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Sunspel
A British brand since 1860

Sunspel
A British brand since 1860

Our History

A heritage of over 160 years of English craftsmanship and pioneering fabric innovation goes into every Sunspel garment. Here is our story.

1860

Formation of the business

Thomas Hill, c.1870.

Thomas Hill opens his hosiery and underwear factory in Newdigate, Nottingham. Thomas Hill was not just an innovator with a lifetime’s knowledge and experience of textile development, he was also a visionary. His aim was to make beautiful, everyday clothing from the world’s finest materials – high quality,
durable garments that felt great against the skin. We remain true to this vision today.

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1890

The business goes global

The Thomas A. Hill Ltd factory in Nottingham, c.1890

By the turn of the 20th century Thomas A. Hill Ltd is making hosiery and undergarments from the finest cashmere, merino wool, silk and cottons and is supplying customers across the world with luxurious everyday clothing.

1900

Sea Island cotton

Sea Island cotton is one of the world’s finest raw materials, requiring specialist skills to grow and spin.

Thomas A. Hill imports Caribbean Sea Island cotton, the world’s rarest and finest cotton.This new fabric establishes the company’s reputation for unparalleled luxury.

1908

The world's first luxury T-shirt

Lighter and cooler than traditional undershirts, 
Sunspel’s innovative luxury T-Shirts proved popular in hot climates.

The business manufactures some of the world’s earliest luxury T-shirts – simple lightweight tops made from Sea Island cotton for export to the Far East.

1914

The invention of Cellular Cotton

Traditional lace-making machines are used to create a lightweight cotton material with an open knit that allows air to circulate around the body. Q14 remains a unique fabric today.

1935

The company name is changed to Sunspel

Following the collapse in global trade caused by the Great Depression, the business falls back on domestic sales of luxury underwear made from Sea Island cotton. In 1932 the company had even briefly changed its name to ‘Sea Island Cotton Ltd.’ From 1935 the key underwear line is called ‘Sunspel’ as a nod to the ‘sunny spells’ 
of the Caribbean where the cotton is grown, and ‘Sunspel Ltd’ is formally adopted as the name of the business two years later.

1937

The Sunspel factory moves to Long Eaton

The Sunspel factory relocates from Nottingham to its current home in nearby Long Eaton, where we still remain today.

1939-1945

Sunspel during the war

The Second World War has a dramatic impact on Sunspel. In 1940 its offices in Bruton St, London are destroyed by a direct hit during the Blitz, while production at the Long Eaton factory shifts to utility clothing to assist in the war effort.

1947

The British Boxer Short

Sunspel introduces the Boxer Short to the UK after John Hill – the great grandson of our founder –takes an American underwear concept discovered on his honeymoon in the US and re-engineers it for exceptional comfort. He improves its design, adding the back panel, flattening its seams and uses the highest quality cotton. The result is a new kind of men’s underwear garment: comfortable, cool and luxuriously soft.




1965

Sunspel’s global reputation is restored

By the mid-1960s Sunspel has rebuilt a global reputation as the quintessential British luxury underwear brand and is present in the world’s most famous department stores.

1985

Nick Kamen at the launderette

Levi’s releases its famous ‘Launderette’ TV ad in which model Nick Kamen removes his jeans, leaving on only a pair of white Sunspel boxer shorts. The ad seizes the popular imagination and transforms the boxer from a niche luxury item in the UK to a mainstream cultural

2005

Nicholas Brooke becomes CEO

Nicholas Brooke takes over the reins of the business from Peter Hill.

2006

James Bond wears Sunspel

Sunspel collaborates 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’.

2010

The first Sunspel retail store

Redchurch Street, Shoreditch

Sunspel opens 
its first standalone store, in East London’s Redchurch St. Over the next ten years, further stores are opened in some of London’s best-known shopping destinations: Old Compton St, Soho; Jermyn St, Piccadilly; Chiltern St, Marylebone; Kensington Park Rd, Notting Hill and Duke of York Square, Chelsea.

In 2014 the first international Sunspel store opens in Tokyo – soon to be followed by three more Japanese stores and in 2018, a flagship US store in SoHo, New York.

