I enjoy looking at old family photos. Both of my grandfathers, in their own ways, liked clothes. My father’s father can always be seen in a suit and tie. The suits were always perfectly cut (he had all of his suits made for him, although that was a lot more standard at that time), the ties perfectly tied, always with a dapper hat and clean shaven. My mother’s father was a military man; more casual but also effortlessly cool in his own way. Some of my favourite photos of him were taken during his tour in the Navy during World War 2. Smoking a cigarette in heavy dungarees, grinning at the camera on the deck of a minesweeper in the middle of the Atlantic. One thing that immediately jumped out to me is the look and fit of the clothing – it appears heavy, well made…. almost indestructible. In today’s Ikea and H&M society, our clothing tends to be disposable, temporary and forgettable.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who looked at old photographs and had this thought – Nigel Cabourn, after being Paul Smith’s right-hand, decided that the world needed this type of clothing once again. Sturdy, epically well-manufactured via classic methods and yet, at the same time, modern. Inspiration has come primarily from vintage military uniforms and Cabourn’s passion for (and private collection of) vintage men’s clothing. The fabric used are some of the best in the world – heavy tweeds, incredible jersey cottons from Germany, all of which feel hermetically sealed from another time.
Cabourn’s clothing looks and feels almost like it came out, perfectly preserved, from an archaeological dig of early 20th Century menswear. Stylistically, they resemble a cross between what Steve McQueen would’ve worn on the weekend and what a member of the royal family would wear for a casual walk around their palace in the Scottish highlands. Best known for his coats, most notably the Cameraman and Airman, I’m even more partial to some of the shirts he makes. From the heavy, “new old stock” buttons, the reinforced seams and luxurious fabric, it is apparent from even the shortest of glances the thought and attention to detail that goes into each Cabourn piece. Pick up the sweater pictured below, feel its five pound weight and you’ll walk away a believer.
In North America, it can be a slightly more difficult brand to find. Barney’s often has items for sale in-store and on their website, and it’s worth searching locally for a stockist. There are usually twenty Cabourn pieces on eBay at any given time. The incredible quality definitely make them worth stalking on the ‘Bay. Even at full price, these are the type of legacy items that can be passed down to future generations, as cliche as that is to say. In the same way that my grandfather’s shoes and suits remain in excellent condition after 50 years, Cabourn pieces are built to a similar standard
If you’d like more information on the brand, or to see this season’s items, check out www.cabourn.com. One important note: there is another line called “Cabourn Utility” that is available but isn’t made to nearly the same standard. I would steer clear and hold out for some “Authentic” Nigel Cabourn.
“They don’t make ’em like they used to” is an oft heard refrain due to the deteriorating quality and temporary nature of just about everything. I hope Nigel Cabourn never gets the memo.