Burberry: The Outfitter of Explorers and Businessmen

By Samuel Phineas Upham

Thomas Burberry wanted to go from apprentice to professional, and was set to do so in grand style. The 21-year old opened his own clothing store in the town of Basingstoke in Hampshire, England. Within its first 14 years of business, the company began focusing on outdoor wear. It introduced gabardine, a water-resistant fabric that is also very breathable.

The Burberry logo is an equestrian knight with the Latin word “Prorsum” emblazoned on it. The word means “forwards,” and the logo is formally trademarked. Burberry outfitted Roald Amundsen during his expedition to the South Pole, and the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton as well. George Mallory left base camp wearing a Burberry jacket made of gabardine before his ill-faed expedition to the top of Mount Everest.

Burberry’s next big contract came from the British War Office, which had asked the company to design jackets for its officers. This was the first creation of the “trench coat,” which was designed for the perils of what was then “modern warfare.” Burberry also sponsored aviation teams, specifically A.E. Clouston and Betty Kirby-Green. Both wore Burberry apparel as they recorded the fastest time from Capetown to London.

Burberry survived as an independent company until 1955, when it finally sold to Great Universal Stores. After that moment, the brand shifted from primarily formal and luxury goods. It became associated with casual wear, especially with the owners and players of British football clubs.

Today, Burberry Prorsum is the forward-thinking line of clothing. The company still purchases fashions from the runway to be marketed and sold in store, but the Burberry London collection caters to formal everyday wear.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or Twitter.

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