Spotted on this season’s Gieves & Hawkes coats, knitwear and scarves, the crown – originally a gift to the company from the Royal Navy – is a new feature with a long tradition.
Look closely – sometimes really closely – at a number of garments from Gieves & Hawkes' Autumn / Winter collection and you may spot something that at first seems not very Gieves & Hawkes at all. There it is on a navy pinstripe bomber jacket, on a maroon rugby shirt, on a peacoat or repeated as a pattern over a tie or shirt. It’s on knitwear. It’s on trousers. And it’s a logo – more specifically, a crown, comprising an artful arrangement of tall ships, with the date 1771 stamped underneath.
The use of this crown motif is not, however, a random choice. Gieves & Hawkes has used it on and off throughout its history – the right to use the crown was, in fact, a gift to the company from the Royal Navy with the stipulation that its founding year be printed below every use. Gieves & Hawkes has a long tradition of outfitting naval officers, of course, but the crown also refers to the ancient tradition of a laurel wreath being given to the victor of a naval battle.
“Beyond all that, it's actually just a very beautiful graphic,” says Gieves & Hawkes’ creative director John Harrison, who was inspired to use the crown again when working with the company’s archivist Peter Tilley to uncover examples of its historic use. “We want in time for the crown to become an identifiable motif that we really own, so we’re going to use it seasonally but in an understated, almost whimsical way.”
While Gieves & Hawkes is unlikely to imitate sportswear’s love of statement exterior branding, Harrison argues that the crown works best on casual garments, where the placement can be either obvious – as on a polo shirt – or hidden – tucked under a collar, on a lining or on a shirt gusset, for example.
“We’ll put it where the wearer might only notice it after having worn the garment a few times,” he says. “It’s the kind of device that creates a bit of noise on an otherwise calm and classic garment, though you always have to be careful to avoid the use of the motif becoming gauche. And where the line is, well, that’s always a good question. But what’s important is that the crown comes direct from our heritage and it just looks really good.”