Fred Perry Clothing – A History and Informative Look at Britain’s Biggest Fashion Brand

Fred Perry clothing is one of Great Britain’s greatest contributions to the world. Started in the 1940’s by three-time Wimbledon tennis tournament winner Mr. Fred Perry, over the past 60 years the brand has grown from its humble sportswear origins into a brand that is recognised and respected across the whole world.

The clothing brand started when, towards the end of the 40’s, Mr Perry was approached by an ex-Austrian football player called Tibby Wegner. Wegner had developed a business mind after leaving profressional sports. He had developed a new type of sweatband, one that was much lighter and more flexible than all the others available at the time. Wegner wanted the new product to not only be endorsed by Fred Perry, but to carry his name. Mr. Perry accepted and the clothing brand was born.

The new style of sweat band was a massive success which was thanks in part to a very clever marketing campaign. The Austrian Businessman and British Tennis Player duo had further plans to expand the range of products available, but could not decide on a suitable logo. They both knew they wanted something that symbolised Fred’s life, but it was a difficult choice. Mr. Perry was well known to the British public not only for his tennis playing; but also his colourful love life (he had a string of high-profile relationships with many women, four of which he married), he was part of the budding celebrity culture (glitterati was a popular term for this at the time) and was he beginning to be recognised all across the world, which is especially admirable as this was before the time of gossip-focused media and mainstream television.

Fred’s idea for a logo was a pipe. He was a keen pipe smoker and felt this would make an ideal logo as it symbolises his personal life rather than his professional one. Tibby opposed this as he believed that it would be unpopular with Perry’s growing number of female fans. Between them they rejected many more designs until they finally settled on the Laurel Wreath. This logo has stayed with the brand to this day, and has become synonymous with British Heritage, find sportswear, polo shirts and, of course, Wimbledon championship.

The bridge between sportswear and street designer clothing happened during the 60’s and 70’s. The Fred Perry polo shirts had a surprising cult following from the ‘Mod’ culture of the time, who found it to be a perfect shirt in which to go about their activities. The polo shirts were made out of a very durable material, dealt with perspiration effectively and were aesthetically pleasing. Retailers were soon receiving requests from customers to ask Fred Perry to create polos with more colour on them (at this point, they only came in white), especially around the sleeve tips and collar.

In 2009, the clothing brand received a surge in its popularity and interest when they sponsored up-and-coming Scottish tennis player Andy Murray. Many of the nation’s rock and pop stars were also seen proudly wearing the label, including Gwen Stefani and Blur.

While the recent years’ of Fred Perry styles remain true in spirit to the traditional looks and feel that they have been known for for over 50 years, they are in no way opposed to experimenting with different styles with collaborators. Many big designers have worked with Fred Perry on collaborations and have created some stunning contemporary takes on the usual styles. Raf Simons is a fine example of this. In his collaborative work, he has re-imagined the conventional looks with a different approach, such as by using metallic material for the polo shirts or creating slim fitting but wool-filled Harrington jackets.