‘Continue like that and you’ll end up exactly like everyone else’
These are the compelling words of Ben Sherman that epitomise the brand that took his name, and everything the brand has stood for in its rich 50-year history.
Ben Sherman returned from adventures in the US to set up his shirt business in the UK in 1963. Inspired by the potent optimism of mid 20th-century America, the land of make-believe, teenage rebellion and pop culture, he set about reinventing and redefining the shirt in a new and exciting way for the British market.
From his first factory in Bedford Square, Brighton, he launched the ‘original Ben Sherman shirt’, which featured a host of innovative details inspired by American styling but sharpened up for the UK consumer: buttoned-down collars, a button on the back of the collar, a locker loop, a box pleat and square hem. Fundamental to this new look was also a signature use of bold colour and pattern: candy stripes, bright checks, audacious block colours. All of this was underpinned by an unflinching belief in quality fabrics that were all sourced from America.
Ben Sherman transformed the humble shirt from a staple item into a statement piece that was perfect for the mood of the early 1960s and was an instant success. This was demonstrated most clearly by the brand being adopted by the mod movement of that era. Inspired by a modernist sartorial approach, this intrinsically British sub-culture embraced the Ben Sherman shirt, loving it for its high-quality manufacture, slim-fitting style and distinctive design. Adopted by so many influential bands of the time, a classic British look was born, and Ben Sherman was at the heart of it.
Five decades on, the Ben Sherman brand and shirt has been embraced and loved by many of the key British youth and style cultures that followed, such as northern soul, ska, Two Tone, punk, mod revivalism and Brit-pop. Each of these vibrant sub-cultures has provided fresh impetus and rediscovery of the Ben Sherman brand, so it has naturally become rooted in the British fashion consciousness.
Most significantly, there has been a constant thread in how Ben Sherman has been interpreted and worn by all these youth sub-cultures that have shaped the nation. The Ben Sherman shirt has always been worn buttoned up.
Buttoning Up the top button of your shirt is something that’s been done to Ben Sherman shirts since 1963. It is a deliberate style choice that exudes ‘Britishness’ and personal pride. It’s also an integral part of British style culture.