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The Blog from Oi Polloi presents: by Oi Polloi •

 

We’ve melded-minds with Fred Perry to make some highly-sophisticated and downright-delicious (if we do say so ourselves) towelling wares, inspired by Fred Perry’s rich history, 70s leisure-wear and the racket-wielding champ himself.

 

What’s to be said of Mr. Perry? Simply calling him a ‘maverick’ would do the man a disservice. Born into a working-class background (in the vibrant zone of Stockport no less) at the start of the 20th century, but transplanted down south at age nine, Fred was tennis-crazy-chocolate-mad from day dot. After becoming the world-champion at table tennis, Fred made the switch to… errr… regular tennis and proved himself to be just as adept on the court as he was on the table. This factoid really appealed to OP boss hog Steve, “One of the things that struck me was – here was this guy who was the best in the world at something who sacked it off to become the best in the world at something else.

The reason for this is also pretty funny, “According to the guys at Fred Perry, he’d gone to a tennis club and there was loads of really nice cars outside, and he’d asked his dad what was going on at the club, why there was all these mint cars, and he said ‘those are all the tennis players’ cars. At that point he was like ‘Jesus, that’s a good idea. Let’s start playing tennis’. And he actually sacked off table tennis, never to play again, and just completely switched to tennis on a whim. To do a 180 like that is pretty mad, but you’ve got to admire the ambition.

But it wasn’t all peaches and cream for our young protagonist. See, tennis had long-been cemented as a rich man’s game, suitable for only the toffiest of toffs (evidenced by the fancy motors that caught a young Fred’s eyes). Fred and his northern lineage were quickly derided and disregarded by the tennis-playing aristocracy, but, ever the iconoclast, Perry gave these poshos what for by winning three consecutive Wimbledon men’s single titles.

 

Working class lads have always carved a niche out for themselves, and I think Fred Perry might’ve been the first to do that on such a big scale – when he was playing tennis initially, it was a amateur sport, meaning the ‘prize’ was just a Harrod’s voucher and a naff tie, because the people usually playing tennis didn’t rely on it as income. Fred Perry actually single-handedly instigated professional tennis as we know it today in the UK by insisting on players actually getting paid for their efforts. That’s pretty mad, the concept of someone who’s working-class needing to turn the sport that they’re mint at into a professional endeavour so they can earn a living playing it.

After leaving the tennis establishment in tatters, Fred absconded across the pond, where tennis players were fairly compensated for their performances. Steve found this morsel pretty poignant, “It’s just a mad story, because back home in the UK, he was rejected by the tennis elite, they didn’t like the fact that someone who wasn’t from their set was winning tournaments and beating them at what they considered was their own game, but in America he was welcomed with open arms because he was mega at what he did.

While in the States, Perry encountered a businessman called Tibby Wegner, and the pair got to enterprising, creating a towelling sweatband that they then marketed to key players. Thanks to Fred’s expertise, these caught on like terry towelling-based wildfire, spawning a whole range of tennis-suitable wares, including Fred Perry’s world-famous take on the polo shirt. The rest is laurel-clad history…

This schmutter we’ve made with ‘em is both an homage and a continuation of Fred Perry’s proud legacy, with a few of our own left-field points of reference thrown in for good measure, “Inspiration for the colour palette comes from some 70s and 80s luxury brands, especially Hermès’ collaboration with Citroen – they made a 2CV and all the luggage to go with it… that in of itself was pretty cool, but the colour’s were out of this world – it was like a brown metallic you don’t see a lot of any more. I don’t think there’s anything not to like about it.

Steve mused further, “This range is our version of what Fred Perry should be in this day and age, still based on the classic British sportswear that we’d first encountered growing up in the 70s and 80s, but blended with a kinda European sportswear sensibility. We also wanted it to be sturdy, harking back to that public schoolboy-kinda kit, if that doesn’t sound too mad… Fred Perry has been a massive cultural force over the years, having been reappropriated by loads of different kinds of subcultural movements over time. I really didn’t want that to influence us. That stuff is all well and good, but this is more about the classy sportswear, the real-deal tennis stuff and the European vibe. We want it to stand on it’s own terms.

The range includes a summer-friendly Harrington, a set of shorts and two towelling polos based on designs from 1956 which haven’t been unleashed from the archives since the 70s.

If the reams of guff above didn’t make it obvious, we’re proud as punch on how they turned out. You can snag these at 00:01 on Thursday the 29th of July.

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