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The Magic of Sunspel

by Neil Summers

In 1860 Thomas Hill opened up his textile factory in Newdigate, Nottingham, a place that was to become the centre of the British lace making industry. Under the name Sunspel he used his fabric expertise to make lightweight, soft clothing in very fine cotton and pioneered the development of luxury undergarments, as we know them today. Some of the earliest garments they made also included tunics and undershirts that were some of the first t-shirts ever made.

By the start of the twentieth century Sunspel had built a significant export business across the British Empire and was one of the earliest British companies to export to the Far East. Company records even show that a shipment of Sunspel garments due for Hong Kong and China was aboard the N.Y.K Hirano Maru, which was sadly torpedoed and sunk by a German U-Boat in the Irish Sea in 1918. It was also during this period that Sunspel developed its unique Sea Island cotton fabrics sourced from the West Indies and used in the most luxurious of its products. It was also a particular favourite with Ian Fleming who not only dressed himself in Sea Island cotton but also his literary creation James Bond.

After surviving the great depression the factory relocated to Long Eaton where it remains to this day. Though primarily focusing on their premium line of Sea Island cotton underwear during WWII the brand turned their hand to utility clothing to aid the war effort and continued to lead the way despite suffering a direct hit from the Luftwaffe on their Bruton street offices in London.

Soon after the war John Hill left the gloom of Britain for the glamour of boom time America and was soon inspired by the ideas and innovations of New York. It was here that he saw the opportunity to bring the boxer short to the UK which he did whilst perfecting it’s design along the way. The first Sunspel boxers were cut with a unique back panel to avoid a middle seam and made from Sea Island cotton and designed for comfort. Now recognised as the industry standard for the best boxer shorts out there, in 1985 a pristine pair of white Sunspel boxer shorts appeared in a game-changing advert for Levi’s 501s. The award winning advert saw model Nick Kamen casually stripping down to his boxers in a launderette to a Marvin Gaye soundtrack and changed the underwear buying habits of a nation overnight.

Since then the brand has continued to provide clothing for a wide range of costume designers, actors and musicians. With the name Sunspel being respected as much for their menswear and womenswear collections nowadays as it is for their iconic and incredibly comfortable underwear.

Browse the fantastic collection at The Sporting Lodge

 

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Pendleton Woolen Mills – The Legendary Blankets

by Neil Summers

Over the past 25 years, Pendleton Woolen Mills have developed a series of Legendary blankets all of which are based on the beliefs and traditions of their original and most valued customers, the Native American Indian. Though founded by British weaver Thomas Kay back in 1863 it was only after the purchase of a mill along the Oregon Trail in 1909 that their blankets, robes and shawls became highly prized by the Native American population.

One of the reasons for the popularity of these products is thanks to the care taken by the pattern designers to learn about the native mythologies and design preferences of their customers. In the earliest years, Joe Rawnsley, who was considered a gifted talent on the jacquard loom, took time out with the local natives of northeastern Oregon to develop and understand their preferences of colour and design. Which he would then interpret the ideas gleaned from the native peoples into blanket designs using modern technologies that could express pattern ideas in much greater detail and in more vivid colours that could be expressed by traditional weaving methods.

Local business men during a Pendleton Mill tour in 1910.

Wiith the success of these first designs, Mr. Rawnsley went on to spend a further spent six months in the native Southwest developing ideas for designs that would specifically appeal to the tribes of this region. He returned with hundreds of designs to be interpreted into his weaving processes and also entering Pendleton blankets into the ‘Indian trade’. Meaning that local natives started to take the blankets down from Oregon to the Southwest tribes in order to exchange them for silver jewellery, wool or other items of value. The colourful blankets were also integrated into everyday and ceremonial uses; part of a dowry, weddings, gift giving, pow wows, dance prizes, naming ceremonies, funerals and memorials. With blankets often being placed into coffins to keep loved ones warm on their journey.

Today, Pendleton blankets continue to play a significant role in Indigenous communities across North America with the tradition of wool and textile innovation established by Thomas Kay and his family underlying all Pendleton products. Though the good news now is that you don’t have to belong to a Native American tribe in order to own one as The Sporting Lodge are now proud stockists of this incredible American brand.

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Introducing Poler

For those who enjoy the unique sense of happiness and freedom that outdoor living provides then Poler is the brand that you’ve been looking for. As rather than setting itself out as a technical brand focussed on surviving sub-zero climates and extreme weather, Poler has a more laid back and pragmatic approach to its product design.

Created in Portland by Benji Wagner with two of his friends, Poler sprang to life in response to the sheer lack of outdoor brands that Benji and mates wanted to wear. Whilst the outdoor gear that already existed may have been perfectly good suited for camping, hiking and travelling in, it just weren’t up to scratch aesthetically.

Using Benji’s home as a base the brand made their debut in 2011 with a range of tents, tees and bags with the aim of bringing surf, skate and snowboard culture into the world of outdoor adventure. Six years later and Poler is now something of a cult brand amongst a different type of adventurer who  can be spotted everywhere from the middle of Mediterranean music festivals to hanging out on the Ho Chi Min trail.

