When I look at a pair of Burberry boots, I can’t help but think of anything more synonymous of being British. Its distinctive check pattern has become one of its most widely copied trademarks.
Burberry is also one of Britain’s oldest clothing stores. It was founded in 1856 when 21-year-old Thomas Burberry (above), a former draper’s apprentice, opened his own store in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England.
By 1870, the business had established itself by focusing on the development of outdoors attire. In 1880, Burberry invented gabardine, a hard wearing, water-resistant yet breathable fabric, in which the yarn is waterproofed before weaving. The Gabardine was patented in 1888.
Burberry was the original name, but then the company soon switched to using the name Burberrys, after many customers from around the world began calling it Burberrys of London. This name is still visible on many older Burberry products.
In 1891, Burberry opened a shop in the Haymarket, London, which still exists and until recently was the site of Burberry’s corporate headquarters. Its headquarters are at Horseferry House, just behind Houses of Parliament, Westminster (London).
Burberry has also been a part of many exploration expeditions and Britain’s war effort. In 1911, they became the outfitters for Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen (abov), the first man to reach the South Pole, and Ernest Shackleton, who led a 1914 expedition to cross Antarctica. A Burberry gabardine jacket was worn by George Mallory on his ill-fated attempt on Mount Everest in 1924.
In 1914, Burberry was commissioned by the War Office to adapt its officer’s coat to suit the conditions of contemporary warfare, resulting in the “trench coat”.
After the war, the trench coat became popular with civilians. The iconic Burberry check was created in the 1920s and used as a lining in its trench coats.
Burberry also specially designed aviation garments. A. E. Clouston and Mrs. Betsy Kirby Green made the fastest flying time to Cape Town from London in 1937 and were sponsored by Burberry.
So as you can see, Burberry is an iconic clothing brand in Britain and has become the standard of fashion, long before J. Crew or Eddie Bauer became known.