Howies and the slow drift down river

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love the Howies brand. A year or so ago, I described them as a star brand. But a little before that I had been very critical of them for missing their target audience (by miles!) with their hand me down range. Well it seems like i’m not the only one that is thinking the same way. I have a watch on ebay to see what comes up from lots of the brands I love and when I saw this, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

A treasured collection of 29 Howies catalogues dating back to 2002

My first instinct was to want to buy them as they grace the shelves beautifully of any designer. But when you scroll down and see what the seller fuzzywiggins has said, it makes you realise quite how far the brand has drifted down river from where it used to be.

29 Howies Catalogues     From 2002 to Autumn 2010     If you know Howies you know these are so much more than just clothing catalogues, they're loaded with interesting stories and info...  These books contain the story of how a once ethical and environmentally sound clothing company catering for active types morphed into purveyor of £200 chinese jeans for the middle aged bourgeois hobbyist.     Enjoy the tales of the joy of canoeing to work, or building a half pipe in the back garden. Better still the exhilaration of travelling around Ireland in a V8 powered Winebago (Go Wales' Bio diesel fueled van must have failed its MOT?)     Like the sea, Howies...
29 Howies Catalogues From 2002 to Autumn 2010

This description crucifies them for what they have done with the brand. These catalogues are clearly being sold as the owner of all of them has so totally fallen out of love with what Howies do and what Howies now stand for. I have to say, it is now some time since I bought anything from them. I just wouldn’t pay £200 for a pair of jeans – by anyone, let alone £200 plus for a waterproof mac.

My advice. Buy Timberland out. They must realise they made a mistake with a little provincial company like Howies. Let Howies go back to where they were, what they stood for and what we all loved about it. Howies has sadly become a pseudo corporate business, whereas before they just made beautiful clothes that really lasted, for people who were into skate, surf and biking.


An almost complete Howies catalogue collection that sold for £51 on ebay
An almost complete Howies catalogue collection that sold for £51 on ebay

They went for £51, which seems like an awful lot of money, but they do represent some of the best pieces of design for print that i’ve seen for many years.

Shame they sold their soul on the way there.

8 thoughts on “Howies and the slow drift down river

  1. I kept the catalogues because they were nice things and they were produced by people who cared and were genuine about what they were doing. I believed Howies were there to do things in a better way, they were seeking out kinder materials to do the jobs nasty oil and chemical based fabrics were doing. The products may have been a little more pricey but they were good products.

    I wore Howies clothes with a sense of pride, others may have just seen another T-shirt printed with another slogan, but I knew what was behind it. They weren’t just another clothing company, they were the best clothing company in the world. No more though, they are lost? Now its all about rampant consumerism, four catalogues a year full of the latest fashionable looks. Howies weren’t fashion, they were jeans and T-shirts. That was their appeal it was all about practical gear for doing everyday fun stuff in.

    They still make great T-shirts, it’s a shame the promised any print you like on any blank never materialised. I’m glad they found an organic denim they were happy with, now if they could make the pockets survive more than six months…

    Is it all Timberlands fault? Have Howies just become Timberlands’ share of the ethical clothing market?

    I think Howies have just settled into a comfortable niche, I don’t think they have any mission any more… I think travelling around in a V8 Winebago, boasting about burning up euros (and chucking out extra large V8 loads of carbon into the atmosphere) just for a catalogue shoot proves the point. Previously someone at howies came up with the idea of posting a parcel with the new seasons’ clothes to some friends who lived in the US, asking them to mail back some pictures for the catalogue…Great idea, the worlds’ a big place do it every time… Is it just me or do the same models in the last couple of books look bored silly, go get some fun back Howies.

