Simon Crompton: My Shawl Collar Cardigan
By Simon Crompton
Jul 13, 2022
Simon Crompton casts his mind back to the day his Drake's shawl collar cardigan entered his life, and the adventures it has accompanied him on since.
The old Drake’s factory on Garrett Street had a raised gallery at one end, where the admin and creative staff worked in walled-off sections. The noise of production from the rest of the building washed up and over the gallery, giving a feeling of being closely connected to the manufacture below.
I remember sitting there with Michael Drake perhaps seven years ago, as he showed me the new season’s ties, handkerchiefs and knitwear. At his prompting, I tried on a four-ply shawl-collar cardigan. It was the most luxurious thing I had ever felt. It was indulgent, yet practical. It fell open naturally when unbuttoned, yet could be fastened up high at the neck.
I don’t think I had ever wanted anything so bad. And I spent the next 30 minutes, nervous and sweating, trying to decide between sizes. Michael was very patient. He calmly offered his advice, and watched as I agonised for another 20 minutes, before ending up on exactly the one he had suggested.
That cardigan has stayed with me ever since, and proved a wonderful companion. I’ve worn it driving around factories in Scotland, where the weather changed from balmy to arctic depending on which valley we crossed into. I’ve worn it in the snow of New England, under a down-filled parka on holiday with my kids. And it has been a fixture at home, draped over the back of the sofa, ready to throw on when I get home in the evening.
It is equally at home with a t-shirt, jeans and boots as it is with a shirt, tie and flannels. This makes it very versatile, very modern in that versatility (despite its traditional design) and - for me, and I know for others - very Drake’s.
The cardigan has had a couple of moth attacks, which have been faithfully and carefully repaired. And it is showing small signs of wear around the cuffs. But for something that has been worn so much so often, it has worn well. Indeed, I welcome those small signs of ageing, as signs of personality, of it being mine and mine alone.
And every now and again, when I put it on, I remember that day in the factory. I can hear the sounds from the factory below; I can see the racks of new season ties, brilliant with colour; and I can feel the heat of that anxiety, as I try to make a slightly irresponsible purchasing decision between competing sizes.
I think good clothes are not just expressions of us, but over time define us. We feel odd without them. My Drake’s shawl-collar cardigan is one of these, and I look forward to wearing it - in sun and snow - for another seven years.