Diamond Jubilee. Ceremonial British Uniform.

Here in the UK, this weekend has marked Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee - a celebration of her sixty year reign. There have been a lot of celebrations across our land and indeed in The Commonwealth. Military ceremonial dress and pageantry are my favourite aspects of the celebration.

Browsing around online for some good pics of ceremonial dress I found these.. Wyedean Weaving, a specialist in manufacturer of braid and uniform accoutrement have these wonderful images of military uniform components.

The soldiers who guard Buckingham Palace and at parade ceremonially are serving staff from the Household Division and wear some of these accoutrements and colours.

RAF Uniform - similar features to that which Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge wears.

It’s likely that some of the Royal Navy vessels accompanying the royal barge included sailors with these components in their uniforms.

As Sovereign and head of state, Queen Elizabeth II is Head of the Armed Forces and their Commander-in-Chief.

Want to see more on military dress and UK pageantry? Check out these articles from Good Clobber:

Ceremonial Military Uniform Trousers - the Royal Wedding…

The Union Jack in fashion…

Thanks to Wyedean Weaving for the military accoutrement images.

The Union Jack in Fashion

The Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, is used a lot in fashion. The design crops up time and again in menswear, particularly with brands and looks that want to anchor themselves to British heritage.

To give a little context and description on why the Union Jack design is so popular in UK fashion (and because we’re a blog firmly based in the United Kingdom), Good Clobber has put together the following post on a symbol that forms part of our national identity; The Union Jack in Fashion.

After Queen Elizabeth I of England died in 1603, King James VI of Scotland took up the throne and became King James I of England. James united the Kingdoms of England and Scotland in 1604 and combined the flags of the two countries to create ‘The Union Flag’ - a somewhat simpler design than we are used to now. Originally, the flag was used for naval purposes; later in 1707 the Union Flag was by royal proclamation made the National flag of Great Britain for use on sea and land.

Almost a hundred years later Ireland was united with Great Britain, in 1801 and the red diagonal cross of St. Patrick was added to the flag. In order to avoid having the red of the Irish Cross directly upon the blue field of the Scottish cross, a white edging was added to the Irish cross. The combination of the crosses of St George, Andrew and Patrick make up what we now recognise as the flag. The red dragon of Wales is not included, as Wales is a Principality, rather than a Kingdom. Is this a shame? Would the Union Jack look good with a Dragon in the middle? Tough one, I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.

The name ‘Jack’ was probably adopted from naval / maritime usage. Ships of the age would run a small bow flag at the head of the vessel on ceremonial occasions. This was often called a ‘Jack’, hence the name ‘Union Jack’. ‘Union Flag’ is probably the correct name for the flag, but common usage is the ‘Union Jack’.

The bright colours and eye-catching design of the flag has made it a popular choice for making a statement. Many notable front men and women in musical and popular culture have used the flag to great effect. In the last fifty years, American culture has seeped into the public consciousness and many UK acts have used the flag to help establish or maintain their British identity. Notable in this are the following…

The Who and David Bowie

Noel and Liam Gallagher. Here Liam is draped in a military Union Jack for a Pretty Green photoshop.

Geri Halliwell and Kate Moss. Wow. I’d forgotten how much of an important role Geri’s Union Jack dress played in my young man hood.

And more up-to-date; Cheryl Cole and Pete Doherty, with the Union Jack tied around his wrist at Reading Festival in 2010. Probably something to do with his search for ‘Albion’ I suppose.

In the last thirty years, the Union Jack has been used as an extreme political statement and still carries from some connotations. Britain has suffered from some periods of racial unrest and opposing groups faced up against one another over the issues of immigration and racial cohesion. The design of the Union Jack was linked with this tension, as some parties used the design as a sign of defiance and extreme nationalism.

There was a time, early in my education when the Union Jack on any clothing was banned in my school, to avoid any racial tension. So strict was this policy that students with Reebok Classic trainers were made to ink over the tiny Union Jack on their shoes.

The hangover from these ill uses still exists today, somewhat. There seems to be a fine line between flaunting the design as a show of patriotism and that of extreme nationalism and racial aggression.

