If, like us, you like to pack things that will be useful and versatile on your travels, items that can do service in a number of different situations, then you’ll probably always reach for some classics. One such is the Henley shirt, a top so named because it was worn by rowers in Henley-on-Thames, the English town on the river that is home to the annual Henley Royal Regatta, founded in 1839.
Sunspel knows a thing or two about knitwear, especially the kind that evolved out of undergarments, like the T-shirt and the Henley. And it also knows how to keep classic ideas fresh. Hence its second collaboration with musician and style leader, Paul Weller. The former front man of The Jam journeyed to Sunspel’s factory in Long Eaton to develop a collection of clothing that he freely admits was inspired by his lifelong love of all things Mod.
‘The inspiration for these designs is the same one I’ve always had (and always will)… and that is essentially Mod,’ says Weller. ‘Though a few pieces in this new range are definitely Ivy [League]/college inspired, that’s very Mod too! Clothes were important to me from a very young age.’
Indeed, Weller certainly likes his threads: ‘Clothes and music seemed inseparable to me as a young kid in the ’60s. That continued for me into the early ’70s, by which time I had a paper round/Saturday job and could save up to buy what I wanted. The fashion and styles were incredible in those decades. A lot of street fashion too, definitely not led by brands, so I was heavily influenced by that period; still am!’
And the musician is a Sunspel fan: ‘I was greatly honoured to be asked to work with Sunspel. I’d shopped in there many times before and I’ve always loved its T-shirts, especially. They’re a great quality and that applies to all its garments. Well-made, great construction and, above all, wearable. Great colours too. Our first collaboration together [for spring/summer 2021] went really well. I thought all the pieces were great, so I’m very pleased to have been asked back!’
In among the new styles, which include a classic made-in-England T-shirt, a zip-up cardigan and a short mac, there is also a Henley, with a contrast-coloured strip around the neck and the placket, and the ends of the short sleeves. It’s a simple piece, but all the better for that – a perfect match for shorts, jeans and linen trousers, and even for more formal styles like blazers and suits.
Sling it in your suitcase and you have a top for all occasions, designed in collaboration with a man who knows his clothes, and made by a brand that knows its knits.
Peter Howarth has been the style director of British GQ and the editor of Arena, British Esquire and Man About Town. He is the co-founder and CEO of London creative agency SHOW