During the original skinhead heyday of the late 1960s, to own a real Crombie overcoat was an aspiration for many, and one that in most cases remained unfilled. Many a mum, my own included, simply could not stretch to the cost. Bearing in mind I was only 8 or 9 at the time, spending a fortune on a coat that would then take me ten years to grow into, she instead gamely offered me a much cheaper ‘market’ version and I reluctantly agreed. She added the promise of a real Ben Sherman shirt thrown in as a ‘sweetener’ on the deal, which she honoured bless her. That shirt totally swamped my tiny frame by the way…
Many years later, I was finally able to afford a ‘proper’ Crombie, as I was determined to get one and finally pass that rite of passage, that many a Mod. Skinhead and Suedehead went on before me. I still wear it to this day.
In 2023, the name Crombie epitomises elegance, style, and craftsmanship and it has done so since its inception in 1805. With a rich heritage spanning over two centuries, Crombie has established itself as a prestigious brand that consistently delivers exceptional quality garments tailored to those who appreciate timeless fashion.
Founded by John Crombie and his son James, from a cloth mill in Cothal, near the river Don in Aberdeen, Scotland, the company initially started as a manufacturer of high-quality woollen goods, primarily focusing on blankets and shawls. John knew he had superior product, so then set off to London to meet the finest tailors in the capital, who he knew would embrace his fine cloth. The company moved to Grandholm Mill in 1859, which would go on to be the largest mill in the UK, said to be ‘the size of 8 football pitches.’
The labels that the company sent to the tailors to be sewn into bespoke coats, signifying that the finished coat was made from Crombie cloth, quickly became a sign of quality and prestige. Soon, customers would demand that only a ‘real ‘ Crombie would do. The name became so omnipresent, that the Oxford English Dictionary added the word, and defined it thus…
‘Crombie – used to designate a type of overcoat, jacket etc. made by J&J Crombie Ltd.’
The classic overcoat remained the most iconic creation for the company, featuring its signature fly-front, a velvet collar, and satin lining. The style was originally called a Chesterfield, that name slowly changed to being known as a Crombie.
The company went from strength to strength, picking up military contracts to supply officer’s uniforms to the British Army and Royal Air Force for both of the World Wars. That also resulted in other classics, the Great Coat and the British Warm.
The name Crombie was in part popularised by celebrities and the British aristocracy, among them, King George VI, prime ministers, countless politicians including John F Kennedy, business leaders , film stars, and The Beatles.
The Crombie family sold the company to the Salts of Yorkshire, by which time, its name was known all over the world, with Japan and the USA being its biggest export markets. Through it all, Crombie maintained its reputation as a quintessentially British brand, symbolising the essence of refined luxury. Its commitment to quality is evident in every aspect of its production process. From sourcing the finest fabrics, such as cashmere, tweed, wool and vicuna to employing skilled artisans who possess a deep understanding of traditional tailoring techniques.
As ever, of course, the fashion industry continues to evolve, and after ceasing trading in 2020, Crombie is due for a relaunch in 2023 with a team led by managing director Gordon Ritchie.
‘My enthusiasm, love and genuine feel for the Crombie product is what I hope will get the brand out there into the places we want it to be.’
I for one, look forward to seeing the next stage,.
The Mumper of SE5
ART GALLERY CLOTHING
THE SPEAKEASY VOLUME 3 – AVAILABLE NOW
THE SPEAKEASY Volume Three by Mark Baxter (The Mumper)
Illustrations by Lewis Wharton
Foreword by Eddie Piller
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