A classic British work-wear brand… the cliff-faces of California… timeless military design… this season’s Lybro collection pulls together threads from all manner of influences, creating a hard-wearing work-wear range for the modern age. From Japanese denim dungarees to duck canvas utility vests, there’s a lot to talk about here — but before we get to the clothes, it maybe makes sense to have explain the history behind the Lybro name.
For the uninitiated, Lybro was originally a work-wear company established all the way back in 1850. Working out of their factory on Liverpool’s Mount Vernon Road, Lybro kitted out a large percentage of Britain’s work-force in overalls, dungarees and work-jackets up until their demise in the late 1970s. If you worked in a factory during the first half of the 20th century, there’s a good chance you would have been kitted out in Lybro gear.
The following article was first published in January 2020.
With all this heritage it’s probably not much of a surprise to hear that Nigel has always been a firm fan — but there’s another reason the brand is close to his heart. As a fashion student in the early 70s he won a competition sponsored by Lybro to design a set of overalls, pocketing £250 for his efforts. Years later a chance encounter with some old Lybro advertising boards in a London vintage shop reignited his interest in the brand, and after seeing the name was for sale, he instantly bought it — keen to bring life back this huge part of work-wear history. The brand made jeans too, and in the early 60s they employed the talents of the Beatles to model their denim wares in a rare bit of Fab Four product endorsement.
For this season Nigel’s Lybro range is split into three distinct segments based around three tried-and-tested work-wear fabrics. Each reference Nigel’s main influence for the season — the laid-back, functional style of a group of rock-climbers known as the Stonemasters who gathered around Yosemite National Park in the 1970s — but each has its own story to tell.
JAPANESE KUROKI 12oz DENIM
Up first is a small collection made from Japanese Kuroki 12oz denim. Kuroki is one of Japan’s oldest denim mills, and whilst it originally set out to recreate the denim made in America, many believe the quality levels here have long since surpassed that of the original inspiration. In keeping with the Stonemaster’s love of worn-in clothing salvaged from the thrift stores of California, the denim in question here has been heavily washed to give it a distressed look and a soft, comfortable handle.
This natural fabric has been used on the Hip Jacket — a short-and-sharp denim jacket based on a rare US Navy design, and the Climber Jeans — a wide-fitting pair of jeans which pay homage to the Stonemaster’s penchant for straight-legged painter pants, as well as a particularly laid-back version of Nigel’s trademark Naval Dungarees.
10oz DUCK CANVAS
The next fabric that’s had the Lybro treatment this season is some enzyme washed 10oz cotton duck canvas. Cotton duck is a densely woven canvas which takes its name from ‘doek’, the Dutch word for cloth, and thanks to its hardy nature has been used to make everything from military tents to work-pants. Taking inspiration from the fabric’s prominence in American work-wear, Nigel has created the Carpenter Dungarees — a new twist on his iconic design, complete with cross-stitched reinforced knees. There’s also an updated version of the Welders Pants, and the Climbing Vest — a stripped-back utility vest which combines details from vintage climbing gear with features taken from old American hunting jackets.
GARMENT DYED COTTON HERRINGBONE
Finally, there’s a range of military and work-wear influenced basics made from hard-wearing washed cotton herringbone, all available in the classic Cabourn colours of chalk white, British tan, army and black navy. Whilst a lot of this is based around British military gear, the heavy distressed cotton helps to give it that sun-bleached Yosemite style.
As well as returning favourites like the British Army Jacket and the Pleated Chinos, there’s a few new faces in the roster here. The Army Vest is a sleeveless utility vest with a notched collar, whilst the WW2 Shorts are the warm-weather cousins of the WW2 Pants, complete with asymmetrical patch pocket configuration.
And for those wondering about headwear, the Globe Bucket Hat is a short-brimmed fishing hat which comes in both washed herringbone cotton and 10oz cotton duck canvas, whilst the Mechanics Cap, Nigel’s take on the humble baseball cap, comes in all three of this season’s Lybro fabrics, including that rather nice distressed Japanese denim.
Times might have changed a bit since Lybro first started out all those years ago, but Nigel Cabourn Lybro continues in the brand’s fine tradition of producing tough, honest work-wear. On the labels for the Kuroki denim range there’s a motto taken from an old advert for Lybro coveralls that reads, ’In All Shades for All Trades’. 170 years after the brand was established, that motto still rings true today.
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Black Navy Welders Pant
Tan British Army Blazer
Mixing influences from a traditional notch lapel blazer with military details, this casual jacket is a great seasonal basic. It is made using garment dyed washed herringbone cotton, which gives it a soft, casual lived in look and feel. An easy blazer to throw on for everyday wear and can be paired with the pleated chino or WW2 pant in the same fabric to make an informal style suit.