Torso-cooling and slick in equal measure, high-class summertime proceedings aren’t complete without the puckered presence of seersucker.
Initially deployed in the more exotic parts of the British Empire, seersucker was once thought of a cloth only suitable for the most minted of elites, but thanks to a handful of dedicated fans, from gruff railroad workers to keen-eyed Ivy Leaguers, the fabric has cast off its slightly seedy colonial origins and morphed into something everyone can, and should, get behind.
Here’s some snaps of people who’ve done exactly that.
Universal Works, and its don dada David Keyte, need no introduction. They’ve been a fixture since the early days of Oi Polloi, thanks to their unceasing commitment to well-made, highly-wearable clobber and unfussy approach to design. So when we jolted awake in the middle of the night and realised we’d be turning twenty in 2022, who else would we turn to make a celebratory collection of clothing? There was absolutely no contest.
With all this commemorative guff swirling around the ether, I virtually collared David for a nostalgic pow-wow about Uni Works and Oi Polloi’s intertwined histories, bold garments and the enduring influence of the 80s…
How’re you doing? You feeling better?
Before Paris Fashion Week, as it’s laughingly called, I had really bad hay fever and felt my head was stuffed with a pillow, and two weeks later I still feel the same. In that time, I’ve been to Paris, had Covid, gotten over it, and I’ve still got the same head filled with bloody cotton wool!
For two days I definitely had shit Covid, but apart from this slight deafness and bunged up nose, which is the hay fever, I feel fine.
Good to hear. Suppose we should talk about clothes for a bit – when were the seeds for this collaboration first planted?
Certainly over a year ago, in preparation for your twentieth anniversary. It had probably been on Steve and Nige’s minds for a while, because it’s such a significant point in the business’ life. You know, for a shop that was started in relatively humble settings – not that Steve and Nige are ever that humble – they’re a shining example of that trademark Manchester confidence.
Haha, what do you mean?
People from the North have this amazing working-class confidence, because coming from these post-industrial cities is something to be proud of. It’s the same in Liverpool. Not that it has to be about class, or being Northern, or whatever, but these types of people are always so confident. ‘I come from Manchester, best city in the world!’ and you think ‘Is it?’, but he’s saying it so confidently, so maybe it is!
There’s certainly a strong case to be made.
And Oi Polloi is part of that lineage I think. Steve and Nige always wanted to make this great shop, and they did, and sometimes you just need an excuse to celebrate. Twenty years is something special, isn’t it? And to still be relevant and a market-leader in many respects, those things matter. When I’m in Paris or wherever, brands are still hoping and praying and trying to be sold in Oi Polloi. It’s still a shop that people talk about, a shop people want to be a part of. Because it’s got attitude. It’s got a voice. And so many places don’t. They might have a lot of product, and they might have a lot of money behind them; they don’t always have a voice. I think the thing that attracted me to be a shopper at Oi Polloi was because they had attitude and they had a look that was theirs. Whatever they bought in, you felt like you were buying into part of Oi Polloi.
For me, one of the most striking things about Oi Polloi, and what set it apart from everyone else, was its colour palette.
So probably a year or so ago they would have been thinking about the anniversary. After surviving the two years of hell we’ve endured, I was on the phone to Steve about Oi Polloi approaching twenty years, and he said, ‘let’s celebrate’. I wouldn’t have thought twice about collaborating on this, and didn’t think twice. ‘Tell me what you want to do, I wanna be involved’. Oi Polloi has bought every single collection of ours since the first one, and they’re a fundamental reason why we exist.
How did you first stumble across Oi Polloi?
My partner is from Rochdale, a lovely part of Greater Manchester, and her parents still live there, so Manchester is a place I’ve always been very familiar with. I just knew Oi Polloi as the place that sold cool shit – I didn’t know Steve or Nigel until I started working with Albam in 2008. The first time I met the two I was struck by a) how knowledgeable they were and b) how long they could talk for. But I always felt like I was learning something. Even though this was in the early days of Oi Polloi, I thought ‘there’s is so much potential for this shop and the way they think’.
Did this inspire the latest collaboration?
Definitely. For me, one of the most striking things about Oi Polloi, and what set it apart from everyone else, was its colour palette. When we first started working on this, I wanted to do a garment that was dyed twenty shades, because colour is what Oi Polloi is to me. Between us we realised how dangerous that was; the amount I’d be taking on as a producer would be insane. So, we toned it down to just the colours of the Oi Polloi logo. With that as our base, Steve and Nige chose some of their favourite styles from us, and we offered them all the fabrics that they liked – corduroy is obviously very Oi Polloi, and seersucker is something they’ve recently embraced very enthusiastically. Whenever we do collaborations, I want them to be collaborative. So, it’s our styles, in the Oi Polloi colours, in fabrics we all love. And I think the results are very good indeed.
