Fred Perry was the first British brand that managed to combine
sport and fashion, and as a result create some of the
most iconic garments and accessories we have seen over
the past few decades. Take, for example, the sweatband,
Fred Perry polo shirt, track jacket and the bowling bag.
It all began with a working class lad and tennis player, Fred
Perry, who wasn’t allowed to accept his gold medal in front
of the spectators when he won Wimbledon, because he
wasn’t from the ‘right background’. Perry began his
clothing line at the end of the 1940s, together with
footballer, Tibby Wegner. Their tennis wear quickly gained
popularity among players in Britain, and in 1952 they
launched what was to become Fred Perry’s most famous
garment: a slim-fitting, pique cotton polo shirt
embroidered with the same laurel wreath symbol that was
on Perry’s Wimbledon medal.
Fred Perry then demonstrated that he was a good businessman,
by handing out polo shirts to the most successful
players and reporters during tournaments. Perry gained
enormous exposure for his products and when he managed
to convince the players to sell the products in their home
countries, he obtained his first distributors, and as a result
an international business. As Fred Perry was considered to
be the world’s best dressed sportsman, he even managed
to get his politician and actor friends to use his products.
Or as Perry preferred to describe his marketing methods,
“I’d like to describe my style of marketing as a combination
of friendship and bullshit”.
In the 1960s, the mods brought the Fred Perry polo shirt on
to the streets, and to the people. These well-dressed
young adults needed a shirt that you could ‘dance in all
night long and still look good in on the way home’. Since
then Fred Perry’s love affair with the British subcultures has
continued. After the mods came the skinheads,
suedeheads, soul boys, rude boys, two tone and even a
short-lived subcul-ture known as Perry Boys. When Britpop
conquered the world in the 1990s, it was no surprise to see
bands like Blur and Oasis wearing the brand.
Today the laurel wreath is recognisable everywhere, and
Fred Perry has retailers in more than 50 countries around
the world. The Fred Perry polo shirt is still manufactured to
the same high standard and is synonymous with Britpop.