iStyle: Mod operandi

Ben Sherman is celebrating five decades of innovation with a collection inspired by the Sixties Jazz scene. Lee Holmes looks back at the British brand’s rich history

If you were to think of an item of clothing that best reflects the label Ben Sherman, the button-down shirt – or Oxford – would likely spring to mind. With a rich, varied sartorial history this shirt has, over the years, become almost synonymous with this very British brand.

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Originally, though, it was worn by the polo-playing moneyed classes of the US Ivy League college system; the two buttons on either side of the collar stopped the material from flapping into the faces of the players when they were bouncing around on their horses. Ben Sherman, who lived for a short time in America, decided to introduce this style to the British. Its success was assured when it was quickly snapped up by the Mods, becoming part of their signature look.

In the five decades since then, the button-down has been reinvented and reinterpreted by each successive youth culture. However, the Ben Sherman line is much more than just a one-trick pony. This summer sees the label’s Plectrum collection – named after the humble guitar pick – offer the very best of the brand distilled into a capsule collection. Taking as its inspiration the Jazz scene of the 1960s, fabrics and fits are of a high quality and standard. Art Deco geometric printed shirts sit alongside sharp modern tailoring, while the knitted zip cardigans and washed out T-shirts provide the collection with relaxed and informal pieces.

What’s especially attractive about Plectrum is its potential to introduce the label to a new customer, who ordinarily wouldn’t think to shop here for such high-end design. Of course, Ben Sherman will always play on its nostalgic roots, and with such a rich back catalogue this is as it should be. However, this fashion-savvy collection ensures that it’s more than just the sum of its parts.