Most of us get up in the morning and put a pair of blue trousers on or a pair of jeans and a t-shirt because we’re all so busy, but that doesn’t mean you should only make blue trousers or jeans or t-shirts.
I was going to ask, who’s idea was the full seersucker suit? It’s pretty bold.
Nigel. He’s very good at thinking outside of the box when it comes to fabrics. In fact, he’s pushed me over the years to styles in different fabrics where I might not have thought about it. There are several styles in our collection that have come about because of conversations I’ve had with Nigel. I always try and follow his knowledge.
And then there’s necessity. You’ll have X amount of one fabric you need to use up, and we’re not Saville Row, we’re not bespoke, we don’t make single garments, so we make sure we get the most out of what we get in. That’s not to say we want to make thousands of something. You want it to be achievable, but you want it to be real. From a Universal Works point of view, that’s what we’re about. Genuine, honest and real.
I’m glad we’ve done it though. The all-over ‘suit’ of one fabric is very much a thing right now and in those crazy colours, it looks brilliant.
It definitely pushes the boat out.
Most of us get up in the morning and put a pair of blue trousers on or a pair of jeans and a t-shirt because we’re all so busy, but that doesn’t mean you should only make blue trousers or jeans or t-shirts. From a business point of view, playing it safe, especially when you’ve got so much shit going on in the world, is entirely the wrong thing to do. I think what Oi Polloi is doing is the right thing. You should be showing off crazy colours in your photoshoots. I think you take your customer with you when you show a bit of bravery.
You’re saying you should never stop trying to push things forward, no matter how bonkers?
Exactly. I mean, let’s not even get started on the deerstalker. Trying to get someone to make a deerstalker – who even makes deerstalkers anymore? – is mad enough, but then making them in seven outrageous colours? It’s a feat of… persistence, if nothing else.
You’re thinking ‘who’s going to buy a fucking pink deerstalker?’, but actually, when you see it, you’re like ‘I want a pink deerstalker’.
Considering Universal Works and Oi Polloi have been so tightly intertwined for so long, when you work together, is there a risk of it becoming second nature? Or do you always approach it with fresh eyes?
You should approach everything in life with fresh eyes really. But it is hard – we all know each other very well. But I think the mutual respect between Universal Works and Oi Polloi helps things along. Steve and Nige are genuine people. So, whenever they approach me to do something, I always feel excited, because I think they’re going to ask me to do something pretty insane or pretty commercial that I hadn’t thought about. Which is why Oi Polloi works as a shop. And on our end, we want to stay true and loyal to what we stand for and what we want to put out. I can’t think of anyone else we work with who challenges us as much, every time we work together. Like for example, the deerstalker. We talked for hours and hours on whether or not it should have earflaps. And we still don’t know! But that kind of challenge, you’re always going to get from Steve and Nige. And I find that exciting, every time. Of course, there’s only so many hours in the days, so there’s only so long you can talk about earflaps, however, you always know there’s going to be something a bit left-of-field. And that’s what makes the whole place feel interesting. I always get that feeling when we work together.
Speaking of the deerstalkers, there’s a definite 80s flavour about this stuff. Was this intentional?
Haha, I suppose its hard for the three of us not to reference the 80s. I do my absolute best to only ever look forward. Because if you get too wrapped up in retro ideas, you can become retro. And I want to be contemporary. But those points of reference are never going to go away, because we’re all products of the 80s. And we wanted to recreate the radical feeling of the 80s. The kids coming out of Moss Side wearing a deerstalker with a tracksuit – I mean, he probably had it under his coat until he got past the hard kids round the corner – created an incredible fashion moment. Those kids have always been the ones who dress up, the ones who spend money on Stone Island jackets and whatnot, because it was what we could control. I don’t know. Maybe it just said something. Maybe we wanted to make a statement about intent, or success. That’s the main reason why that era is inspiring. The attitude.
That being said, you couldn’t put this stuff in the 80s. It’s just the essence of that idea. Shapes have changed, silhouettes have changed, ideas have changed, and the circumstances have changed. But the spirit behind it hasn’t; we’ve just tweaked it for the modern age. I don’t know if Steve and Nige will see it that way. If we were all together, they might disagree with me. But I still see what they do as very contemporary. Take the seersucker Road Shirt. Sure, it’s 80s inspired, but did I ever see anything like that in the 80s? Certainly not.
Winding things down, is there any particular bit from the collection you want to highlight?
I always have a hard time answering this type of question, because I do all of it, so I love all of it. And the entire collection sits so well together. It’s fun too, which is a real breath of fresh air, considering there’s so much… not fun in the world right now. But on a personal level, the pink fatigue jacket is very much my thing. And… I mean, maybe not on me, but… a pink deerstalker is pretty special, isn’t it?