    1. Oh, I so agree and yet it pains me to admit it. I have the BFJacket from around 2011 and its still going strong. I have a waterproof From 2008 and still going strong. I have a waterproof and list winter jacket from 2015 and they are awful. The so called waterproof sealing has all peeled away and its about as waterproof as sponge. I SOOOOO loved he Brand and the shop in Carnaby street. They used to advertise the fact they where an ethical company who recycled and used recycled fabrics on their site but NO MORE. Any one remember “The Hand Me Down” products. High prices but ethical correct. Not anymore. I still look but poor quality and high prices scare me away. Oh by the way, my children used to call me Howei as that was all I wore.. not anymore. UniGlo and even Timberland have passed you by…shame.

      1. Hi finlay, Ruben from howies here. (I was alerted to your comment because I replied to this thread back in 2010 and subscribed to followups)

        I’m very sorry to hear that you feel our product quality has gone downhill – I’ve been working at howies for over 10 years now and I feel like we’re just as comitted to making great, long lasting products today as we were when I joined the team. If your jacket has developed problems then we will be more than happy to take a look and find a way to make things right. Just email or call us –  as I said back in 2010, we are still totally comitted to delivering the best after-sales service we can when things go wrong.

        Regarding the use of recycled (and otherwise “green”) materials, this remains very important to us and if it’s not coming across clearly enough on our website then that’s down to me and something I will look at.

        This year’s first product launch just yesterday was a collection of warm winter shirts in which we have used Primaloft’s “Silver Eco” insulation, made from 70% post-consumer recycled material coupled with our staple organic cotton. We are now preparing to launch a new jacket collection made from 100% recycled material (but insulated with the same 70% recycled Primaloft as above in one case) and we will continue to use as much organic, recycled, recyclable and chemical-free (as in the case of our flurocarbon-free waterproofs) fabric as we can while delivering the highest quality garments possible in order to reduce failed products becoming waste sooner than they need to.

        I hope this comment is helpful – we are always here to help and talk about what we do if you ever want more information.

  2. We value all the feedback we get, good and bad. And things like this never go ignored. We reckon that if you care enough to spend time writing down your thoughts on our company, then the least we can do is care enough to listen.

    We don’t feel that we have settled into a comfortable niche at all, if you were to visit the office in Cardigan Bay (which you are more than welcome to do, the kettle is always on but best to bring your own biscuits), you’d see that we are still just a motley crew of bikers, runners, skaters and surfers trying to keep the company we all believe in headed in the right direction.

    Some of the products we make are not cheap, but we believe our prices are always justified by the quality of the materials we use and the commitment we make to after sales support. If your jeans pockets don’t last long enough, just give us a call. Emma, Hollie or Lydia will be on the end of the line to help you work out what’s wrong and fix the problem. We put a lot of care into our products, before and after they’re sold.

    It’s not always easy and we’ve never set out to please everyone all of the time, but we all believe that the best is yet to come.

    1. That’s a great comment Ruben, but i’m still not sure you actually listened.

      I know we are but a few voices in a big wilderness, but I have run my own design and branding company for nearly 20 years and completely understand what damage you can do by casually drifting upmarket and leaving your faithful customers behind.

      There are hundreds of examples out there of brand owners who forgot who their customers were and chased the new, more upmarket audience. By definition, these people are more fickle and far less loyal than your core. I for one would hate it if you went the same way.

      Please listen. Customers who care enough to tell you are worth a thousand sycophants who blow smoke up your arse.

  3. Did the production of the last catalogue pass “the rocking chair test”?

    I couldn’t believe what I was reading in the Winnie the brave piece… “5.9 Chrysler V8… things were just as they should have been.” “belched out a steady stream of noxious fumes…over-priced Euros disappearing down the drain with every kilometre”

    My argument is not with the clothes, your clothes are fine… Just because you can budget loads of Euros for the production of your catalogue maybe don’t spend it all on petrol… and then still claim environmental credability.

    1. I got the email from them today and I have to say i’m delighted for them. I hope they can get the brand back on track again. I have to confess to having bought a few sale things recently and I still LOVE the quality of their product.



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