Oi Polloi

OiPolloi meets Russ Gater of Heritage Research

Published: Thu Mar 03 2011

One of our favourite new brands of the last few years is Heritage Research.

With our main delivery of their Spring/Summer stock arriving in store and online this week, we thought it’d be a good time to pick the brains of Russ Gater, one of the chaps behind the brand, giving us a bit of insight into the thought processes behind the collection…

Speaking generally about your spring 2011 collection, what are the inspirations and influences behind it? In your lookbook and promotional shots, there’s a clear reference to the beach.

It’s really a reference to California specifically and the returning American servicemen who fought in World War II. Most ex GI’s were still young men and the camaraderie and feeling of belonging that came from being part of a military unit was missing post war. For some it was replaced by taking to the road with other like-minded types, on motorcycles particularly on the West Coast. The Hells Angels were originally a USAAF Bomb Group that formed a motorcycle club after the war. Car clubs sprang from this sense of detachment, regular meets and races would take place on the Californian dry lakes of the Mojave desert. Hot Rodding became a favoured pastime of men who had been trained in the military now turning those skills toward building and racing cars. Many of their inventions for hot rod racing are now automotive industry standard.

Surfing also made huge huge strides forward in the 1940’s due to WWII military developments such as the US Navy’s newly released hydrodynamic information. This combined with post war fibreglass technology created an improved generation of Redwood boards that were stronger, faster and more streamlined than anything before. Foam had been used during World War II molded into aircraft fuselage radar domes, Malibu surfer Bob Simmons used this to made his own styrofoam core sandwich boards, he called them “hydrodynamic planning hulls” and they were a huge departure from the then contemporary paddleboards and planks. He radically changed surfing and surfboards alike.

These subcultures all cross over into each other at some point but really all have their roots and technical developments in WWII.

The Longline Parka has become a bit of a signature piece for Heritage Research. The two versions we’ve taken for this season are particularly impressive. What do you think it is about them that works so well?

I think its because its a very easy jacket to wear and integrate into any wardrobe. The Longline is an ongoing project really. Initially it was a combination of elements from a Maine fishermans jacket and a 60/40 style mountain parka but since then we’ve adapted it each season adding new details from other original garments from the 40s and 50s such as the button out gilet or military spec pockets. It’s a bit shorter than most parkas so is more of a jacket and therefore more functional on a day to day level. The AW11 parka is the best yet!

The Explorer jacket looks right up our street. It looks a bit like something a Danish sniper may wear on a day off boogie-boarding. Are we barking up the right tree or is the caffeine kicking in?

Ha ha! Nearly! It was actually developed from a parka worn by Jack Kennedy as shown in Life magazine in the mid 1950’s. The article followed him on a trip to Washington State’s Mount Rainier. Like most functional outdoor wear I’m sure it has it’s roots in a military issued garment. Practically everything we wear today can be traced back to the military in some form or another.

Obviously the sun will make it’s annual five minute appearance in Manchester some time in the next few months, so in readiness for that we’re stocking the HR x Katin board shorts. Tell us how you came to be acquainted with the Katin brand?

I’ve been an infrequent surfer for a long time and always liked Katin and Birdwell. They’re generally acknowledged as the originators of the surf trunk. To tie in with the concept for SS11 we wanted to do a period accurate surf short. This idea coincided nicely with a friend of mine named Richard Foxall (owner of Urban Hunter Cycle co) taking a trip to California. He went to Surfside where the original 50’s shop is still open and asked them about a collaboration which they were happy to do. The shorts are all actually still made by hand on the premises using the same machines which is amazing!

In addition, we have the Ivy League shorts, which is a pretty overt reference to a scene where people can be quite particular. Did you take this into account when designing them? We’re thinking detailing, shape etc.

The shorts were actually based on those worn by Harvard graduate and USN MTB commander John F Kennedy, pictured on numerous occasions aboard his yacht, the Manitou. The silhouette is actually very contemporary for the time which illustrates what a radical dresser he actually was. A little known fact about Ivy style is that many WWII veterans were endorsed by the US Government in the 1940’s to return to education post war, some of them attending one of the eight Ivy League Universities. These ex-GI’s inadvertently created a new style by blending their military issue garments such as chinos and chambray shirts (which were only military garments at this point in time) with civilian clothing of the day. These pieces went onto become the staple of every preppy wardrobe and a look thats very popular today.

Thinking ahead, what can we expect from Heritage Research for Autumn?

You can expect a large two part collection. Part one is based around the adventures of real life 1860’s mountain man called Liver Eating Johnson, and part two on the exploits of the Kennedy family from Joe to Bobby! Some amazing fabrics made for us in Japan and England and also the first Heritage Research jersey line which is made in the USA!

OiPolloi would like to thank Russ for taking the time to answer our questions so enthusiastically…