Cabourn Collectors - Mr. Tom Jay, Herefordshire.
“I spend a lot of time outside with my work. So when I am harvesting the apples on the picker, it is usually pretty cold, like today for instance! So that’s when my Everest Parka is really useful. It’s like wearing a sleeping bag, I could happily spend the entire day outside with it on!”
For this month’s in depth feature Ben and Rachael took a trip deep into the Hereford countryside, to visit cider apple farmer and avid Cabourn collector, Tom Jay.
With around 80 pieces of Cabourn to his name we were curious to meet Tom in his own surroundings and find out just what it is about Cabourn clothing that appeals to him so much and how it adapts to life on the farm. He also introduced us to the best cider and blue cheese ice cream in the world…but that’s another story!
Before we delve into the story behind Tom’s collection we must quickly mention how beautiful the location of the farm is. Deep in the countryside, surrounded by rolling hills, with mistletoe trees and apple orchards lining the drive up to the house. As you can probably see from the photographs – it is a real slice of English heaven.
Now onto Tom! He’s no stranger to us, we’ve met him numerous times at different events over the years, but this was our first time meeting him on his home ground. Of course, we knew he was a big fan of the brand – that’s why we were there after all – but when we walked into the drawing room of his house we almost couldn’t believe our eyes! There was a mountain of Nigel Cabourn garments stacked up on the sofa, a mannequin dressed for the occasion in one of the most iconic Nigel Cabourn garments, the Coastal Command sheepskin jacket. Plus, a giant abacus strewn with ties, scarfs and hats – not to mention the table covered in every single Nigel Cabourn swing tag, collected from each piece Tom has ever bought over the years.
Having kept every tag in his collection, it was clear that it was more than just clothing to Tom. Seeing his vast collection felt like looking at a history book of Nigel Cabourn through somebody else’s eyes and personal taste.
With a collection that big, and such care taken to keep each tag, our first question was to find out where it all began…
“I have always liked country wear and tweed. Being a farmer I am usually on the look out for cool tweed pieces, which are fairly practical and warm while out on the farm. Quite some time ago I saw a documentary with Ben Fogle in it. I remember him wearing a Harris Tweed Mallory jacket, and later a yellow Everest parka. This pretty much introduced me to Cabourn and it sort of snow balled from there!”
So with a Ben Fogle documentary to thank, what is about Nigel Cabourn product that keeps Tom hooked?
“I am big on British stuff. Generally British stuff is well made. The manufacturing process of Nigel’s authentic range is pretty spot on and probably why I have quite a number of pieces over different seasons from that collection in particular, the pieces are timeless. Never bang on fashion, or out of fashion, just a constant.”
With the timeless nature of the Nigel Cabourn collections being key to Tom’s long-standing commitment, we were keen to find out if the garments he collects had a practical use for him during his day-to-day work on the farm.
“I do wear a lot of Cabourn out and about on the farm. You know, if it gets trashed, it is almost supposed to look like that. Sometimes the more vintage looking the better!”
At this point in our chat, Tom nipped outside to his boot room and grabbed a rather beautifully worn looking jacket. It was in fact a Lybro oilcloth overcoat. A sample we had given to Tom a long time ago to test drive. He mentioned how Nigel insisted he take the jacket and challenged him to get it as muddy and battered as possible.
“You can have it back now, it’s become another piece of vintage to add to Nigel’s collection!”
He was right – it almost looked better than when it started out. (The piece in question will soon be making an appearance in our London Army Gym store…a reminder that Cabourn clothing is to be worn, not just to be admired)
It was great to hear the Nigel Cabourn pieces in Tom’s collection were being worn not just for style purposes but also in a functional and practical way. With all this love for the brand was it possible to have a favourite piece?
“Favourite piece? – Oh yeah I have loads of favourite pieces! The Coastal Command I love…. But the Everest Parka is probably just… actually no… I can’t choose! They are both so iconic and will last me a lifetime…Saying that I also have loads of Mallory’s which are great. The summer weight one I team with the ‘Denis Compton’ jacket, and I love that too. It is so hard to choose a firm favourite…I do, however, have an ethos to wear at least one piece of Cabourn every day, so I still have time to pick a favourite!”
“Another thing I wear quite a bit is my green Mallory jacket and vest. On the farm and in the office. I usually stick the waistcoat on underneath jackets, just as an extra layer for warmth – and because it is tweed the whole way round it makes it so much more substantial.”
“Oh, and this Nigel Cabourn ‘George Lowe’ jumper I’m wearing – straight away I want to know more about who George Lowe was. I know a bit about Mallory and Herbert Pointing, the photographer – in fact I got the book, which has the pictures he took.”
When Tom told us that he was fascinated by Antarctic history, (somewhat a key theme over the years of Cabourn) it led us to learn more about why Nigel Cabourn product has become so integral in Tom’s life.
“I remember in the Limited Edition 2 collection you guys did the ‘Tom Crean coat’, the one with the massive collar. It was cool, even though I couldn’t pull it off (Debatable Tom…!)
I always remembered that piece. In fact, I have some friends from Ireland who insisted I read this book called ‘An Unsung Hero.’ The book was actually about Tom Crean and his role in the Antarctic exploration. My friend had two copies of the book and gave me one and it is honestly the best book I’ve ever read… so my initial interest all kind of started from that collection.”
The book in question is one of Nigel’s favourite, and is proudly displayed at Cabourn HQ – highly recommended for any exploration enthusiasts.
“The names and the history behind the pieces make me want to know more, it’s sort of like reverse education.”
For Nigel and his design team, so much research and time goes into learning about these ‘unsung heroes’ and bringing them to life again though carefully designed pieces is as much about honouring the individual as it is about creating quality pieces that will last the distance. So to hear that they have sparked Tom’s interest in learning more about them is very gratifying.
“With a lot of companies they have a serial number, or some generic name like, ‘ dark brown coat!’ but with Cabourn, there is a history to each piece. For all intents and purposes they are made for modern day use, but they also have a really strong nod to the person who wore it or inspired it, and I really love that.”
So now for the really tough question, how many pieces does Tom have
“Oh, that’s a tricky one! … Maybe 60 or 70, that’s if I include the accessories and things like that, I am really not too sure … I would love to know.”
Fear not Tom! We are equally as interested in knowing just how many pieces you have.
Cue Ben grabbing his camera and letting the fun begin…