Brands You Should Know

Alpha Industries

Get the story behind the former Department of Defense contractor turned buzzed about civilian retailer

Founded in October of 1959, Alpha Industries was established as a U.S. defense contractor, producing a full range of military wear for the armed forces. As the U.S. entered into the Vietnam War, business would take off with success of Alpha’s classic MA-1 flight jacket.

Fast-forward a decade — the Department of Defense found it necessary to have their forces equipped for all possible weather scenarios. Since DOD contracts favored small businesses, what began as a small-time outfit working out of a Knoxville, TN basement, blossomed into one of the largest outerwear companies in the U.S., eventually producing over 500,000 jackets a year for the military. Even so, as government contracts kept the company inundated with work, they dabbled in commercial sales between jobs (an unwitting saving grace).

By the early 1980’s, Alpha Industries was actively selling jackets to civvies. Their secret to success was simple — maintain the standard of production across the board. Qualitatively, there wasn’t a difference between military-issue and civilian clothing. In fact, to differentiate between the two, a three-line label was placed on commercial clothing. This would quickly become a sign of the brand’s commitment to quality and superior performance.

Unfortunately, the 1990s saw a substantial decrease in contracts, giving Alpha Industries no choice but to reinvent itself. The company reemerged as an all-around outfitter, producing their legendary mil-spec jackets, as well as chinos, commando sweaters, and sleek outerwear. Fortunately for all of us, Alpha Industries never sacrificed the standards upon which the company was founded. You can be sure anything bought today is battle-tested; tough enough to see you through whatever you face on the daily.

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