The history of Jockey International, Inc. is a robust one full of daring innovation, family-owned business practices, and an inspiring whirlwind of booming success. With the help of countless inquiring minds and a passion for making the highest quality, most comfortable clothing, we have bloomed into a celebrated brand, recognizable across the globe. We are ecstatic to celebrate 140 years of Jockey this summer, and to highlight all the times we didn’t just ride the wave of revolutionary products, but all the times we set the bar and made the waves ourselves.
Samuel Thrall Cooper founded S.T. Cooper & Sons in St. Joseph, Michigan. Cooper had developed a strong grasp for salesmanship during his previous years as a traveling minister, and identified a captive market for high quality goods – in his case, these goods were hosiery.
Abel Wells, a Michigan businessman, invested money in Cooper’s business to build a knitting mill in St. Joseph, later called the Industrial Knitting Mill. As a result, the company was renamed Cooper, Wells & Co.
Cooper, Wells & Co. had a staff of 90 people and was producing 200 dozen pairs of seamless stockings each day. Cooper’s three sons, Willis, Henry and Charles, were key managers of the business, which gave Cooper the opportunity to do what he learned from his traveling days and spread the word of Cooper Wells quality to customers all around the country. At the time, it was highly uncommon for a knit-goods manufacturer to sell directly to the retailer, and Cooper became one of the first salesmen in the business to work directly for the factory. Cooper’s drive and enthusiasm for Cooper Wells products helped him grow the business and create accounts as far west as Seattle.
Following the sudden death of their father, the Cooper sons parted ways from Cooper, Wells & Co. Remaining in the trade they knew best, Willis and Charles Cooper took positions with the Chicago-Rockford Hosiery Company in Illinois. Eventually, third brother Henry joined them, and the business moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin and under a new name: Chicago-Kenosha.
Willis Cooper was appointed general manager of Chicago-Kenosha, and used his position to name his brother Charles general superintendent of the Kenosha plant. Following his father’s footsteps and tenacious spirit, Willis employed two dozen traveling salesmen to cover the Midwest and a significant amount of the West to grow the business. The Chicago-Kenosha Hosiery Company began manufacturing underwear during the 1890s, which was much more complex to produce than hosiery, but the Cooper brothers were prepared for this new challenge. The new underwear was branded “White Cat” underwear.
1900 marks the year the Cooper Underwear Company was born. The unique qualities of Coopers products, such as preshrunk fabric and meticulous attention to detail, set them apart from competitors.
Horace Greeley Johnson, superintendent of the Cooper Underwear plant, invented the revolutionary Kenosha Klosed Krotch union suit, known as the single greatest advance in underwear at the time. Previously, underwear had been treated as a commodity, but the new union suits were tucked into fine packaging and are displayed at the front of stores.
Coopers believed in accommodating each and every customer. They began to offer 27 different sizes of union suits in each of their four different styles to fit men of every shape and size, a line that no other underwear company had even undertook. In 1910, sales were $400,000; by 1915 Coopers was on the verge of amassing one million dollars.
In 1920, Coopers sales skyrocketed to three million dollars. In 1921, Cooper Underwear entered the hosiery market, providing styles for men, women and children.
Marketing and sales expert Art Kneibler invented the first Jockey short, which is known today as the classic brief.
The Y-Front crotch opening in Jockey products was invented and became the company’s most recognizable feature.
Coopers was the first to use individual cellophane packaging for underwear, which helped move their product up to the front of store displays and out of the back room.
The Jockey Boy trademark was commissioned by Coopers.
The Jockey name was stitched into the waistband of underwear for the first time.
Coopers had an advertisement in the first issue of Sports Illustrated.
Coopers introduced Jockey Life, which contained a full line of fashion underwear in varied colors.
The company’s name officially changed to Jockey International, Inc.
The Jockey Elance line of bikini style briefs was introduced.
The Jockey For Her line was introduced, making Jockey the most comfortable name in women’s underwear.
In 1997, the 100th Jockey store opened. 1998 marked the debut of the Jockey website, and in 1999, Jockey introduced its first line of bras.
The Jockey Being Family citizenship initiative was launched, which aims to advance post-adoption services to enhance the lives of adoptive families in North America. 2005 was also the year marking the launch of the Jockey Swirl™ logo.
Jockey remains one of the world’s most recognized and loved brands, active in over 120 countries across the globe. Employing over 5,000 people in corporate offices and retail stores, Jockey has retained its status as a household name and is still renowned for its unbeatable quality and comfort. Even today, revolutionary products like the RealFit Bra are created by Jockey, proving that the company is always reaching toward and striving to deliver the next big thing to the world.
We are so proud of our 140 years of heritage, and can’t wait for 140 more! Endless thanks to our loyal fans and customers for believing in our brand all these years and for making our vision possible. We truly could not have done it without your unwavering support! Be sure to check out Jockey.com to keep up-to-date with our latest innovations and classic favorites.