It is perhaps because of this that the Union Jack tends not to be used as a cheif pattern in clothing design: You’re much more likely to find a Union Jack as an accent on a pair of shoes, or a tie than see someone wearing a coat or shirt that entierly features the Union Jack design.

Despite these connotations, the Union Jack is still immensely popular. As a design, it’s featured in many UK clothing companies and has come to play an important role in the identity of many UK brands.

Barbour make good use of the design in this coat, cufflinks and messenger bag.

This one's perhaps a little more garish, maybe even jingoistic, but if you can pull it off why not?

The Union Jack plays a big part in the identity of Ben Sherman. Above is a flight bag and Union Jack wallet.

This Union Jack t-shirt are available from ASOS: Ben Sherman, Religion, Ben Sherman and Richmond.

Possibly the most common use of the Union Jack in fashion is in footwear. For some reason, having flags on your feet seems to work.

According to The Times and Italian fashion designer Kinder Aggugini the Union Jack is hugely popular abroad. “For them it has no negative connotations the way it has for some Brits. They don’t look at it and think of colonialism… They think of Kate Moss and The Who.” It seems the complex geometrical design of the flag is more potent that other European flags; Aggugini continues… “Most flags are not very interesting but the Union Jack is brilliantly conceived. So many flags are horizontal stripes but the Union Jack comes in about 13 sections.”

Religion polo shirt (can’t find out if this is still available) and union jack accessories from River Island.

It’s possible that the adoration for this design is because it’s a good combination of colours and shapes, rather than a pledge to queen and country. Youth culture has established that wearing a Jack is a semi-ironic nod to the Empire, rather than a celebration of conquest. There’s also no copyright on the design, so it’s open to use by anyone.

Ultimately, the Union Jack shouldn’t be seen as a symbol of extreme right-wing nationalism, or patriotism. As a nation, we’ve had some bad times, but this flag shouldn’t cast a shadow over our history. It’s impossible for a collection of colours to represent everyone living in Great Briton, but we should be proud that we have a flag that represents togetherness and union. It’s also a damn striking design, so why not show it off?

Thanks to all the brands above for the images. Thanks to The Times Online. And the various sites from which I’ve borrowed the celebrity pictures.

Dr. Martens – how they’re made and why they’re great

Last week I was lucky enough to spend the morning at the Dr. Martens factory, which is about an hour north of London. Oh my word, it was a most excellent experience.

I was unaware that Doc Martens were still making footwear in the UK and only had a slight idea of the rich history behind the brand and their range of products.

Dr. Martens produce several styles of shoe in their Northampton factory, which is attached to their development department and recently opened ‘heritage centre’ a building that celebrates the 50+ years that Doc Martens have been available.

Unlike many other footwear manufacturers, DMs make the entire shoe, or boot, on the premises. Every product they make in the UK starts out as raw materials and through a half-dozen or so processes in the same large room, comes out as a fully formed piece of wearable UK heritage. To see the shoe or boot take form is an almost magical experience and hopefully the following images and videos will help you understand why DMs are worth taking note of.

Once inside the factory, the first process is to create Doc Martens’ famous air filled shoe sole. You may have seen the black and yellow logo ‘Air Wair’ text that forms part of the Dr Martens logo; this pertains to the air trapped inside the heel of the plastic sole. The original Dr. Martin, a German man, hurt his foot in a skiing accident. He came up with the idea for an air filled sole to help him recover.

All Dr Martens footwear starts off as tiny granules of plastic. These are fed into a hopper and down into a very hot injection moulding machine. You can see the metal form below that the plastic is fed into.

Each sole is then quality checked for irregularities. If there are too many air bubbles in the sole, it is rejected and if possible recycled back into the production line.

To cut the leather for each shoe, the team is equipped with these industrial cookie cutter things. I joke, they’re called ‘knives’. These sharp metal shapes cut the pattern from the leather.

The leather arrives at the factory from a tannery. Each piece is huge and finished so that it pretty much resembles the leather on the final shoe. These huge pieces of leather are dyed in various colours.

A skilful worker is employed to cut the patterns from the leather. In this video you can see that a Clicking Machine is used to press the shapes from the leather. A lot of care is taken to ensure that almost no leather goes to waste.

