In a previous life, well alright just earlier in my actual life, I was an adopted scouser and spent several happy years in Liverpool as a music promoter and working within the arts and events scene up there. The remnants of that time remain on my now fairly defunct blog and “label” Lazy Genius.
I was back up in Liverpool for a good friend’s wedding recently and spent a fantastic weekend catching up with old friends and visiting some old haunts. A lot of those friends are still very much active in the cultural and music scene of the city and I was really intrigued to hear about a project a few of them have been working on entitled “Next Stop New York” – a series of gigs, retrospectives and exhibitions focusing on the influence black music had on the city of Liverpool and its people. I was even more intrigued to hear that there was a bit of menswear history weaved into it all and in a particular a fellow called Harry Stedman.
Central to the story were the Cunard Yanks. To give you a very, very potted history the Cunard Yanks were a group of sailors from Liverpool and other major UK ports who manned the Cunard passenger ships of the 40s, 50s and early 60s that frequented New York, Montreal and other points west. One name in particularly is synonymous with the Cunard Yanks and this era; Harry Stedman.
As young merchant seamen, Harry and his fellow Cunard Yanks travelled on transatlantic adventures aboard cruise liners and cargo ships. When they returned to their home ports, Liverpool in Harry’s case, they brought back the slang, sounds, and looks that influenced the burgeoning music scenes, kick starting the youth explosion that created the culture that influences the way we live today.
They are widely credited with bringing back some of the early American music that eventually inspired the “beat generation” and yes, you guessed it, The Beatles. However, it wasn’t just music that Harry inspired but fashion too.
His legacy now lives on through a label that bears his name, started in London in 2011 by his son and grandson. They describe themselves as “respectfully looking to the past to inform our designs, Harry Stedman clothing represents creative and emotional investment, smart classic style for Saturday nights and Sunday best, and the utilitarianism and functionality that was important to Harry. Workwear that would last a lifetime and age distinctively. Clothing with purpose.”
They “champion key facets of classic American and European attire, creating new, exciting clothing that demonstrates fire, skill and forward thinking.” I suppose, just like Harry did.
Personally it is right up my street, with clean classic cuts and beautifully made basics all interspersed with key signature pieces from both sides of the Atlantic such as the British peacoat or preppy US varsity jacket. I’m also a huge fan of their chunky nautical knits.