Craft, England and Codpieces

You need not see what someone is doing

to know if it is his vocation,

you have only to watch his eyes:

a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon

making a primary incision,

a clerk completing a bill of lading,

wear the same rapt expression,

forgetting themselves in a function.

“Sext” (1954) by W.H. Auden.

england-murals

Tailored by England murals on Great Eastern St, London.

I think the gentlemen and gentlewomen at Umbro have hit on something. Their new England shirt has certainly garnered attention.

This little island was once a hub of craft and industry. By delivering “The right shirt at the right time”, Umbro have collared an inconvenient truth:

We stopped crafting – and started outsourcing.

That “rapt expression” of which Auden speaks disappeared from the face of the nation. And I couldn’t agree more with Umbro’s strapline – this is the right time to look back, and move forward.

New England Shirt – The Making of by umbro on YouTube.

A few weeks ago two Brits clashed in a game of Layer Tennis (massive props to Coudal Partners, the broadcasters and creators of the event).

What emerged from this riveting rally? For one thing, both Rex Crowle and Simon Cook were obsessed with… things.

We see “things” that are British every day. We use those things too. We may even keep them in our codpiece.

rex-crowle-layer-tennis

Layer 6 by Rex Crowle on Layer Tennis.

Somewhere in the twilight of late capitalism, we lost sight of those items on our kitchen table. The necessaries in our chest of drawers.

Cookie does a wonderful job of reviving that joy of craft and “things” at his blog, Made in England by Gentlemen – go check it out.

It was there, to bring this little ramble to an end, that I discovered his apt fondness for the work of Hwa Young Jung.

In her words:

“…if you’re English these are things you might have grown up with & therefore you feel is insignificant. They are new and fascinating to me.”

Fingers crossed, as they say, that fascination can return for English folks too.

tetley-tea

Tetley by hwayoungjung on Flickr.

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