Something like the Marmon of denim brands, Long Haul jeans may be the only pants designed and marketed explicitly for truckers.
By 1982, the year the jeans were first sold, denim had become part and parcel of work wear. But William Bank, founder of Jonbil Inc. based in Chase City, Va., started a line he thought would be a hit with drivers.
He was right.
Within three years after the jeans were first advertised in Overdrive and other trucking magazines, sales revenues jumped from $40,000 the first year to more than $5 million in 1985.
Newspapers and magazines such as Texas Monthly published stories about the new jeans, and truck stops across the nation stocked them. Other items — vests, belt buckles, shirts, sweat shirts, tennis shoes, underwear, jackets, suspenders, gloves, boots, work shoes, even cologne – with the Long Haul trademark became popular.
OverdriveRetro’s photo gallery displays the Long Haul jeans ad from Overdrive’s December 1982 issue with the sunny blonde standing check-to-cheek next to the tanned trucker. Dacron in the fabric added a then new feature – “a little bit of stretchiness.”
“The jeans are strong and tough and are cut wide in the seat and thigh, have a longer rise and have higher back pockets,” according to Jonbil Inc.’s description.
When stops started stocking the cologne, trucker Jim Hawkins told the New York Times that it didn’t “smell too bad. I think it must have some musk in it or something.” The scent, which was promoted as “fresh and crisp – with a note of citrus,” became news worthy for its placement in truck stops, the “last bastion of brawny masculinity,” Times reporter Peter Applebome wrote. “The world’s first designer cologne for truck drivers may not change the world, but it’s already changing the aroma of America’s truck stops.”
The trademark name appealed to marketers and other companies so much so that Jonbil appealed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1987 to prevent International Multifoods Corp. from using it.
The jeans are no longer made in Chase City, but buildings in the small, once-active mill town still bear the name Jonbil. Production moved to El Paso, Texas, where the 807 Co., continued the line for a few years before it closed.
During peak production years, the jeans became renowned for their big and tall sizes and for their long wear. A few heavy-duty clothing stores, such as WorkersWorld.com, advertise limited stocking of Long Haul jeans. E. T. Reavis & Sons, based in Dresden, Tenn., says that it stocks a few sizes but that availability is limited.
Perhaps for some truckers – like the sound of the word Marmon – the phrase “Long Haul” in a shop’s jeans section still has a solid ring to it.