Now that the sole of the boot and the leather pieces that make up the upper have been manufactured, the process of piecing it all together can begin. The leather is passed on to a team of skilled seamstresses who first skim off a thin layer from the underside of the leather to prep if for sewing, you can see this in the video below.

Following this, the leather is sewn together with big industrial machines. I’ve done a little sewing in my time and I can tell you that these women are very impressive - they make very accurate joins very quickly.

Small holes are cut in the leather to form eyelets for the laces. Eyelet studs are fired into the leather to create the metal hole that the lace runs through. The machine that does this is fierce! The studs are fed into the machine from a hopper, along a belt and into a punching head. This thing is like a machine gun!

At this point the inner sole of the shoe is fitted. this is a soft fabric sole that your foot sits on. Even though the wearer of the shoe will hardly notice this piece, it’s all most the most important component; all the parts of the boot are fitted around this piece.

Interestingly, DMs made in the UK are branded with a gold inlay. This gold foil is transferred onto the innersole heel. Doc Martens made outside the UK will not have this gold inlay. This is how you can tell you’re getting genuine home-grown product from Dr Martens’ - take a look inside; if it’s gold, it’s British.

Now that the components of the boot are coming together, the boot needs to be fitted to a ‘last’. This is a rigid form that the soft leather fits around tightly. This helps give the boot form and will make the following processes possible. There is a different set of lasts for each shoe size.

The next process was, for me, the most impressive. The leather upper is heated inside a sort of ‘shoe toaster’ until it is malleable then fitted to a heat forming machine. This machine stretches and shapes the top leather into the recognisable shoe shape. Take a look at the video below, it looks as if the shoe is being inflated! Great machine.

Now the product is really starting to take shape. I find it interesting that the shoe still doesn’t have a Doc Martins ‘look’ to it at this stage - the all essential sole needs to be added. These images make me wonder what a DM shoe would look like with a thinner, more elegant sole.

The sole is sealed to the upper with rubber a coping. The rubber is supplied in a long coiled strip, which is kept in warm soapy water to keep it supple. The coping is fused to the sole by a heated process.

It’s a this point that the famous yellow stitching is added. Once it’s been coated with hot wax to make it weather proof, the tread is fed into the leather to create the yellow stitching that is synonymous with Dr Martens.

Famous yellow stitching.

Unfortunately the pictures here don’t show you how fast this man is working. In a bright flash the rubber is passed through the machine and a wheel on the underside presses the sole up into the heat. The pressure and the heat fuses the pieces together.

If a mistake or a fault in quality is spotted at any point throughout the production line, each process is designed to ensure the that it can be undone and the product passed back up the line to start again. In this picture you can see how the underlying stitching can be undone if an error is found. The rubber coping is simply applied again.

Almost the final stage of the production is demonstrated here. This seriously sharp piece of metal cuts grooves into the heel of the boot. These ridges are another iconic detail to the Doc Martens design.

Once the lasts are removed from the boot, the final stage before they are boxed up and shipped out is a quality check. Careful eyes look over the finished boot, sponge it down and add the laces. Tags and stickers are also added.

The finished boots - these ones are called ‘Cappers’ and take inspiration from a classic work boot. Note the triple stitching on the quarter.

These are vintage 1461 3-eye shoe in Oxblood. Dan, who showed us around had a pair of these and absolutely pulled them off.

These Dr Martens where made in the UK by British hands. They’re based on a design that’s stuck true to it’s 50 year old roots. Doc Martens are worn by all demographics and have an everlasting appeal. Until I’d seen how they are made and met the passionate people who make them, I underestimated DMs. Now I’m a total convert and I hope this post goes some way to convincing you.

As well as the immensely interesting factory, Dr. Martens have a heritage centre which showcases some of their rich history. This has already been an unusually long post, so I’ll bring you some history of Doc Martens in the future.

Thanks so much to Dr Martens for showing us around the factory and treating us to a field-trip day out. Thanks also to Danielle over at Final Fashion (check out her blog!) who invited me along and taking some of the nice snaps above.

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