Back in a previous life I was fortunate to work at influential Mancunian clothing institution Oi Polloi. As they transitioned from small shop to big shop, I joined them to help cement a tone of voice they'd already begun to talk in via one of the founders, Steve Sanderson. My role wasn't limited to humble wordsmith however. btw, that's the title of my autobiography. Word Smith. Or maybe Mark: My Words. With a picture of me on the front with my hands clasped together, laughing.
Sorry, where was I?
Oh yeah, Oi Polloi. When I wasn't writing product descriptions for exceptional outerwear, I found myself researching subjects for their blog. Content is king these days, but back then an online shop rarely focused itself on anything other than product. Oi Polloi were an early adopter in that sense. I'd write a couple of blog posts a week on brands, people, places and generally anything of interest around their cultural sphere.
Around this time, the four pocket parka was ubiquitous and everyone seemed to want to look like a mountaineer. Oi Polloi were in the thick of it. With this in mind, I found myself reading about Chris Bonington and his ground breaking escapades. The aforementioned Steve happened to mention around this time the names Joe Brown and Don Whillans. While London-born Bonington was better known, the relative obscurity of this unlikely duo appealed, especially as they were from the humble background of nearby Salford.
While Bonington's early life was far from easy, his beginnings were in contrast to those of his climbing counterparts. Bonington's father was a founding member of L Detachment, Special Air Service and he mixed in very different circles to the Lowry-esque Salford and Ardwick of Brown and Whillans.
Anyway, in discussion with Oi Polloi founder Nigel Lawson I suggested he call their take on the aforementioned parka the Whillans parka after Salford's surly son. Known for his no-nonsense and plain speaking approach, Whillans was respected and liked by many, once they'd got over his demeanour.
In truth, having used Whillans' name before I wasn't convinced about using it again, but calling our corduroy trousers after his climbing partner would have been a little confusing. The Brown Corduroy Pant in Olive Green wouldn't have worked would it?
Instead, the man after whom a hut in Staffordshire is named also lends his name to our trousers.
To find out more about Don Whillans, give this a watch.