The story of the T-shirt is forever entwined with one Thomas Arthur Hill, the 11th child of a Victorian hosiery maker. In 1860, Thomas founded Sunspel. Back then, they were at the forefront of a steam-powered industrial revolution, producing luxury undergarments and some of the world’s first T-shirts out of their factory in Nottingham. Ever since, Sunspel has been a byword for a very British kind of luxury.
We decided to delve a bit deeper into the past, present, and future of a brand who know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to blending high production values with an everyday wearability.
The key to Sunspel’s sartorial success is an unstinting focus on quality. For over 150 years the brand has, as Head Designer, David Telfer, tells it’s Nice That, approached everything from a standpoint they describe as “considered”. Whether it’s where a garment is made or the design detailing or how they go about communicating the product to a style-conscious public, “everything has a reason and a purpose.”
Refusing to chase trends David tells It’s Nice That that their “founding principles have taught us to focus on developing timeless products that provide a relevant function as we build a full collection of wardrobe staples.” If you’re even half-interested in quality, timeless garments that’ll last decades rather than seasons, you’ve probably picked up a few Sunspel bits in the past.
It isn’t just T-shirts that Sunspel are known for. They are, in fact, largely responsible for the increasing popularity of the boxer short over the past thirty years. After the Second World War, John Hill — Thomas’ great-grandson — made a trip to New York. While there he found himself fascinated by the American underwear icon, deciding to not just “borrow” the design, but to “perfect it”.
The result is, Sunspel tell us, “boxer shorts that were, and still are, cut with a unique back panel to avoid a middle seam, and all remaining seams have been double turned and feldlocked flat to the fabric to avoid itchiness.”
So renowned were the boxers that when Levi’s filmed their now-iconic, Nick Kamen starring advert — perhaps ask your mum, about this — he was wearing, yep, Sunspel shorts.
Shop Sunspel’s Black Friday promotion with 30% off all styles at the Sunspel site