Rodeo Ben from Łódź: what do Poland and wrangler have in common?
It’s virtually impossible for the average person not to know of the Wrangler brand. After all, one out of three people in the world wear Wrangler jeans. The brand has been around for over 70 years. But what does Wrangler have to do with Poland? Well, it all started with a young man named Bernard Lichtenstein from Łódź, who would go on to be known as Rodeo Ben on the other side of the Atlantic.
Lichtenstein learned the textile trade at the school once known as the Talmud-Torah Jewish Trade School. His own tailor shop didn’t bring in the returns he’d hoped for, so he risked it all to try his luck in America, selling off his shop to finance his one-way journey. He brought his family along, as well as his sewing machine, and settled in Philadelphia. Less than a year later, he received his first big commission from a rodeo, which would show off his precise craftsmanship, but also his creative approach to design. He replaced the buttons in his cowboy shirt with snaps so that they would come immediately undone on contact with a bull’s horns, which ended up saving more than a few lives. Sometimes even the most minute details can make such a difference! He became known as ‘Rodeo Ben – the cowboy from Poland’. His next big order came from Blue Bell, the company that is known today as Wrangler.
This time, the job called for denim trousers for rodeo contestants and his innovative solutions caught everyone’s attention. He introduced a zipper, double seam, five pockets (with the back one designed in a way that would keep objects from falling out), seven belt loops and smooth rivets. Still, it was only the 13th version of the jeans that were perfect, hence the name ‘13 MWZ’ (13 tries, man’s western zipper). This model was the predecessor of every pair denim jeans today.
Wrangler has evolved to become an icon of freedom and individuality. Its creator, Rodeo Ben, has gone down in fashion history as a pioneer of style and functionality. His name has become synonymous with the Rodeo style and his silhouette graced the cardboard label on the back pocket of each pair of Wrangler jeans, alongside those of the top five Rodeo stars of the day.