Imperial Black

Imperial Black Heritage

We are a small yet varied group with a passion for travel, adventure, and the best things the world has to offer. We race old cars and motorbikes, sail about forgotten archipelagos, traverse lonely ridge lines and tend to keep moving. We travel as man was meant to and look smart doing so. For generations we have traveled the globe in search of the sublime, the unique, and the finest products handcrafted in beautiful places. 

However, if truth be known we never set out to sell shirts. 


What started as a determination to find just the right shirt became something else entirely.  Along the way things went a bit potty as we became further and further immersed in the search.  If you have heard about us and read this far then there is a good chance that you share a bit of the madness and recognise something special when you come across it.

But a warning must be given.  If you follow the thread deeper you may find yourself burrowing into the sartorial rabbit hole and popping out in Northern England, Turkey, Hong Kong, and finally in a small Italian work shop.

The men of my family have always worn the same shirts. Whether sweating it in the tropics for The Foreign Service or shuffling papers at a merchant bank, these were shirts that Empire was built upon.  When it was my time, I paid the fee and ordered from the right shop on the right street.  Still, my tailor did all of the heavy lifting.  A sleeve shortened here, a tuck there; he was worth his weight in gold.

Over time I felt the quality of my shirts with a pedigree slip. A button would shatter, a stitch would unravel, and perhaps most troublesome of all was the bloat that seemed to migrate from the shirts American cousins.  Clearly things needed to be put right.

I made a pilgrimage to Northern England to meet a man who could put me in touch with "just the right sorts".  A nice man with three lovely spaniels.  We talked for hours about shirting material and he gave me the name of a small company near the border who could give me just what I wanted.  Again, lovely people with amazing materials yet they wanted massive runs and major commitments.  They did, however, make some shirts that were spot on to what I was trying to move away from.  I ended up buying Land Rover seat covers from them so not a complete bust.  

z.jpgTime passes and it's Hong Kong where a dreary meeting nets shirts that look the part but don't pass muster under close inspection.  Despite broken buttons and a material that pilled with the first wash the actual form of the shirt was beginning to take place.  Armholes moved higher, the button stance changed a bit, the collar asserted itself.  However, frustrated and sulking I put the idea away for a while and did my best to destroy the shirts.  I found the worst dry cleaners money can buy, I washed incessantly, I ironed mercilessly.  All fell by the wayside save for one Italian fabric that was simply amazing.  Sadly it was attached to a wreck of a shirt design and construct. 


It's Italy and I'm eating a late lunch in a trattoria.  The skate in lemon is delicious and I begin talking to the gentleman next to me.  He is dressed rather nicely, as many forty year old Italians are.  I notice his shirt- it's a similar pattern to my "miracle" fabric.  His collar sits perfectly under a cashmere v neck.  Cuffs rolled back show some interesting detail.  I'm hooked.trat.jpg

I enquire and after two hours we leave a wreck of a lunch table and walk down slanting cobble stoned streets to his family's workshop where my shirt destiny awaited.

We don't want to sell many shirts.  They don't want to make many shirts.  We prefer to work with small, limited runs six to eight weeks apart. We want to provide to our friends something special, uncompromising, and worth having. We are incredibly proud of what we do and we hope that you take notice and carry the thread forward.

Our shirts are not inexpensive- they are made with passion in a beautiful place by individuals with the truest of skills.  It has been said that luxury cannot originate from unhappy people working in an unhappy enviroment. Our experiences have proven this to be as true. (Lee Wulf was also keenly aware of we too have never caught a gorgeous trout in an ugly river). We pay tribute to this simple, yet too often forgotten, principal with every stitich of our orange signature thread as it captures the beauty of the tree next to the finishing room and the happiness that our work brings us.

Some things in this world really are worth waiting for.