Wearing Wimbledon with Fred Perry: A quintessentially British brand

Fred Perry Brand

Anyone for tennis?

When it comes to Great British brands, it’s impossible to overlook the style and sophistication of Fred Perry fashion.

Fred Perry clothing seems to have been around since the beginning of modern men’s fashion. In fact, the Fred Perry logo is the epicentre of numerous British subcultures, as well acting as the ultimate Wimbledon uniform.

Since it began almost 70 years ago, Fred Perry fashion has earned its place as one of the most celebrated quintessentially British brands in the market. With its iconic and innovative designs, strong heritage and exceptional identity, the Fred Perry laurel wreath acts as a badge of honour for many. While the heart of the brand is in tennis, the decades have given Fred Perry’s identity a chance to develop, with connections all the way from music, to celebrity style.

Today, the Fred Perry logo is one of the most iconic symbols in British fashion, known for successfully blending sportswear with everyday fashion. Along with a consistent image, the company has managed to hold onto a pervasive ethos of authenticity, integrity and just a little bit of attitude too.

Join us as we explore the history and heritage of the Fred Perry brand.

Fred Perry Brand
Credit: Gallica Digital Library

Fred Perry: History of a great British brand

All quintessentially British brands come with their own unique history to tie them to English culture, and Fred Perry is no different.

The Fred Perry fashion company is named after a British table-tennis and tennis star who won 10 majors, including 2 Pro Slams singles titles, and eight Grand Slams. The incredible Fred Perry was the former World number 1, achieving three consecutive Wimbledon wins between the years of 1934 and 1936. Before Andy Murray brought Britain back into the tennis halls of fame in 2013, Perry was the last player to successfully win a Wimbledon championship.

The Fred Perry brand emerged in the 1940s when Perry agreed to help market a new sweatband with an ex-Australian football player called Tibby Wegner. The two athletes worked together on the innovative new idea, which proved incredibly popular around the UK. After a while, the pair decided to diversify their fashion offering with a line of trademark polo shirts, and thus Fred Perry fashion was born.

When the first Fred Perry clothing line appeared in 1952, with the iconic polo shirt, it became an immediate success. At the time, the shirt was only available in white, and it was specifically marketed as a tennis shirt. This is one of the reasons why the Fred Perry identity is so closely linked to Wimbledon and tennis. As demand for the polo shirt increased, more colours emerged, and the Fred Perry brand began to establish a connection with people outside the athletic world.

Now, Fred Perry clothing is one of the best-known brands in the world. The company offers a fashion range that combines casual wear with sportswear, with garments ranging from footwear and jackets to that traditional polo.

Fred Perry Brand
Credit: Beverley Goodwin

Fred Perry fashion and style subcultures

While the Fred Perry history began with tennis, it didn’t stay in the realm of Wimbledon indefinitely. Like many fashion brands throughout the years, such as Vivienne Westwood and Doc Martens, the Fred Perry brand unintentionally became linked with various subcultures and street styles, as well as the music people used to express themselves in the era.

Let’s take a look at just some of the sub-cultures that have embraced Fred Perry fashion over the years.

1. The Mods

Fred Perry clothing played a huge part in the Mod movement of the 1950s. The Mod subculture loved the stylish, top-button design of the traditional Fred Perry polos, as well as the clothing’s durability. The Mod movement was obsessed with attention-to-detail, and a beautifully-designed polo shirt was the perfect addition to their fresh and clean wardrobe.

When the Fred Perry brand was still evolving in the 1950s, it was the Mod movement that pushed the company to deliver different coloured shirts, so that the British youth could recreate European and American looks and make them their own. This helped Fred Perry to become the first company to crossover from sportswear to streetwear.

2. The Skinheads

While the Mod connection was a positive evolution for the Fred Perry brand, not all the subcultures that embraced the look were quite as appealing. Around the age of Vivienne Westwood and Fred Perry, the skinhead culture was starting to grow. Over time, the more violent subcultures in Britain began adopting Fred Perry fashion alongside Doc Martens and braces.

During later years, Fred Perry clothing started to be associated with members of the “Proud Boys” cult of young neo-Nazi individuals.

Fred Perry Brand
Credit: Alfred Nitsch

3. Punk and the “Perry Boys”

Fortunately, the rise of the more violent skinhead groups didn’t last for very long, and the Fred Perry logo started to evolve again, now attracting the attention of a different London movement. The “punk” revolution had a huge impact on the history of British culture, and it featured countless different looks, all the way from spiky hair and safety pins, to leather trousers and the Fred Perry Polo.

A particularly well-known group of punks called the “Perry Boys” in Manchester were infamous for their wedge haircut, designer jeans and Fred Perry polo shirts. This movement helped to spark the more “casual” connections between Fred Perry fashion and the music scene in the future.

