Ernest Shackleton was a fascinating man with an ear for a soundbite a century before the soundbite was even invented. He was also a genuine hero in the British mould: plucky, brave and with a hint of the underdog that makes him irresistible to a nation that defines itself as being just that.
Banjo playing before banjo playing went bad
His company of men was, so the story goes, kept entertained by a banjo during the most hellish moments of the Endurance expedition. Listening to a banjo might be a simple, gentle pleasure compared to today’s stimulation overload, but when you’ve been forced to shoot the carpenter’s cat, eat your own dogs, and gone for 497 days without setting foot on solid land, I guess simple pleasures are probably enough.
The start of the Shackleton Company
So it was almost inevitable – and entirely fitting – that a Norfolk company would name its first banjo after one of Britain’s most famous explorers and as its range of products grew to encompass clothing, Shackleton’s inspiration followed them. (That Ernest Shackleton is still inspiring people almost a century after his death shouldn’t come as any surprise.)
I bought one of the Shackleton Company’s Shackleton replica sweaters as part of a crowd-funded campaign a couple of years ago. I fell in love with its heritage, the design details – roll-neck, discreet logo, and basket-weave pattern – and the fact that it is, like almost all of the company’s products, made in the United Kingdom.
The Shackleton replica sweater
It’s a chunky old thing, warm and scratchy and comfortingly traditional in its design. I can just about squeeze it under my Barbour Skyfall jacket, after which I am fit to conquer the darkest, coldest, and wettest regions of our plucky little nation. (It also looks great in the pub, which is where it spends a greater proportion of its time, if I’m being completely honest.)
My Barbour Skyfall coat
A complete range, not The Full Monty
The Shackleton range now comprises coats, hats, hip flasks, mugs, boots, coats, socks and much else. Shackleton clothing isn’t cheap, but then it isn’t made by children in a sweatshop. It’s also beautifully designed and constructed with what appears to be genuine pride.
Moreover, it prevents you displaying your own naked soul, something the British male believes should be avoided at all costs…