The Union Special: Workhorse Behind Work Wear

Innovation fosters innovation. Never has that been truer than when speaking about the history, form and function of denim – and work wear in general for that matter.  Industrialization fed the need for long-lasting, practical garments. And industrialization not only made it possible to produce those same articles of clothing, but also had a big hand in developing the style. One such example are the Union Special Sewing Machines and their ability to create durable chain stitch hems for denim and work wear.   Founded in 1881 in Chicago, Illinois, Union Special was one of the first manufacturers of industrial sewing machines in the United States. Today, they are only one of two companies still making the iconic workhorses in America. Much of their business these days focuses on stitching for heavy-duty applications such as heavyweight bags, tents and tarps. That said, the machines are still in high respect and high demand among niche apparel  companies that desire its unique stitch for their designs.   The Union Special has a firm foundation in apparel history. In particular, one Union Special machine that has earned its legacy is the 43200G. This machine is ideal for chain stitching – a durable, double lock stitch that resembles the links of a chain. Originally manufactured in 1939, the 43200G made quite an impact in the apparel industry with its quality, durable hems. The machine stitched with powerful torque, creating a circular, rope-like effect could not be duplicated. For the next 50 year, this Union Special machine set the standard for chain-stitched hems on leg bottoms for jeans and work wear, becoming a go to machine for American denim makers. Union Special vintage sewing machine denim work wear fashion history As denim manufacturing grew in Japan and other Asian countries, many of these machines found there way overseas. And in 1989, Union Special ceased production of the 43200G, effectively ending an era. The few working machines left are both prized and in high demand. And while today, other machines can come close to duplicating the chain stitching effects of the Union Special 43200G, this machine still holds a special place in our hearts for its contribution to the manufacture of classic, durable denim.     photo credit: docpop via photopin cc photo credit: ChristopherTitzer via photopin cc

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