4. Brit Pop

In the 80s, the punk scene started to dwindle a little, and the Fred Perry fashion brand was keen to start moving into the mainstream again. “Brit Pop” emerged from the heart of the British indie music scene during the 1990s, and this new generation immediately took to the casual appeal of Fred Perry clothing.

Bands all the way from Blur to Oasis started to wear the Fred Perry logo to set themselves apart from previous styles of the 1980s, and a new era for the British brand was born.

5. Celebrity style

Finally, as Fred Perry continued to evolve from its Carnaby Street beginnings, the fashion company caught the eye of countless celebrities which helped to make the look more popular than ever before. Celebs all the way from Vinnie Jones and Ewan McGregor followed in the footsteps of fashion icons before them, choosing the Fred Perry clothing brand as a symbol of timeless design and authenticity.

Over the years, the connection that Fred Perry clothing has had with the celebrity world has meant that the company hasn’t needed to rely much on mass media marketing plans. Rather than investing in big billboards, Fred Perry uses the timeless appeal of their fashion to connect with almost every generation.

The evolution of the Fred Perry identity

Fred Perry fashion began with a brand founded by a three-time Wimbledon champion. However, as the years have passed, this company has become so much more than a sports clothing brand.

Over the years, Fred Perry clothing has emerged from a position as nothing more than a shirt designed specifically for tennis players to a lifestyle brand that represents contemporary fashion, British heritage, and more. Through years of carefully managed associations with different British sub-cultures, the Fred Perry identity has evolved, connecting with both a musical, and sportswear heritage, and Fred Perry continue to make references to their history today in everything from their marketing campaigns, to their social media strategies.

At the same time, one of the things that make the Fred Perry brand so effective is the fact that it is quintessentially British. The company is proud of its heritage, and it uses that history in the world of Mods, music, and Wimbledon to add depth to the brand story. People today know that Fred Perry is a British brand, without the organisation having to spread union jacks all over its visual identity. The sense of Britishness ingrained into the brand identity is part of what gives it such a strong appeal to UK customers.

Combine that history of Fred Perry and Carnaby Street in London, with the sense of integrity that the Fred Perry clothing company brings to everything it does, and you’ve got an organisation that’s timelessly appealing. Ever since it was first established in the 1940s, the Fred Perry business has remained true to the same values of quality, value, and comfort. This is a company that designs clothing for anyone, and everyone. It’s premium in quality but affordable in nature – so it doesn’t try to be a luxury brand.

Fred Perry is high-street fashion that customers can really resonate with – that’s what makes it so special.

In a press release, Fred Perry’s Global Marketing Director—Richard Martin—noted that the most important thing for the company right now is staying true to their heritage. Like many of the best great British brands, Fred Perry knows the value in remembering it history and staying true to its initial brand vision.

By maintaining strong brand values and a consistent sense of purpose, the Fred Perry fashion company has been able to consistently remind customers of the integrity, quality, and timelessness of the brand. It does this in everything from the music events it sponsors, to the subculture music platform on its website, and even collaborations with people like Amy Winehouse. Fred Perry never loses sight of its roots.

Fred Perry Brand
Credit: Tim Simpson

Of course, we can’t discuss the Fred Perry identity without exploring the origins of the iconic Fred Perry logo. Part of the reason that this heritage brand has so successfully stood the test of time is the fact that its customers have begun to feel a sense of loyalty towards its logo.

The origin story of the Fred Perry logo is actually quite interesting. According to historical journals and biographies, Fred Perry wasn’t just a keen sportsman; he was also an avid pipe smoker. In fact, he once noted that he would like to use a pipe as the icon for the Fred Perry brand. Of course, his fashion-minded business partner turned his head in a different direction after a suggestion that the pipe might not appeal to female fans.

Eventually, the laurel wreath – a symbol of excellence in Wimbledon and the tennis world, became the graphic element in the Fred Perry logo. Unlike many modern companies, Fred Perry has also kept its logo the same over decades in the fashion industry. The symbol of quality, championship, and timeless heritage is a perfect representation of everything the Fred Perry clothing company hopes to be.

As is the case for many companies, the logo chosen by Fred Perry is more than just a random image, it’s a strategic choice that helps to define the identity and personality of the heritage brand. Now, almost 70 years since the logo first came to life, people still see the laurel wreath as a symbol of Fred Perry history and quality.

As the years have passed by, and Fred Perry fashion has taken on countless new meanings, the wreath has been present on everything from the original 1952 shirt to the latest polos and shoes designed by the company. It represents the subcultures that embraced the organisation in the 50s, and the celebrities that turned to the Fred Perry polo shirt in the 90s too.

As a critical part of the Fred Perry image, the logo has its own “Britishness” about it that makes the company even more compelling. This image is a symbol of honour and victory, and something that Fred Perry fashion has used to its advantage over the decades.

