The branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories market simply refuses to go out of fashion.

For over 100 years, V.F. Corp.  (VFC) - Get V.F. Corporation Report has been a mainstay in the apparel business with consistent and sustainable profits. The company's most popular brands are Vans, The North Face, Timberland, Wrangler and Lee.

Over the past decade, the company has nearly doubled annual sales and increased profitability. The stock has delivered stable and rising dividends for 44 consecutive years. The $22 billion enterprise has managed all of the above without over-leveraging itself.

From selling gloves in its initial years, V.F. Corp. is now a force to be reckoned with in the apparel and footwear space. Especially in the 2000s, when the company acquired brands like Nautica, Kipling, Reef, 7 For All Mankind, Eagle Creek, Ella Moss and Timberland.

Today, the company is broadly organized across a few key segments: Outdoor & Action Sports, Jeanswear, Imagewear and Sportswear. On a quarterly basis, V.F. Corp. is bringing in solid returns from each segment.

The Outdoor & Actions Sports arm is V.F. Corp.'s primary contributor. Further, direct to consumer is an important part of its business, and we should expect to see gains pouring in over the next few years.

Beyond the financial crisis, V.F. Corp. has managed to grow annual sales every year over the past decade. Sales jumped from $7.2 billion in 2007 to $12 billion in 2016. Also, gross margins have stayed at over 40%.

For five consecutive years, the company has posted over $1 billion in profit. In comparison, luxury giant Ralph Lauren (RL) - Get Ralph Lauren Corporation Class A Report has reported declining profits for two consecutive years. In 2016, Ralph Lauren's profits fell steeply to less than $400 million from $700 million in 2015.

Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. (PVH) - Get PVH Corp. Report , on the other hand, has quadrupled annual sales over the past 10 years, but yearly net profits have swung wildly between less than $100 million to close to $600 million. PVH makes about $8.2 billion in sales annually.

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By comparison, V.F. Corp.'s numbers are unbeatable. Over the next 5 years, analysts project 7.3% annual earnings per share (EPS) growth, much faster than the S&P 500, as well as Ralph Lauren, PVH Corp. and in-line with Columbia Sportswear (COLM) - Get Columbia Sportswear Company Report .

And V.F. Corp.'s long dividend history only reinforces our investment argument.

Its 3.2% dividend yield is better than the textile apparel clothing companies' average of 1.8% and the payout ratio of 54.2% ensures that V.F. Corp. will continue delivering dependable income to investors.

Other apparel companies, such as Hanesbrands (HBI) - Get Hanesbrands Inc. (HBI) Report , Gildan Activewear (GIL) - Get Gildan Activewear Inc. Report , Crown Crafts (CRWS) - Get Crown Crafts, Inc. Report and Oxford Industries (OXM) - Get Oxford Industries, Inc. Report also pay dividends, but none carries a track record as robust as V.F. Corp.

This is of crucial importance as most income investors prioritize stocks with steady and reliable dividend.

Trading at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 17 times, which is less than the apparel peer group average of 20 times.

Buy V.F. Corp. for its steady product demand, dependable earnings growth and solid dividend track record.


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The author is an independent contributor who at the time of publication owned none of the stocks mentioned.