A product which began as a surprise find in Hong Kong by merchandiser Susan Kilgore in 1985, subsequently became a worldwide phenomenon upon its launch in San Francisco, California, in 1986. This phenomenon peaked in 1996 when sales of Dockers-branded apparel exceeded $7.1 billion. As Hogan writes, “In 1999, Fortune Magazine estimated that 75 percent of men over the age of 25 owned a pair of Dockers.” The brand even appeared, albeit briefly, on ‘90s sitcom Seinfeld. However, Dockers began to fall out of favour in the mid-2000s. This can be attributed to changing fashion trends, the economic climate of the time and those behind Dockers constructing a brand with such an identifiable personality that the demographic they were now attempting to target perceived Dockers as a brand offering products they associated with their parents’ generation. Adrienne Lofton, Chief Marketing Officer of Dockers, recognises that the brand “must identify avenues to get into the consideration set of a young guy who sees us today as a dad’s brand. This is no easy task, but with the product we have—it absolutely can be done.” Lofton continues, “We are always looking for ways to break into culture in a way that makes us part of the fabric and conversation—it’s incredibly daunting, but thrilling.”
Recent efforts to combat this perception have been somewhat successful. For example, experiential marketing, social media and branding agency MKG were instructed to shift the idea of Dockers as the uniform of office workers, to one that is as varied and dynamic as the modern man himself. To accomplish this, MKG built engaging experiential and social activation’s that got men in the products and generated a renewed interest in the Dockers brand.
In 2011, Vanity Fair magazine identified Dockers’ Alpha Khaki line as their “it” product for autumn. The Alpha collection was developed as a result of listening to their target demographic and noticing the then-developing trend for products with a slimmer silhouette as opposed to the more relaxed fit, which Dockers launched, and was successful with, in 1986. Also, Dockers collaborated with GQ in their Best New Menswear Designer in America competition. In this competition, six design houses produced their own take on the Dockers classic khaki design including Riviera Club, Miller’s Oath, Warriors of Radness, Patrick Ervell, Michael Bastian and the winning designer Alexander Wang. The products were available for purchase in Bloomingdale’s stores and online at Dockers.com. This collaboration enabled Dockers to slightly modify their brand personality, subsequently altering the way in which their brand is perceived by their target demographic by demonstrating that Dockers’ products are stylish, high quality and offer an appropriate alternative for younger consumers while still maintaining their core ethos of ‘well-crafted comfort to help conquer the day.’
In February 2016, Dockers launched their 30th anniversary capsule collection. The collection consists of four looks, incorporating items such as lace-up boots and leather-trimmed weekenders to two-piece suits and military-inspired field coats. The great thing about the collection is its versatility and classic styling. For example, an individual can utilise many of the products either in their workplace or for a weekend getaway. In conversation with WWD at Dockers’ 30th anniversary party during New York Fashion Week: Mens, brand president Lisa Collier said, “Thirty years, that’s hard to believe. We want to take a moment and celebrate what the brand has stood for and its path forward.”