It was 1963 when one Mr. Ben Sherman returned from the US with the bold plan to design a shirt like the one he’d seen worn by polo players over the pond. The button-down idea was what caught his eye in particular and so as soon as he got back, he began working his magic with his own version.
Having long been inspired by his father who made his living as a tailor, it didn’t take long for his efforts to come to fruition. Little did Mr. Sherman know however that the shirt he came up with would become one of the most instantaneous icons of British fashion in recorded history.
Youth culture in the UK was thriving at the time with the teddy boys of the post-war era dominating the landscape. However, it would be the second wave of male youths that hit the scene who would ultimately make the new Ben Sherman shirt the success we know it as today – the Modernists, aka the Mods.
Still in 1963, the first factory producing Ben Sherman shirts opened in Brighton and the garments became an instant hit. The Mods just loved the shirt for its striking looks, stunning quality and more importantly the fact that it was unlike any other piece of clothing the UK market had ever seen. The 60s were full of euphoria, free love and casual spending of flowing cash, which saw Ben Sherman shirts spread far and wide among the nation’s growing army of Mods.
Pale blues, light pinks and array of striped designs broke the mould time and time again – a British style icon was born and the country’s fashion landscape would never be the same again.
The Ben Sherman name didn’t set out to become a globally recognised brand and an icon of British subculture – it simply came along with the highest-quality goods in new and bold designs at the perfect time. They were the kinds of shirts that the more fashion-conscious Mods literally would not be caught dead without – almost an unofficial uniform by which you could easily recognise anyone considering themselves to be Mods.
What none could have seen coming though is the way in which decades after the Mod movement fizzled out, the Ben Sherman name and what it represents have never been stronger. The first shirts were made by Mr. Sherman to represent a new way of thinking and bring new designs to the UK – not to simply sell by the million and make a tidy profit.
All throughout the decades since, British subculture has been littered with groups and movements flying the Ben Sherman flag. From the Mods to the skinheads to the casuals to the suedeheads and of course the massive Britpop movement of the early 90s, the Ben Sherman shirt has played such a massive role in helping youths find and express their identities.
You’ll find in our collection plenty of example of Ben Sherman shirts that are every bit as iconic and desirable today in 2013 as they were half a century ago when the exact same designs made their debuts.
A Ben Sherman shirt is a piece of British fashion history to be fiercely proud of.
By Lisa Morton
Lisa Morton regularly blogs on industry matters and has a keen interest in the history of British fashion and button down shirts. She’s currently guest blogging in behalf of Ben Sherman. You may add her in Google+.