For anyone who’s ever wondered how casual clothing became acceptable office attire, there’s really only one name you need to remember. But, despite the move away from restrictive tailoring, it’s not the name that replaced the suit jacket with the bomber; and although sneakers are as ubiquitous at the photocopier today as they are on the street, it’s not the name of a sportswear brand.
In fact, the phenomenon was most heavily influenced by iconic American khaki brand, Dockers when in 1992 it introduced the Guide To Casual Business Wear to over 25,000 HR managers across the US. The comprehensive handbook presented tips and instructions for wearing casual business clothing at work, leading to the birth of Casual Fridays. In one fell swoop, Dockers laid the foundation for the relaxed office style we’re familiar with today.
Almost 30 years on and this story continues to epitomize Dockers’ revolutionary spirit. Its legacy is evident in its Smart Series — a collection of comfortable and utilitarian chino pants that also speak to today’s style-savvy men — and the same convention-challenging ethos also inspired the label to work with likeminded innovator and entrepreneur Ludwick Marishane on its latest Dockers Challengers venture.
Hailing from South Africa, Marishane is the inventor and founder of DryBath, a natural body wash gel that doesn’t rely on water. Marishane came upon the idea during a conversation with a friend who expressed frustration at having to wash himself every day using the time-consuming approach that Marishane calls the “bucket method.” The bucket method involves collecting and boiling water and is fundamental in places where clean water isn’t readily available to every household.
Like Dockers, Marishane is obsessed with solving problems and DryBath solves at least two. First, in communities like his hometown of Motetema, the gel protects people from easily treatable diseases caused by bacteria that live in stagnant water. From this perspective, the gel is a lifesaving tool rather than one of convenience. However, in other parts of the world, DryBath is a time-saving alternative to daily baths and showers that Marishane believes are totally unnecessary anyway. His research clearly suggests that when most people consider themselves dirty, they are in fact just conscious of their odor; body odor equates to a perception of dirtiness when there is no real dirt to be found.
But, according to Marishane, reeducating billions of people so that they understand that washing their body with gallons of water every day isn’t necessary is an impossible task. Instead, his solution is to provide a convenient alternative that banishes both body odor and bacteria with the added bonus of saving water.
Marishane takes what Dockers calls an “Always On” approach that was instilled in him from a young age by his father, “I often say what my dad did when I moved [in with him] was he abused me with books,” Marishane explains. Without this influence, he continues, “I would have been a bright, lazy kid.” DryBath wasn’t Marishane’s first attempt at launching a company but his resilience allowed him to bounce back from failures until he came upon the one that could work. “I look at every business as an experiment,” he says. “Some experiments prove what you thought, some experiments disprove what you thought. Your job is to get the most accurate outcome.” Marishane developed and wrote the business plan for DryBath on a basic cellphone, not a smartphone but one with physical numbers and keys. He had just $5 of weekly internet access to carry out research and development.
It’s this adversity defying, always on lifestyle that Dockers is equipping men to live through its Smart Series, a collection designed to thrive despite the onslaught of daily modern life. Take the Smart 360 Flex chino, four-way stretch means that whether the wearer is sitting, standing, or running, the chino material will adapt in the moment and return to its original shape afterward. In similar fashion, the Duraflex Lite chinos are constructed using a new fabric technology that feels lighter and wears longer making it perfect for warmer weather and those who live life on the move, those like Marishane. “They’re actually investing in the science of the pants that they’re selling,” he explains. “As a person who appreciates effective problem solving, that for me is what hooked me.”
Other problem-solving features that Dockers have installed in their leading chinos include the Smart 360 Flex’s stretch interior waistband and covert security pockets as well as the Duraflex Lite’s lightweight and breathable cotton material. Ultimately, Dockers has designed the Smart Series to be ready for any situation, which is essential in our work hard, play hard society.
Dockers and Marishane both put their always-on attitude on display at a global event recently in Lisbon, Portugal. Across three days, Dockers, Marishane, and Jeff Kirschner, another entrepreneur and Dockers Challenger, gave educational talks about themselves and their businesses and presented workshops that gave people a look at the world through their always-on lens, all the while channeling the always-on spirit and informing others how they can live life in a similar fashion.
And it’s this desire to inspire innovation that makes Dockers a brand that speaks to contemporary culture in a way only a brand with such expertise, credibility, and a rich history can. Dockers isn’t held back by its past successes, rather its emboldened by them and is thus positioned to empower others to launch similarly revolutionary projects. By teaming up each season with a new set of challengers, Dockers continues to make its intentions clear. The question is: are you up to the challenge?
Find out more about Ludwick Marishane and DryBath at drybathgel.com. You can also discover the story of his fellow challenger Jeff Kirschner at litterati.org and more about #DockersChallengers project here. For more on Dockers’ Smart Series, visit the brand's website and stay up to date with all the latest Dockers news by following them on Instagram.