Browse the new Poler collection at The Sporting Lodge.

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Introducing – Patagonia

Introducing Patagonia, brand new to The Sporting Lodge. If you’re not clued up on Patagonia, the lads Proper Mags dig into the history. 

The name Yvon Chouinard is one that’s synonymous with the great outdoors and has a legendary status in the worlds of climbing, surfing and fly fishing not to mention his ecological and philanthropic work. For those of you unfamiliar with his name then you may be more aware of his outdoor brand Patagonia.

Having moved to California from Maine as a child,  Yvon developed a love for climbing after being taught to abseil at a local falconry club. He instantly fell in love with the sport and soon learnt how to ascend cliffs as well as to get down them. Soon he and his friends would be regularly hopping freight trains to the west end of the San Fernando Valley and to the sandstone cliffs of Stoney Point. Before long Yvon had become part of a group of maverick climbers that had moved on to Yosemite and it’s big walls. Which is where in between hiding from the park rangers that Yvon first started to develop his own outdoor equipment. Initially starting with reusable climbing pitons Yvon then expanded into clothing after importing British rugby shirts whose sturdy collars provided perfect protection from rope burn.

Along with some like-minded friends Yvon set up the brand Patagonia as it’s named  conjured up “romantic visions of glaciers tumbling into fjords, jagged windswept peaks, gauchos and condors.” It also helped that the name could be pronounced by in any language.

Alongside climbing Yvon’s other two great loves of surfing and fly-fishing are also an important part of the Patagonia product range. They also reflect the strong environmental ethos of the company and their anti-corporate stance. Which may sound like something of a paradox for a global clothing brand though they give millions away to NGOs around the world and encourage people to repair their clothing rather than replace it. Such is their level of commitment to reducing waste that on Black Friday2011 they printed a full-page ad in The New York Times encouraging customers not to buy their products!

It’s pretty difficult not to buy Patagonia products though when they’re incredibly durable whether you’re river deep or mountain high as well as being made from organic/recycled products wherever possible. Not only that but their choice of colours and designs really make them stand out from the crowd and have ensured their popularity with the fashionistas as much as alpinists.

View the range now at The Sporting Lodge.

Neil Summers and Mark Smith.

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Introducing – Brett Davies

The Sporting Lodge would like to give a warm welcome to our new blog contributor Brett Davies.

Brett is a highly experienced game and clay pigeon shooting instructor at North Wales Shooting School, with an impressive history in competitive shooting.

As a junior, Brett re-wrote history by winning the Home International Championship with a score of 196/200 making him the Inter Countries all round Champion. He was the only junior to win this title. He also was the Home International Champion at Automatic Ball Trap as a Junior shooting for England.

Brett then went on to represent The England Shooting Team three times, winning the English Open Sporting AA class and the English Open ABT.

In 2016, America also opened up a wealth of opportunities for Brett, as this is where he achieved 12th place in the Seminole Cup.

Staying true to his roots, Brett represents Cheshire in national inter counties competitions where he has become Cheshire’s English sporting, English Skeet and Olympic trap county champion numerous times at senior level. Within Cheshire, Brett is also the Sporting and Skeet Doubles Champion.

At present, Brett is ranked 8th in the official CPSA top ten ranked English sporting shooters in the country. Brett is also the current West Midlands Inter Counties all round Champion.

We are really looking forward to getting a glimpse into Brett’s life, seeing where his shooting careers takes him next and getting some of those valuable shooting tips!

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Wigwam – Brand New to The Sporting Lodge

by Mark Smith,

Founded in 1905, Wigwam was the creation three men – Herbert Chesebro, Robert Ehany, and Lawerance Bentz. This trio had previously worked for the Sheboygan Knitting Company but when it burnt down, they quickly combined to fill its place.

In a town benefiting from diverse immigration, Wigwam rose to prominence quickly, supplying the various lumbermen of the area. Sheboygan had originally been officially founded 49 years earlier but prior to that it was inhabited by various Native American tribes.

By 1936, Chesebro had taken full control of the company, but like many businesses, the war effort led to a shift in production, with 75% of their capacity being used to make socks for troops overseas.

In the post-war years, Wigwam used its strong reputation to branch out into all kinds of hosiery, with a forward-thinking outlook which has kept the company at the forefront for more than a century.

Today, Wigwam make some of the finest, most hard wearing and hard working socks on the market.

We are pleased to now be stocking Wigwam at The Sporting Lodge, browse the range!

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The everlasting and enduring appeal of a Barbour wax jacket

by Neil Summers.

There can be few things in life that are as hard-wearing or reliable as a Barbour jacket. Designed for all manner of healthy outdoor pursuits from bailing hay to wiping out wildfowl. It’s a timeless British icon loved the world over as much by country folk as it is city-slickers and whose level of appeal (just like the jackets themselves) seems to only improve with age. This was proved by my recent visit to the Pitti Uomo trade show in Florence where I noticed amongst all the fur lined parkas and woolen overcoats that the Barbour Bedale and Beaufort wax jackets are both still the jacket of choice for Italy’s fashion elite. Which is pretty incredible when you try to think of another genuine outdoor that’s as popular with urbanite peacocks as it is with those who wear Barbour jackets for the type of outdoor pursuits that don’t involve drinking prosecco or being papped.

