Sunspel has been making T-shirts for 160 years. They’re high quality, last for years and now they’ve arrived in Chelsea.
Queen Victoria was on the throne when Sunspel was founded.
They made some of the first T-shirts ever, worn strictly as underwear in those days.
“Sunspel also introduced the boxer short to the UK just after the war,” says CEO Nick Brooke.
Their sixth UK store opened in Duke of York Square this summer.
This adds to stores across London in places like Marylebone, Soho and Notting Hill, as well as in Japan and the US.
“I’ve always wanted to have a store here. It’s a really iconic area of London and has such a special character,” Nick says.
Strong but lightweight
Nick bought the business in 2005 from the great-grandson of the founder.
The t-shirts have been made at their factory in Long Eaton, near Nottingham, since 1937.
“They are made from long staple cotton that’s spun to be two-fold, so that it’s very strong but also quite lightweight.
“After spinning, it’s passed over a flame to take all the little fluffy bits off, which makes it very smooth,” he says.
“The knitting happens in Leicester on machines that are set at a very specific tension, and the fabric is then dyed in Nottingham,” he adds.
Never tumble dry
“They really last for years, but to best look after them they should be washed on a gentle cycle under 30 degrees.
“It’s best to reshape while flat, as hanging may stretch the fabric. And the key thing is to never, ever tumble dry,” Nick explains.
He says there are six core colours with about 10 new colourways introduced each season.
“Getting the fit right with a basic like a T-shirt is incredibly difficult, even though people assume it’s easy.
“Over time they have tended to become shorter, with the arms less T-shaped and more closely fitted,” he says.
There are two fits for men and a broader range for women like a classic, a looser boy fit and a boat neck.
Buy to last
“In terms of sustainability we know exactly where our cotton comes from and where our T-shirts are made,” he says.
“People do sometimes forget that the most important thing is to buy clothes that you want to wear and that will last for a long time.”
Nick adds: “Lots of my own Sunspel T-shirts are over five years old and still going strong.
“And when one does get a little tear by a seam you can transfer them to nightwear.”