Icons / November 2018

British Explorers who Conquered Style

Modern menswear has a lot to thank the intrepid mavericks who risk life and limb to chart all the corners of the globe. Here are the explorers who have planted their flag in the territories of style.

‘Little islands are all large prisons’, claimed 19th-century adventurer, Sir Richard Burton. He was talking, of course, about Britain. For hundreds of years British explorers have left our shores to seek new adventure in otherwise hostile places; be it on Arctic expeditions, or trudging through sweltering deserts, encountering ancient cultures and experiences absent from our comfortable little islands.

They have often been ex-servicemen; soldiers, restless misfits hankering for a challenge - inspired by the stories told by those before them, like Sir Francis Drake or Burton himself. Style is, and perhaps has always been, important for the explorer. It follows their experiences with uniform in a regimented military career - the requirement to shine shoes, dust jackets, stand up straight and be on parade. And then there is the technical side. The smartest explorers think carefully about which materials are best suited to the environment into which they will be going. This is why some of the most utilitarian items in menswear are based on military clothing – including of course, the trench-coat and parka; with faithfully-constructed examples by brands like Private White VC or Grenfell. With the launch of British-made adventure-outfitter Shackleton on The Rake, we are celebrating the men who sought to go further; testing their endurance against odds that most of us could hardly fathom; bringing home stories about people and places that have given a certain romance to travel and to the lives of the explorers themselves.

Sir Ernest Shackleton
How many historical figures can claim to have a clothing brand – and a beer – inspired by them almost a hundred years after their death? Knighted for his achievements during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, which included not one, but two polar records and a reputation for being a resourceful hero – the Irishman was voted eleventh in a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Rightly so, as Sir Shackleton had leadership skills of mythical proportions. He also looked the part, too; like in these photographs of him wearing chunky knitwear and a fitted parka jacket. Shackleton, the brand, has worked hard to produce clothing worthy of the great man’s motto ‘Fortitudine vincimus’ – By Endurance We Conquer. Explorers like Scott Sears, Lou Rudd and Aldo Kane agree, bringing Shackleton gear on expeditions in the DRC, the South Pole and Greenland. It's tested by the best in the worst of conditions, so it'll tackle any adventure you have in store. Click here to shop the entire collection now.

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Chris Cotonou