Unfortunately this article does represent some form of self indulgence but I do really believe that the idea has a great deal of significance, not only for our knowledge of fashion in general but also for our individual style. To truly establish ourselves – our own image - you need to properly understand the clothes you wear in a both a practical and physical sense, whilst also recognising their heritage. Just as Savile Row is steeped in history, class and renowned all over the world, every brand has its own story and in our ever continuing mission to become the perfect gentleman, understanding our image and what creates it is possibly one of the biggest challenges we have to face.
Following on from my last debate topic, brand association, I felt it would be worth going one step further by getting stuck right into the brands themselves. It is all well and good questioning our opinion of certain brands, discussing their image and whom we would associate them with – but just how much do we know about the brands we wear? We trot out our best every time we leave the house (or at least try to) but I’m sure most people, myself included, never really think about where these clothes have come from; they are more a name than an object. Fred Perry (to me anyway) sounds much better than H&M; but why? What makes this brand so much more special than another?
It is at this point that understanding the brand and knowing its story comes into play. A man who wears an item of clothing for its heritage and the image of the brand as a whole is arguably the better dresser than the man that wears it just for the name. So without further adieu, let’s get stuck in.
Now, I should point out that this something of a pilot article, as I’d like to turn the concept into a series, going over many of the popular (and underground) brands of today. Of course this will only happen if you guys find it useful or interesting, so with this in mind I’ve gone for one of the more obvious brands to start us off. I also hold quite a soft spot for Fred Perry – as some of you may have noticed – and I’d very much like to spread the Perry love (I do apologise for that last turn of phrase) to everyone.
To start off I thought would tantalise those taste buds of yours with a quick look book, I’ve even snuck a picture of the man himself in there:
Of course you couldn’t write a brief history of a brand without mentioning its founder/creator. In this instance Fred Perry the man. Born into a working class family, he began his career by playing table tennis at Ealing County School, promptly winning the World Championship in 1928. Four years beforehand he had discovered tennis whilst wandering alone on holiday in Eastbourne; he quickly rose to become one of best players of the time, eventually becoming a 3 time winner of Wimbledon and holder of the Davis Cup. Sadly his relationship with the All England Tennis Club and many within the sport set was particularly strained, mainly because of his working class background.
It is perhaps surprising then that when he was looking for a logo (he initially wanted to use a pipe being a pipe smoker himself, but there were concerns that the female audience might not appreciate such an image) he opted for the Laurel wreath, the symbol that he had worn as a testament to his 1934 victory at Wimbledon; the issue being that to use it as his emblem he had to have to approval of the secretary of the All England club. However, he was granted permission to use the image and it is from here that we see the iconic logo of today.
So he had the logo, but how did the man become the business? Fame and a name don’t give you everything. It all started when, in the late 1940s, an Austrian footballer Tibby Wegner came to him with a new antiperspirant device, looking for endorsement. Fred Perry told him to change the design and soon after Wegner had produced the first ever sweatband; Fred Perry Sportswear was born. Wegner then suggested he create a sports shirt made from knitted white cotton piquaterial with short sleeves and buttons down the front – the iconic Fred Perry Pique. The success of this design was huge and almost certainly laid the foundations for what has surely become one of Britain’s most iconic brands. The traditional slim fit piques are still made in England today, using the same shape and fabric as has always been used and while the world has changed around them, his shirts have remained constant - a truly eternal and timeless item.
We all know and love the iconic Fred Perry Pique and in all probability this is what most people would associate with the brand, but it represents (in clothing terms) a great deal more, with regards to what they produce and who they work with. Check out some of the more fashion forward and specialist collections Fred Perry has branched out into below.
Raf Simons has long been a designer popular with the fashion forward crowd, and his collaboration with Fred Perry has been one of the most successful men’s fashion has seen in recent years. Simons takes Fred Perry’s iconic basics range and adds a contemporary twist; whether it be by cut, colour or detailing.
For 2011 the signature pique shirt has been reinvigorated with bold Riri zips, bright new colour options and a crisp slim fit, paired alongside tailored shorts and soft merino knitwear.
Taking a simple colour palette of white, blood red and black, Fred Perry have teamed up with Stussy Deluxe to create a unique blank canvas collection that celebrates British and 1970s American sports heritage and design. Our iconic Fred Perry shirt has been emblazoned with the establishing date of each brand, printed on the back in the style of a team players jersey.
The result is a collection that builds on traditional sports details to create something perfectly at home in a contemporary streetwear arena:
Fred Perry Laurel Wreath is a limited edition heritage collection that Fred Perry releases each season. The pieces are inspired by classic designs from the last 50 years of production from the brand. Laurel by Fred Perry showcases not only the stripped back and vintage nature of those heritage styles, but also offers a contemporary look based on authentic values.
The history of the brands we wear is just as important as the clothes themselves. To fully understand fashion and style, thereby developing yourself, you must take an interest in every aspect of it. If you do, then you can feel truly proud to wear that shirt you love so much or pair your pique with some rolled up chinos and loafers; knowing you are part of a rich history.
P.S. Let me know in the comments below whether or not you would be interested in me producing a series of articles on other famous (and not so famous) brands.
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