Believe it or not, Oi Polloi reached the ripe old age of twenty this year… what better way to celebrate than to collaborate with life-long friends Universal Works on some seersucker suits, breezy shirts, mad hats and slick slacks in all the colours of the Oi Polloi rainbow?
Leagues better than stale slices of Colin the Caterpillar cake in a dingy cons club function room, we’re sure you’d agree.
Those paper hats will have to remained sheathed until 10:00am (BST) on Thursday the 7th of July, so to tide you over until then, here’s some photos…
Mark Thursday the 7th at 10:00am (BST) in your diaries folks.
Ah, Deck~Out No. 420… very funny. Go on then, let’s hear that joke. While you’re at it, why don’t you write it down? Why not expand the joke into a five-minute set? Why not even go the full nine yards and develop those five minutes into a full hour? Toiling in the underground open-mic circuit for years, slowly honing your hobby into a perfectly-calibrated craft is a fine way to fritter away your golden years.
But who knows? You might get discovered by a talent scout. Ascend to the big leagues. Sell out stadiums and area tours, telling silly jokes to audiences of thousands. Then, just when you thought you couldn’t get any bigger, you score a Netflix special and your refined, high-brow comedy is beamed into every television/laptop/phone screen in the world.
So go on then, let’s hear it… first one to crack wise wins either a lifetime of superstardom or our eternal scorn.
Gramicci Shell Jet Cap Crazy One size
Akila Legacy LT Grey / LT Green One size
Nanga Air Cloth Comfy Zip Parka Beige XL
Kavu Unlimited Tee Purple Mist XL
orSlow Garment Dyed Ripstop Climbing Short Pale Gree 4
Click onto our sale page and you’re going to see good stuff, but you’re going to see a lot of it. Rifling through all that treasure might seem like a daunting prospect, especially if you’re pressed for time or of an easily-overwhelmed disposition, so to make proceedings a little more digestible, we’ve hand-plucked some bits that deserve a bit of noise.
These things are the dog’s what-have-yous. Adored from Milan to Manhattan for the better part of 40 years, the Timberland 3 Eye is one of those mythical beasts that looks good with just about everything – from old-world rambling attire to mum-friendly chinos and button downs.
If we’re being honest, you should really own a pair of these already, but if you don’t, now’s a good a time as any to cough up a bit of that hard-earned.
We’ve not stocked s.k. manor hill for that long, but these young pups have a real knack for turning heads. With stuff like this Sage Shirt in their arsenal, it ain’t hard to see why.
Every detail on this is in service to maximum luxury and interestingly, the fabric has been dyed with the exact same brand of raspberry sauce all worthwhile ice cream vans carry. Very tasty… if not a bit sticky.
These Snow Peak utility suit things are really something. Not only would these see you right on a Scafell Pike ramble, you could probably get away wearing one of these to your partner’s mate’s wedding or something.
You might be inclined to run a bold sartorial decision like this by the bride/groom first, but trust us, considering how good-looking these are, no one should have an issue. Don’t hold us to that though.
It’s fair to say the majestic pastime of fishing is one of life’s true wonders – spending hours on end gawking at breath-taking bodies of water… the thrill of the chase… japes with your best buds… ‘accidentally’ getting plastered when hour five rolls around and you still haven’t caught anything… going home hungry…
It’s also inspired some truly mind-altering garb too, like this aptly-titled Fishing Overshirt from Engineered Garments.
Alright, we know exactly 0% of you will actually wear this while fishing, but the dizzyingly-high pocket count and that swishy fabric simply cannot be scoffed at.
Rounding things off we’ve got this Eddie Stobart-approved slab of shirting from FrizmWORKS.
It’s a minimally-designed, big ‘n’ boxy shirt made from a wondrous blend of cotton and linen, ideal for driving across the blacktops of some mythical American south with only a CB radio and service station meal-deals (do they have service stations in America? Answers to the usual place) to keep you company.
Just when you were saying to yourself how bored you are, your good friends at Oi Polloi burst through the drywall with yet another slew of high-class images harvested from the internet to help you waste a few minutes of the working day – this time, an assortment of Specialized bike snaps.
Their inability to spell clearly hasn’t hampered their bike-building prowess. In fact, quite the contrary – this lot have been at the cutting edge of bicycle manufacturing for almost five decades, making everything from ultra-light carbon fibre bullet-bikes to game-changing mountain bikes. And thanks in part to their particularly irreverent approach to marketing, their gear has been enjoyed by cyclists from every pedal stroke of life, not just the usual lyrca-clad slicksters (including yours truly).
Without further preamble, here’s some cool bikes…
Oh, and if you’re reading Specialized, don’t be shy about slinging me some cash for the promo. Ta.