Fred Perry advertising: British brand marketing campaigns

As mentioned above, one of the most interesting things about the Fred Perry brand is the fact that the clothing company has never really had to invest much in traditional marketing or promotional techniques. Fred Perry’s ability to appeal to various generations from countless backgrounds means that it already has a significant foothold in UK culture, and that has helped the company to find its place across the globe too.

Still, although the Fred Perry brand might not invest as much into traditional advertising as other quintessentially British brands, it still knows the value of promotion. In fact, Rob Gaitt – the brand director for Fred Perry is often quoted for saying, “There’s so much noise in the world, and you’ve got a very small window to initiate a conversation with people. If people aren’t interested in what you have to say, they’ll go elsewhere.”

Fred Perry considers its verbal identity to be a significant part of its identity. Today, the company still maintains the simple and straightforward communication style of its Wimbledon champion. It maintains a consistent and easy-to-understand tone of voice across all of its internal and external communication channel, ensuring a strong sense of vocabulary and sentiment.

Unlike other high-end clothing brands that seem to focus heavily on glamour and luxury, Fred Perry ignores shiny corporate messaging in favour of meaningful conversations with real people. For instance, the company’s Twitter channel frequently harks back to the brand’s relationship with music, and asks fans for their input and thoughts at the same time.

Fred Perry Brand

While the methods of communication available to the Fred Perry brand have changed over the years, the things it talks about and the personality it demonstrates remain the same. This helps to strengthen a sense of consistent brand awareness for the business, allowing it to be constant without being boring.

At the same time, from a visual identity perspective, Fred Perry uses a selection of muted colours and soft shades to help strengthen the sense that it’s a historical, heritage brand. It stays away from trending concepts and bright colours and provides the classical experience its customers love it for in everything from the company’s website design, to its social media pages. Even the Fred Perry Instagram page has that “traditional” sense of style with just a hint of attitude.

The Fred Perry brand believes that connecting with its multi-generational audience is all about having the right conversations in the right places. It uses a combination of email marketing, online advertising, and social media to maintain a consistent relationship with the people that know and love the company’s heritage.

Fred Perry and the best of sub cultures

Success hasn’t always been easy for Fred Perry.

Like many quintessentially British fashion brands, the company has seen its fair share of controversy over the years. After all, it’s impossible to know for certain which subcultures and groups are going to embrace your brand and make it their own. Even the strongest brand strategy won’t stop someone from subverting your company if they really want to. Fortunately, what good branding does do, is ensure that you have a strong identity to push people back to when things go wrong.

For instance, as Fred Perry became aware of its skinhead heritage, it knew it had to take steps to broaden its appeal. Ever since then, it’s been signing celebrities like Andy Murray and the late Amy Winehouse to help retain the “Britishness” of its products and attract an audience that’s not defined by hate.

In 2017, the company launched a marketing campaign specifically designed to tap into its subculture heritage. The campaign came on the back of a selection of Fred Perry Reissues, which took styles from the past and reworked them to celebrate different people from across the decades. The campaign creates a cross-generational image of Fred Perry fashion over the years, perfect for celebrating the growth of the brand.

Unlike most fashion companies that seem to specifically appeal to a certain sub-genre of people, Fred Perry has managed to connect with people from countless backgrounds over the years. A clean and easy-to-wear style product ensures that Fred Perry clothing fits just as well with modern punk-rockers as it does with those reminiscing about the Mod movement from the 1950s.

The history and diversity of the Fred Perry brand mean that it maintains a strong connection with its customers throughout the years. This is a fashion brand that’s simultaneously always evolving, and somehow staying comfortably consistent too.

Fred Perry Brand

Fred Perry: A quality quintessentially British brand

The great thing about fashion is that it can stand for so much more than people think.

The right clothing isn’t just a way to stay warm and comfortable throughout the day – it’s an expression of who you are as a person. That means that quintessentially British brands like Fred Perry establish their own incredible personalities over the years, backed by the support of countless subcultures and fans.

Fred Perry is one of the most intrinsically British fashion brands around today – regardless of whether you associate it with the stylish Mod movement, or it’s grungy punk background. It’s incredible to see how something as simple as a laurel wreath logo on a casual tennis polo can evolve into something internationally-adored, all with the right branding.

As trends and fashion preferences continue to change, Fred Perry clothing remains an essential wardrobe staple for people of all ages and backgrounds – uniting subcultures under the same simple search for comfortable, and appealing fashion.

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Stewart Hodgson
Stewart Hodgson
Our co-founder, Stewart, is responsible for content strategy and managing Fabrik’s publishing team. It’s up to Stewart to bring Fabrik to busy marketers’ attention. As a regular contributor to Brand Fabrik, Stewart creates articles relevant to anyone in branding, marketing and creative communication.

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