Britain has an insuperable heritage when it comes to making clothes and footwear (and many, many other things of course). We are very good at it. World-famous for it. And have been, it seems, for a very long time indeed. It is of course terribly unBritish to blow our national trumpet in this manner but there, I said it.
Brands love to affiliate themselves with Britain, Britishness, the Union Jack etc, because of what it says about the item to the customer: quality. This got a little out of hand during the Olympics when everything was being wrapped in our old flag before being put on the shelf. Even certain Champagnes suddenly donned neoprene British jackets, which is extra odd given the extremely strict laws in place to protect the particular provenance of that famous fizz.
Anyhow, while it’s (fairly) easy to spot that Champagne isn’t British, it is distinctly less so when it comes to other things.
Take, for example, this tweed blazer from Jack Wills (above). Huge letters bellow to us that this is not only British, but “fabulously” so! Gosh, like turf from Twickers, or a slurp of the Thames, this is British! ..Or, is it?
The second tag on the jacket is not present for branding purposes, but purely to meet the legal requirement that the country of manufacture be disclosed (even if at a fraction of the size of the other country on the label).
If not made in Britain, how is it British? In ‘style’ (whatever that means)? Well, no, I don’t think that’s sufficient: Firstly because our heritage of craftsmanship and the great tradition of quality we enjoy was never solely about something so flimsy as style; And, secondly, on their own terms, what the branding and presentation (and style!) of this product is seeking to imply to the customer is that it is deeply, authentically, shockingly British, of British provenance, won the Second World War singlehandedly, definitely made in Britain and by none other than HRH the Queen. I mean, what else are the Fulham and Salcombe street addresses there to achieve?! The ‘made in China’ tag is as small as it is legally allowed to be. It is whispered, like an embarrassing under-the-breath admission. If it were allowed to be smaller, or inside the lining, or absent, it would be. I’ve been to Devon a great many times (and I am hugely fond of it) but I am yet to stumble across the doubtless handsome village of China. Perhaps somewhere on the coast between Dartmouth and Salcombe?
It is very interesting that they specifically chose the adverb “fabulously” to described the extent of their Britishness, because although the intention is obviously to slide the brand to the top of the Britishness continuum, the word of course also shares the same root as the verb “fable”; which means ‘to fabricate or invent’.
This is not to say that JW is the only faux chap out there; unfortunately, the high street is full of such charlatans!
So, take care out there and keep an eye on that tiny give away label; sadly you might be surprised that some things you thought were British are even less so than my opening paragraph.