At the bar on the fourth floor of the perennial emporium Fortnum & Mason, Gordon Ritchie gives it to me straight as to why I, or anyone for that matter, should wear Kirk Originals: “It doesn't have to be sunny to wear Kirk Originals, Ben. You wear Kirk Originals because you want to look fucking cool.” Please excuse the profanities, but they are indeed fucking cool. In little over a year, the brand has positioned itself as a doyen in men’s eyewear, celebrated for their bespoke-like make, bold frames and, as the polymath of menswear Nick Wooster describes, “rainy day lenses.”
Kirk Originals was established in 1992 but it can trace its roots back to 1919 when the innovative button and clothing manufacturing Kirk family began to reassemble sewing machines into cutting machines. Constantly innovating, they took out around 12 design patents in eyewear, including the development of adjustable nose pads. “We recently found the documents for the patents and there was this big stamp on the nose pads patent saying ‘Fee Not Paid’. So, they never actually registered the patent and it could have been a totally different story,” Gordon reveals. However, rather than losing out on what would be a fortune of gargantuan proportions, in a lot of ways the unpaid fee is a blessing in disguise.
Up until the 1970s, the Kirk family was arguably London’s most prominent eyewear manufacturer. Following the end of world war two, sunglasses became fashionable, and in conjunction with the readily available access to plastic and a growing feeling of western optimism, frames became bigger, badder and bolder, and there’s no denying that the 1950s and 1960s were sunglasses’ golden period.