Robbie Robbins grows what he wears—Round House overalls made at Shawnee, Oklahoma, since 1903. Round House buys cotton denim fabric for its garments from the American Cotton Growers denim mill at Littlefield, Texas.
The mill is owned by the Plains Cotton Cooperative Association at Lubbock, Texas.
Robbins, who farms in Jackson County, Okla., near Altus, sells his cotton through farmer-owned cooperatives that also are members of the PCCA. He serves on the PCCA board of directors.
Robbins, 74, has grown cotton since he was 18 years old. Now one of the major cotton producers in the Rolling Plains of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas with more than 6,000 acres planted each year, Robbins remembers his early start growing the crop.
"When I was 18, I finished planting my first crop the day I graduated from high school," he said. Today, Robbins serves on several cotton-oriented cooperative boards. His son Danny is chairman of the board of the Oklahoma Cotton Council (OCC).
Recently, Harvey Schroeder, OCC executive director, worked with Round House Manufacturing and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and Forestry to make the company a member of the state's Made in Oklahoma Program.
Julie Fitzgerald, market development services for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, explains how the program works.
"The Made in Oklahoma Program began in the late 1980s. It is open to companies producing, growing and/or processing an agricultural product in the state of Oklahoma. The program is designed to assist companies in collectively promoting brand awareness and consumer loyalty for Oklahoma products through cooperative marketing activities. Made in Oklahoma currently has more than 300 member companies statewide."
Round House Manufacturing, owned by Jim Antosh and his family, employs approximately 50 workers at its Shawnee plant. In 2008, another plant was opened at Wewoka to make jeans or denim pants without the typical bib recognizable in overalls. Approximately 30 employees work there, according to David Antosh, company vice president.
"The Wewoka plant is the first clothing factory opened in the United States in a decade," Antosh said.
Round House, the oldest continuously-operating factory in Oklahoma, began making apparel favored by railroad crews working on trains traveling through Shawnee when the state was still a territory. Shawnee was an important railroad town with several trains stopping each day. "There was a round house here where train engines were placed on a huge rail turnstile, which turned them around so they could be driven in a different direction after completing a run," Antosh said.
Round House bib overalls are still worn by people with many different livelihoods, Antosh said. In addition to railroad crews who still wear the overalls and Round House caps and coats and farmers like Robbins, Jennifer Aniston wore a pair of the bib overalls while acting in the well-known television series "Friends."
Round House has more than 2,000 retailer customers worldwide, Antosh said. The Shawnee plant manufactures 7,000 pairs of overalls weekly. And all of it comes from cotton plants which are also "Made in Oklahoma.”