Prison Blues

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in classic workwear from the film  The Shawshank Redemption.

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in classic workwear from the film The Shawshank Redemption.

Dressing the part for dancing doesn’t always have to be fancy dresses and a three pieces suit and, as I dig more into vintage and reproduction workwear and sportswear to supplement my wardrobe, I am finding an array of classic items in unlikely places. One such place is Prison Blues, which features classic workwear pieces such as high waisted jeans (with or without buttons for braces), striped cotton work shirts, braces, and denim jackets, all reminiscent of the clothing you’d see in the film Shawshank Redemption, which takes place between 1947 and 1966.

Here’s the kicker – these garments are made in the USA “by inmates serving time at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute located in Pendleton [Oregon]. EOCI has created a work program that has given the inmates an opportunity to not only help out the tax payers but also, pay restitution, build a work ethic, and gain a work skill.” The workers get to keep 20% of what they earn, with bonuses, with the remainder going to the state to cover the cost of their incarceration. According to the website, this is a highly sought-after program, with a three year waiting list for inmates, where they can learn a marketable skill. The clothing the inmates make are not only sold to the public, but also clothe the inmates themselves, which was the purpose of the factory program when it was established in 1989.

I realize this may be controversial for some, so I would encourage you to read the website and decide how you feel about this particular work program. I’m still not sure how I feel about it – though I would love to see more garment industries based in the USA, the prison system in general is just a loaded topic for social issues. I do find it interesting that the garments being produced are essentially reproductions of vintage/classic garments. Here’s a selection from the website:

Work jean with braces/suspender buttons - photograph courtesy of acecafeshop.com, for my UK readers who may want to avoid international shipping.

Work jean with suspender buttons – photograph courtesy of acecafeshop.com, for my UK readers who may want to avoid international shipping.

Hickory work shirt from Prison Blues

Hickory work shirt from Prison Blues

Classic denim jacket, meant to be worn with a high rise pant.

Classic denim jacket, meant to be worn with a high rise pant.

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