We’re in the midst of an outerwear epidemic. It’s all Gore-Tex this, Reinforced Peaks that, and for good reason too. Over the years, outerwear has continued its sharp upwards trajectory in terms of popularity, which has seen it successfully infiltrate sub-cultures globally. Suddenly wandering down the offie to get a big bag of Calippos while wearing a big, waterproof, double-layered shell coat that would look more at home aboard a 50ft yacht in the middle of the North Atlantic has become the norm - and we’re all for it.
One of the main culprits for pioneering this big coat trend was Henri Lloyd, a brand steeped in outerwear tradition. Established by Henri Strzelecki and Angus Lloyd in 1963, Henri Lloyd initially focused on providing top drawer outerwear gear for sailing professionals, to ensure they wouldn’t perish at sea (Sir Francis Chichester even wore the brand on his voyage around the world in 1966). And it wasn’t too long after that the brand’s garments were being seen further afield than the seven seas, as they quickly became pioneers of the marine fashion world.
It was their innovative approach to outerwear that set them apart from other similar brands. The Bry-Nylon fabric used across a number of pieces in particular was a nice contrast to the more traditional fabrics like wax cotton which were mega popular at the time, yet it was one coat in particular that really catapulted the brand to popularity: The Consort Jacket.
Originally designed in 1965, The Consort Jacket was a cumulation of the previous two years work since the company started. Prior to this jacket, all previous product had been designed as technical shell pieces, while the Consort Jacket was the first with insulation that could be worn in winter as a jacket not just for the seas, but in everyday life too.
Made from Nylon, waterproof, has taped seams, a nylon zip, and Velcro, the Consort is the quintessential Henri Lloyd garment and has everything we’ve now come to expect of a Henri Lloyd piece. Designed to protect explorers against the worst of weather conditions, the jacket is a combination of all of the brand’s innovation in waterproof fabrication.
Some years later, the Consort Jacket began to explode into various youth subcultures around the world, gaining followings in groups like the parka had with the Mods of the early 60s in London. There was one group in particular though that saw to adopt The Consort Jacket as an almost unofficial uniform: The Paninaro.
An iconic Italian sub-culture, The Paninaro were known globally for their sharp clothing choices and loud colours in the 80s. They’d often wear Timberland Deck Shoes, Burlington socks, Levi's 501s and Best Company sweatshirts. However this look was starting to be topped off with a Henri Lloyd Consort Jacket as the decade went on.
Their style was brand-specific, and the fact Henri Lloyd had made the cut was a somewhat defining moment for the brand in terms of mainstream fashion. Henri Lloyd - and the Consort Jacket in particular - was now a part of the elite.
Soon after the Paninaro wanted colour, so Henri Lloyd started to release the jacket in brighter variants. Henri Lloyd even reached out to Olmes Carretti (Best Company designer) who joined the team and reworked the Consort with a Paninaro twist. He added a raglan sleeve, cord collar, Round the World Race badge on the sleeve and - more importantly to The Paninaro - over 50 different colour options. Using bright and conflicting colours from his design background in India, his inspired way of seeing colour saw him blend combinations that weren’t previously considered.
Such was The Paninaro’s influence on global fashion, the Consort was soon being seen back on UK soil, and most predominantly in Manchester. Up until the 90s all Consorts were made in Salford, in a converted chapel on Manchester Rd (although they’ve since been moved to Henri’s hometown of Brodnica, Poland). On their return to the UK, it was a time when “Madchester” was emerging and there were big feelings towards technical and sailing clothing in everyday wear; style-conscious lads were getting back into functional clothing and wanted to look mint at the same time. Before long, the queues outside the Hacienda would look more like a line of ship-ready giddy seaman ready to set sail than it would a group of young scallies gearing up for a rave.
Like many things, our American compatriots from across the pond soon began to delve deeper into the world of outerwear during the early 90s, and in particular Sailing Jackets like that of Henri Lloyd. In a time that was seeing hip-hop grow phenomenally, the culture and style that surrounded it was growing simultaneously too. There had always been a strong connection between hip-hop style and an appreciation of quality outerwear (this still exists nowadays), especially in East Coast cities like New York - and when it came to Sailing Jackets, it was no different. The Americans seem to have a knack for taking an essential, technical piece of clothing - like they did with Timberland boots, Champion hoodies and Carhartt beanies - and making them look mint. Although they’ve always been known for their love high-quality outdoor gear, is it the whole frontier heritage of the country for why they do, or is it because they simply appreciate a good jacket that you can wear forever?
Throughout the following decades and up to today, Henri Lloyd has continued to be a main player in the outerwear game. From those fluorescent-hooded Offshore Jackets that were like gold dust in every secondary school to the infamous Round the World Jacket and the iconic Consort Jacket, Henri Lloyd is (and always will be) one of the greatest outerwear pioneers of our generation.
The Henri Lloyd Oi Polloi Consort Jacket will be available online from Thursday 24th October at 00:01 (BST) and in the Manchester shop from 10:00.