Fashion June, 20 2013

Introducing Russell Athletic Archive: The Return of the Original Sportswear Brand

Russ Gater and Daniel Savory filled us in on this exciting project a while back and now, finally, we can share some images and wax lyrical about something pretty special. The guys, best known for Heritage Research and Trainerspotter, have always had a keen interest in American vintage and it was a specific obsession with Russell Athletic that led to this new venture, Russell Athletic Archive. Having worked with the U.S company on various collaborations, it soon became apparent that their own personal collections from the early 1900s to the 1980s were the perfect starting point for a tribute line celebrating those incredible and rare early pieces.  Inventors of the T-Shirt as we know it, founded in 1902 by Benjamin Russell, this is the World’s oldest sports manufacturer. Contracted to the U.S Military during WWII, makers of professional sports team uniforms in the post-war period and the only brand to supply to all 8 Ivy League colleges – most certainly a heritage to make noise about.

Aside from all the historial facts and figures, of which there are many, at the heart of it all is a truly impressive product. Having collected a few t-shirts and vests from the early days of Russell Southern Company myself, the quality of those heavy fabrics, the typeface on the label, the chunky lettering of sewn on patches…has always set RA apart. Luckily, the Archive collection is in the hands of two knowledgeable fellas who recognise it’s all in the detail. Seasonal offerings will revisit stand-out pieces, from fabrics to stitching, everything will be faithfully reproduced. Taking an exclusive early look, the guys introduce us to the John Lofgren for Russell Athletic Archive Collection, a premium (and we mean Premium) capsule line from the legendary collector and maker of fine repros under the John Lofgren & Co. label. So, here we have the 1920’s Shawl Collar Coaches Jacket in Beach Cloth style fabric woven in Sendai, Japan. Originals much sought-after by collectors, a remake of a loopwheel 1940’s Attached Hood Sweatshirt. The story goes that an East Coast college put in an order for hooded models, received V-Stitch sweatshirts instead so, to save money, the company offered to sew on hoods and pockets creating this strange hybrid. Also pictured: A 1950’s ‘Beat Navy’ Pocket T-shirt celebrating the Army/Navy College football rivalry of the day and the 1910 Henley Undershirt, a Russell Mills undergarment popular among students, this one hand-dyed and, does it feature real ocean shell buttons? Yes, indeed, it does. As you may have gathered, we’re just a tad excited about this, more info to follow once we have it. For now, enjoy a little Russell Athletic Archive action in our gallery