One of the tasks on my agenda this week is to score an interview with Neill Starr, the fellow behind London’s North Sea Clothing and the resurrection of the Submariner Jumper. I discovered this particular item on a recent visit to 14 Earlham Street, a vintage store just off Cambridge Circus, and have had a bit of a fixation with it since.
If, like me, you’re a devotee of those classic British war movies that you used to watch on a cold Sunday afternoon such as In Which We Serve, The Battle of the River Plate, We Dive at Dawn, Sink the Bismark and their like, then the submariner jumper may strike a similar chord. Standard issue kit by the War Office to Royal Navy personal in both World Wars, the jumper was later taken up by 1950’s motorcyclists and worn under their leathers as a means of keeping warm.
It’s this historical thread, its robustness and the perfect combination of form and function that have tempted me to buy one. I’m even scouring the markets of London in hope of bagging a vintage beaten up Barbour to complete the look.
Although, for me the truly curious thing is how subtext has altered my view of a garment type. In the normal run of things I have a near religious aversion to turtleneck/roll neck jumpers, or anything like it. I know they have their enthusiasts here, but for me they conjure up images of greasy, moustached, medallion wearing lotharios, synthetic fibres, Old Spice, wide lapels and the great collective awfulness that were the 1970s.
Of course the story to be told is as much about the man behind the jumper as the jumper itself. Speaking as someone who has often talked about setting up their own label I’m fascinated by people who just decide to get on and do it; and in my experience, the more unusual the garment the more interesting the back story.