Whilst other jackets have come and gone since its inception back in 1894, thanks to its combination of practicality and timeless style the Barbour wax jacket is now a permanent fixture in our wardrobes. Worn by everyone from festival goers to royalty and even our household pets the Barbour wax jacket remains a uniquely British fashion statement too. It’s an iconic institution as synonymous with our sceptered isle as red buses, steamed up chip shop windows, foaming pints of beer, complaining about the weather and the wonderful crack of leather on willow.

Long may Barbour continue, here at The Sporting Lodge we are proud to be working with such an iconic brand.

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Fjallraven – G1000

by Neil Summers

Whilst a lot of today’s outdoor clothing use lightweight fabrics as their
main selling point, this is not the most important factor when it comes to
Swedish brand Fjallraven. Their clothing, especially the Fjallraven numbers
range prefers a more substantial weight in their fabrics thanks to their
product consultant and ex-military equipment tester Johan Skullman. A man
of considerable knowledge and experience who has found that in the most
demanding conditions lightweight products are often prone to tears and rips
just when you need them the most. So with this in mind jackets such as the
Fjallraven Anorak number 8 have been designed with a heavier, tougher
fabric construction using the wind and water resistant Fjallraven G-1000
Eco and G-1000 HeavyDuty fabrics on the shoulders, sleeves and extended
back. This next level anorak also features several useful ventilation zips
to help regulate temperature alongside plenty of super practical pockets
including a versatile kangaroo pouch on the front, that’s accessible from
both the top and the sides. The additional use of greenland wax also adds
to the durability and waterproofing of Fjallraven jackets which is made
specifically to be with G-1000 fabric that contains a combination of
high-quality paraffin and beeswax, which is far kinder towards the
environment than chemical-based products.

To complement their incredible range of jackets Fjallraven also has some
equally impressive trousers and shirts that also uses their trademark
G-1000 fabric. The substantial Fjallraven Mountaineering shirt Number 3
for example at first look may appear to be classic alpinist attire made
from soft, warm shetland wool but it has also been reinforced with G-1000
material on the elbows, shoulders, back and hips to reduce friction. Whilst
Fjallraven trousers such as the Barents Pro are made entirely from G-100
which is further reinforced on the rear and knees. The knee section also
has pockets on them into which Fjallraven knee pads can also be inserted
for additional comfort whilst kneeling down to peg a tent, taking aim
whilst hunting or maybe even making a marriage proposal in the great
outdoors!
View our extensive range of Fjallraven products at The Sporting Lodge.

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Klättermusen – The mouse that’s going places

by Neil Summers.

Klättermusen is an outdoor company located in Jämtland Sweden where bear, moose and brown trout populate the mountains, forest and streams. Translating as ‘climbing mouse’ after a well-known Swedish children’s book character Klättermusen’s unusual name was chosen when founder Peter Askulv first started up the business and wanted his products to be desirable for their quality and performance rather than a cool name. Being a biologist and chemist as well as an avid ice climber and cave diver Peter took a scientific approach to creating his outdoor gear, literally putting threads, fabrics and prototypes under a microscope in order to achieve maximum safety and durability.

Designed for conquering mountains as well as the daily commute into the city, Klättermusen’s super technical fabrics are made from predominantly organic and recycled materials in order to lessen their impact on the environment. So don’t be surprised to see fishing nets or bean oil in the product description of your new item of Klättermusen clothing alongside Recco detectors for locating you in an avalanche or fabric that has an actual SPF50 UV factor in order to stop you getting burnt by the midnight sun.

Conquer with Klättermusen at The Sporting Lodge.

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Barbour, for Queen and Country

Although Barbour has an impressive and illustrious history dating way back to 1894 it was during the 1980s that the family owned business became a household name in the UK. Prior to then their reputation for incredible outerwear had tended to be something of a well kept secret by those who enjoyed country pursuits or riding motorcycles. Though the combination of their second royal warrants arriving (this time for the queen herself) and the first of their iconic Bedale and Beaufort jackets being produced meant that the cat was well and truly out of the (wax) bag.

During this aspirational decade one of the true signs that you’d really ‘made it’ was having a place in the country to go to at the weekend that had to include an AGA oven, a range rover, a chocolate Labrador or two and of course a wax jacket. With the upwardly mobile city-slickers soon realising that if Barbour was good enough for the royal family then it was good enough for them too. In fact the South Shields based brand made such an impact back then that their reputation for this old-fashioned yet still incredibly effective form of waterproofing means that it’s still impossible to think of a wax jacket without also thinking of Barbour at the same time even now. This is no doubt helped by the fact that when you buy a Barbour it becomes more than just an item of clothing, it becomes a part of you that improves with age and with the right amount of care and the odd re-waxing will last you a lifetime.

Browse the wonderful world of Barbour at The Sporting Lodge.