The History of Sunspel: Estd. 1860

Sunspel is a British luxury clothing brand with a proud heritage of innovation. Since 1860, the company has been crafting elevated wardrobe essentials from the world’s finest natural materials, building a reputation for exceptionally comfortable fabrics, timeless design, and uncompromising quality.


Sunspel founder Thomas Hill (c.1870)

The business was founded by textile innovator Thomas Hill to craft luxurious garments from cashmere, silk, merino wool, and Sea Island cotton. Passed down through the Hill family, it survived two world wars and the Great Depression, maintaining the values of quality, innovation, and craftsmanship at its core.


The Thomas A. Hill Ltd factory in Nottingham (c.1890)

In 1908, the business began to manufacture some of the world’s earliest luxury T-shirts – simple lightweight tops made from Sea Island cotton for export to the Far East. Sunspel has continued to perfect this staple wardrobe item for over 100 years - still made by hand in their English factory, crafted with the finest Californian Supima cotton, and widely regarded as the best in the world.


An early 20th century example of the classic Sunspel T-shirt 

Within a decade of introducing its first Sea Island Cotton T-shirts, Sunspel invented a new material - Cellular Cotton. Traditional lace-making machines were used to create a lightweight cotton material with an open knit that allowed air to circulate around the body. It was codenamed Q14, and remains a unique fabric today.


Sunspel's Q14 Cellular Cotton invented in 1917.

Sunspel moved location to its current factory in Long Eaton, England, in 1937. It is the place where knowledge, skills, and expertise have been passed down through generations, and continues to produce all of the company's handmade Classic T-shirts.


The Long Eaton factory

In 1947, John Hill, the great-grandson of the founder, introduced the Boxer short to Britain after discovering the style in America. Sunspel turned this functional piece of underwear into a luxury undergarment, and In the mid 1980s, they were given a boost by the release of a memorable Levi's television commercial featuring an English model (Nick Kamen) stripping down to his Sunspel shorts in a 1950s-style public laundromat.


Click here to read a Brief History of Gentlemen's Briefs

Another American influence was the Loopback Sweatshirt. Whilst the original garments were produced in the United States, arguably the finest examples are now manufactured by Sunspel, and are designed for warmth and comfort - rather than for wicking moisture.


Click here to learn how to Keep Your Cool in a Loopback Sweatshirt

One of Sunspel's most iconic designs is the Riviera Polo Shirt, which was created in the 1950s in a breathable mesh to beat the summer heat whilst embodying refined style. In 2006, Sunspel collaborated with costume designer Lindy Hemming to dress Daniel Craig in his first James Bond film, Casino Royale. The Sunspel Riviera Polo Shirt is described by the Financial Times as ‘the easiest way to look like Bond without wearing a tuxedo’.


Click here to view the Riviera Polo Shirt from Casino Royale (2006)

The Riviera Polo Shirt was not the only item of Sunspel clothing that found its way into the James Bond wardrobe for Casino Royale. Going back to the company's roots, they supplied a Riviera version of their Classic T-Shirt in Grey Melange, designed specifically for Daniel Craig's role as 007.


Click here to view the Grey Melange Riviera Midweight T-shirt

To complete the set, a Riviera Midweight V-neck T-shirt in White was added to the collection, ensuing that James Bond, as ever, is perfectly dressed for any occasion. 


Click here to view the White Riviera Midweight V-neck T-shirt

Click here to view all of the Sunspel related articles and clothing collections.

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