follow this up by looking at the trousers from the same pattern of clothing. As mentioned in the earlier post, the quality of the 68 pattern uniform was excellent, and compares very favourably with later issues of clothing. In design the trousers are clearly directly descended from earlier patterns, and it is interesting to compare the cut and design with the 1952 pattern sateen trousers we looked at here:imageApart from the lack of buttons on the fly, the design is almost identical. Turning the trousers inside out the full lining can be seen:imageThis lining was deleted on later patterns, and explains why the earlier pattern continued to be so popular years after it was supposedly superseded. Large cargo pockets are sewn to the outside of the trousers on each leg:imageWhilst a first field dressing pocket is sewn to the right of the crotch, in the same position as earlier patterns dating right back to the 1937 pattern battledress:imageA final pocket is sewn on the right buttock:imageThe fly is secured by a strong metal zip:imageAlternative methods of securing the trousers are provided, with belt loops:imageAdjustment tabs:imageAnd buttons for braces:imageAgain all this indicates quality manufacture, with thought clearly having been put into the design. A label on the inside of the waistband indicates that this pair is a size 5 and were made by James Smith and Co of Derby:imageThis major clothing factory shut down in the 1980s, as reported by the local paper, the Derby Evening Telegraph:

DAVID Speed will never forget the day 20 years ago when 300 people, who worked for his company, were told it was to close down. “It was, quite simply, the worst thing that ever happened in my working life,” he said. “I understood how they felt and the worries and hardship they feared. It was just a terrible time.”

The announcement that James Smith & Co (Derby) Ltd, manufacturer of clothing and uniforms which were sold all over the world, was to close its Drewry Lane headquarters was a bombshell to both the workers and Derby people. Three hundred families faced a bleak future and the Evening Telegraph carried photographs of stunned workers leaving the factory after the announcement. One union worker said everyone had been in tears and too stunned to take in the news properly. “We all feel as if there’s been a death in the family,” she added.

For David Speed, the factory’s former managing director and a director of the group which owned Smith’s, it was the day he would most like to forget. “Of course I knew it had been coming. There had been lots of discussions but it didn’t make it any easier when it did arrive,” he said.

Ever since 1830 when a journeyman tailor called James Smith first decided to put down roots and set up his own business premises in Derby, the company had kept busy, steadily growing as the demand for its clothing increased. The arrival of the railways in the town in 1839 sealed its success, for it brought a huge influx of people looking for jobs, and Smith’s soon got an order to make uniforms for the new staff of the Midland Railway Company. In those early days, the orders were so small they were delivered to Derby Station by handcart but, as the company prospered, ponies and carts came into use and eventually a workshop was set up in Siddals Road, close to the station. Rapid expansion followed and the company moved to new premises in Drewry Lane, Derby, in 1856, where it remained in use until the closure in 1987.

In the early days, demand for uniforms poured in with orders from the Armed Forces, bus drivers and conductors, gas and electricity meter readers and postmen. An important, even historic, moment in the company’s life came in 1866 when workmen began leaving the company because they disagreed with the introduction of female labour. It was to be the start of a new chapter at the factory as, from then on, women played an ever-increasing role in the business, eventually forming more than 90 per cent of the work force. The war, build-up of public transport and expansion of police forces all helped contribute to Smith’s success. During the war years, nearly a million garments were produced mainly for the Armed Services and there were always jobs available for Derby people willing to work there.

In 1966, when David Speed joined the company, he found it an exciting challenge and, two years later, a merger with J Compton and Sons and Webb brought together 16 factories and a total workforce of 4,500 in the UK. In 1978, the company was bought out by Vantana and then came the 1980s, when much manufacturing in Britain began to wane. Said David Speed: “By 1982, the 16 factories had gone down to seven, there was cheap competition from abroad, the Buy British campaign was forgotten, the Beeching axe had fallen on British Rail and the cutbacks came with a knock-on effect on our business.” Coupled with a gradual change in the British way of life – people enjoying a higher standard of living, more leisure time and the workplace becoming less formal – demands for uniforms dropped dramatically. There was an upturn when new markets opened with career wear being worn by bank and building society employees but, by this time, Smith’s factory needed updating, its staff were ageing and finding younger recruits was almost impossible.

“People just didn’t want to be machinists,” said David Speed. “The factory was too large, we needed modern facilities and the whole thing became uneconomic. The decision to close was devastating. I personally didn’t make that decision but I was still affected by it. “The problem was that, at the time, we couldn’t explain all the problems publicly. I was very sorry to see it go. Some people did manage to get jobs but it was an ageing workforce and so that caused difficulties. It was just an awful time.”

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