Coming up with the Goods
We started life back in 1903 based in the textile town of Wigston, Leicestershire. Our founders Christopher Cook, and Harold Hurst and a small group of local employees manned the eight machines used to create our high-quality woollen underwear.
Within a decade we had expanded to a larger premise and with the advent of World War I found ourselves making our first ever range of sportswear and exercise clothing for the Royal Navy. The superior quality of these new wartime garments combined with this new naval connection resulted in the company adopting the name ‘Admiral’, the title being the most senior rank in the British Navy.
Post war Admiral continued to kit out the military with sportswear, including a contract with the Royal Navy to supply them with white-and-blue rugby shirts for sailors’ sporting activities. By the 1930s we had expanded our output to include a wide range of interlock sportswear as well as bathing costumes to meet the demands of the many new swimming baths that were popping up all over the country. Whilst the outbreak of World War II saw the employees at the Wigston factory working round the clock to provide high quality garments for both the British and US forces.
1956 saw entrepreneur Bert Patrick joining and then buying the company who recognised the need to focus more on sportswear than underwear. He also saw the need for a new brand logo, commissioning an artist to create the now legendary Admiral stripe-laden insignia.
Moving into the sixties Bert also saw an opportunity to make a mark in the fast-growing sportswear market having already got the expertise and machinery he set about expanding the range and providing top quality garments for other sportswear brands such as rugby shirts for the Cheshire based Bukta.
In advance of the forthcoming World Cup our next challenge was to design a new style of lightweight interlock football jersey. The shirts innovative design featured a built-in elastication at the neck and cuffs, offering complete freedom of movement whilst also retaining its shape. Local Leicester lad Gordon Banks did Wigston proud and chose to wear the (intentionally unbranded) yellow Admiral shirt throughout the 65-66 season as well as during that magical World Cup winning campaign. A choice made by Gordon purely based on the quality of the garment as opposed to any deal or sponsorship. The success of the England team coupled with the arrival of colour television would have long lasting implications for the design and production of football kits to come.
Into the Seventies we continued to appear on a global stage supplying kits for the British Lions rugby team, various track and field starts and even the British women’s hockey team at the 1972 Olympics. Such high-profile success resulted in the need for more premises as we opened up our new factory, 13 miles south of Wigston in Market Harborough.
This expansion coincided the advent of visibly branded, copyrighted kits, a move spearheaded by Admiral and one that saw us enlisted by Leeds United manager Don Revie to design a new away kit and tracksuit for his team.
From supplying the armed forces for over six decades to kitting out world beating athletes, Admiral’s distinct range of UK made sportswear has earned the brand a very special place in the history of sportswear. It’s this unrivalled heritage that has inspired our design process and craftmanship when creating each and every Admiral Sporting Goods Co. garment.
Words by Neil Summers