Stories

How luxury became an everyday essential

Sunspel underwear essentials are truly luxurious. And luxury is something to enjoy every day…

In the 1960s you might have had to fly halfway across the world to buy luxury essentials.

According to Sunspel legend, our close relationship with Japan began when a Tokyo businessman on a trip to Swinging London realised he’d forgotten to pack his underwear. So after thinking over his problem while inspecting the ducks in St James’s Park, he took a cab to Knightsbridge, home of the world-famous Harrods, to find the best underwear England had to offer.

There he discovered Sunspel’s luxury essentials – and he liked the feel so much that when he got home he wrote to ask if he could begin importing. So a 50-year relationship between Sunspel and Japan began. And businessmen can now buy the world’s best boxer shorts in Tokyo’s own top-flight stores.

EVERYDAY LUXURY

Today, real luxury, great craftsmanship and the world’s finest raw materials are all closer at hand than ever. Take coffee. A decade or two ago excellent, freshly ground coffee from Kenya or Java was something you had to seek out – usually from a specialist coffee shop full of fragrant sacks of beans and steam-punk steel grinders. But now you don’t think twice about picking up a world-class cup every morning. It may even be the fruity Tanzanian Peaberry or perhaps Hawaii’s rich and complex Kona. Great coffee is just an everyday essential. Thank goodness.

Because that’s what luxury really means: not just occasional peaks, but living well, at an elevated level, all the time.

So if you’re doing that with your coffee, of course you should do it with the thing you wear closest to your skin every single day. Your underwear.

THE WORLD’S MOST COMFORTABLE FABRICS

Sunspel makes underwear from the best fabrics in the world. For 160 years we have been sourcing the finest raw materials and innovating to develop materials that are entirely unique.

To get that incredible smoothness to the touch requires cotton with an extra long staple: the longer the staple, the fewer the joins when you spin the fibres into a yarn.

The cotton for our Superfine fabric (Q82) is grown and carefully handpicked in California. We twist pairs of the fibres together to make a strong, fine yarn, and we pass each thread over a flame to burn off the overhanging ends. Then we double spin the yarn to remove any last remaining microscopic impurities. It takes a lot of work – but it makes for the cleanest, softest, most luxurious fabric you’ve ever placed against your skin.

WOVEN BY EXPERTS

Weaving light, soft, breathable fabric requires special skills.

There are only a handful of weavers in the world with the ability to work with Carribean Sea Island cotton – the rarest kind on the planet. Sea Island cotton’s extra long staple length, fine texture and silky sheen allow it to be woven to the highest possible yarn count.

Sunspel work with expert spinners in Switzerland – specialists with the skill and care to twist the delicate Sea Island fibres into the finest of threads, and weave those threads to make our most luxurious fabric.

BRITISH CRAFTSMANSHIP AND DESIGN

Sunspel have been making wardrobe essentials since the 1860s. Our designs have evolved over decades – sometimes in great visionary leaps, more often in endless, slightly obsessive micro-improvements. But always with the goal of making the most comfortable underwear it is possible to wear.

The boxer short was a great visionary leap, an American idea reinvented and perfected in Britain. Just like the Beatles took American R&B to another level before selling it back to its home country, so Sunspel owner John Hill brought the boxer back from the States in 1947 before making two critical innovations. First, he created a back panel to replace the uncomfortable central seam; second, he introduced double-turned feldlock seams so that the whole garment feels like one smooth block of material.

The result was the best boxer short in the world: if the Fab Four couldn’t buy love, they could at least buy supremely comfortable underwear.

From T-shirts and trunks to open weave cellular cotton briefs for women, we put that same care and obsessive attention to detail into all our underwear designs.

Cotton Poplin Boxer Shorts

Luxury underwear T-Shirt

YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE

But don’t just take our word for it. Here Ian Fleming describes how one of Sunspel’s more famous customers luxuriates in the right sort of next-to-your-skin comfort. Mr Bond has just arrived in Jamaica, on business as well as pleasure – and demonstrating better packing discipline than our Japanese businessman:

‘Thankfully he took off his London clothes, now moist with perspiration, and went into the glass-fronted shower and turned the cold water full on and stood under it for five minutes during which he washed his hair to remove the last dirt of big-city life. Then he pulled on a pair of Sea Island cotton shorts and, with sensual pleasure at the warm soft air on his nakedness, unpacked his things and rang for the waiter’.

You’ll be unsurprised to learn he orders a tall, cold drink.

Luxury is about living well every day. Fifty years ago you might have had to traverse the globe to find it. Now it’s just click away.

Shop Sunspel’s luxury underwear. 

Superfine cotton brief

Cellular cotton underwear vest