When it comes to keeping warm in adverse weather conditions, sailors in the North Sea should know what they're doing. Standing at a lookout post for hours; battling the elements on deck; just being out in the middle of the North Sea at anytime has got to be a chilly business and they'd have to be prepared.
It's no surprise then, that in both world wars of the last century, sailors were issued with a heavy gauge wool roll neck sweater to help keep them warm amongst the ice cold waters of the Atlantic, or on patrol in the frigid North Sea. These sweaters were particularly popular with Submarine crews and, as a result, this type of sweater is now often referred to simply as 'The Submariner'. Between and after the wars the surplus of these rugged garments became popular with the civilian population, not least amongst motorcyclists, who benefitted from the insulation provided by the wide ribbed cuffs, waist band and chunky roll neck.
Royal Navy Submarine Crew
This military surplus connection to motorcycling is not uncommon. Other examples of this are the USN N1 Deck Jacket and the Barbour Ursula suit, both favoured for their weather proof outer protection and durability. At Pickings & Parry, this kind of connection, and the story that backs up why a particular garment exists and endures, is very important. It makes our clothing interesting.
The historical back drop of the Submariner Roll Neck is, as you may have guessed, of some significance to the founder and designer of North Sea Clothing, Neil Starr. Having started collecting vintage clothing as a young man, Neil had a particular interest in military and motorcycling outerwear such as the early Barbour and Belstaff waxed jackets. This eventually led to him becoming a vintage clothing dealer working from many of London's most famous markets - Portobello Road, Camden and Covent Garden.
North Sea Clothing designer Neil Starr (front) and accessories designer Remo Avella
Over the years a number of original Royal Navy sweaters passed through Neil's hands and gradually they became more and more difficult to find in good, wearable condition. The natural transition from vintage dealer to vintage reproducer came quite naturally after that, and North Sea Clothing was born.
Initially the idea was to produce only the Roll Neck, and this was done to the exact specifications of the original. Using 100% British new wool and with features such as wide ribbing, reinforced shoulder seams and a dropped shoulder, the N.S.C Submariner is regarded as one of the best reproductions of its kind. Gradually, as the brand developed, other styles were added to the range and the fits were tweaked and modernised to provide a wider range of options for the growing audience.
Since then North Sea Clothing have continued produce British Knitwear of the highest quality, using the best materials and cottage industry supply chains. They truly are an example of well made, simple garments that will endure for many, many years. Not just in terms of durability, but also in terms of style.
Vintage outerwear on the walls at the N.S.C studio