2012

Sunspel reintroduces womenswear

Creative Director Jonathan Anderson relaunches Sunspel’s archive collection for women, based on our principles of simple, essential garments in beautiful fabrics.

2017

Sunspel celebrates 80 years at Long Eaton

Sunspel factory in 2017

The technology in the Long Eaton factory may have changed over the decades, but after 80 years the historic building remains the heart of the business. Sunspel continues to be rooted in its local community – and is the only brand to manufacture luxury T-shirts from its own
factory in the UK.

Over 160 years since its foundation, Sunspel remains fundamentally the same business created by Thomas Hill. An innovative maker of luxury wardrobe essentials – renowned worldwide for quality but rooted in English craftsmanship and the manufacturing expertise of its local community.


Our Values

 

Sunspel has always made products of long-lasting quality, focussing on timeless style over short-term trends. 
We create understated, durable wardrobe essentials and we’re committed to improving everything we do. Our clothing is environmentally responsible, and we remain a family-style business, sourcing our materials direct from farmers.

Although our practices have developed over time, we stick to a key set of values:

 

01

We design clothes that will last.

02

We care for our employees and ensure that our suppliers care for theirs.

03

We source materials from partners that are ethically and environmentally responsible.


Our Factories

 

Sunspel has been a family business for most of its 160-year history. Founded in Nottingham, the capital of Britain’s hosiery and lace industry, the business moved to its current Long Eaton location in 1937. Sunspel is the only brand to manufacture luxury T-shirts from its own factory in the UK. While the technology in our factory may have changed in the last 80 years, our commitment to community and a job well done remains the same.

Boxers being made in the Coventry Factory, circa 1910

 

Today, we also work with other specialist factories in Britain and Europe. When we do, we apply the knowledge and expertise gained from our long experience to find the best. Many of the businesses we work with are small and family-owned, and they all share our beliefs about quality, ethical working practices and environmental responsibility.


Iconic Product

 

Sunspel played a pivotal role in the birth of this universal wardrobe staple; a part of our heritage that we like to think gives us a certain expertise when it comes to knowing what it takes to make the best T-Shirt in the world. We've made luxury T-Shirts in England for over 100 years, and continue to do so, refining them to be as soft, light and comfortable as possible.

“Sunspel creates some of the best white        T-shirts ever made."

— Esquire

“When it comes to wardrobe essentials, Sunspel reigns supreme. It has done for over 160 years”

— New York Times


The Classic T-Shirt

 

Sunspel produced some of the world’s earliest T-shirts. 
In the late 1800s the business made luxury tunics and undershirts from lightweight Sea Island cotton for export 
to the Far East and other warm climates. While these garments initially had silk buttoned plackets, these were removed in the early 1900s and replaced with simple bound necks to reduce manufacturing costs – creating the T-shirt. We’ve supplied the world as the T-shirt has evolved from underwear to outerwear, from symbol of youthful rebellion to everyday wardrobe staple, and we’ve spent decades refining its every last aspect.

The worlds first luxury T-Shirt

The worlds first luxury T-Shirt

 

Made in Long Eaton, England and crafted from our luxurious long staple Supima cotton for unparalleled softness, comfort and durability, the Sunspel T-Shirt has a classic fit and only the most essential details.

With over 100 years spent perfecting fabric, fit and style, the Sunspel Classic T-shirt is recognised as the finest in the world.


  • “No-one does a T-shirt better than Sunspel.”

    — GQ

  • “In 1947 Sunspel brought boxer shorts to UK shores and have remained specialists ever since.”

    — CQ

  • “If it’s good enough for Bond, it’s good enough for us.”

    — GQ



Unique Fabrics

 

Our founder, Thomas Hill, had both an eye for quality and a desire to innovate. As well as using the finest fibres such as Sea Island cotton, cashmere and silk, he invented his own fabrics. Sunspel continues this commitment to innovation today and our unique fabrics include: Q100 Sea Island cotton, Q82 Supima cotton, Q75 warp knit mesh cotton and Q14 warp knit cellular cotton. The technology behind these fabrics remains unchanged today and all Sunspel products use the finest cottons, wools and fibres.