Frederick John Perry & Tibby Wegner
Fred Perry Ltd.
Fred Perry is a fashion brand of casual clothing and accessories named after the first English tennis player, Frederick John Perry, to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon in 1934. Perry repeated the exercise in 1935 and '36. This record of three consecutive wins remained unequalled for forty years.
It was at the end of the 1940s that Fred was contacted by Tibby Wegner, a former Austrian footballer, with an idea for marketing a sweatband bearing the Fred Perry name. Fred had previously used gauze wrapped around his wrist to protect the racquet handle from perspiration. The original sweatband was made from bath towel material and "weighed a ton", according to Fred in his autobiography. The redesigned prototype, made in Leicester, was light, soft and pliable. From that moment they were in business. They marketed the sweatbands by giving them away to the top players at the best tournaments, persuading them to wear them on court; the players did, and Fred Perry Sportswear was launched.
The two partners immediately started to wonder what logo they could embroider on their new product. Perry suggested a pipe, as he liked to smoke, but Wegner objected, saying that women wouldn't like such a logo. They agreed on the laurel crown, a symbol with a great tradition in sports, and, furthermore, the trophy given to the winner of Wimbledon.
Fred Perry soon developed the business with Wegner by making Fred Perry polo shirts. The Fred Perry logo was skillfully merchandised by offering these polo shirts to BBC cameramen, whilst Fred Perry and Dan Maskell both wore them when commentating. They gave polos to all the leading players; it was the era of Hoad, Rosewell and the young Australians, who were only too keen to get their hands on these new items of clothing, since they looked better than the baggy, ill-fitting alternatives.
It was a clever and successful marketing initiative. People became aware of the Fred Perry logo and associated it with Wimbledon, the world's premier tennis tournament, and the world's finest tennis players. The Fred Perry polo shirt hit the jackpot. It was a good product; customers saw it, liked it and bought it. The construction of the cotton pique shirt, with its open honeycomb stitch and great fit, made it perfect as performance wear for tennis.
Unwittingly, the company had also produced the perfect accompaniment to the fledgling Mod movement, whose members were quick to pick pu on the shirt‘s suitability for their nocturnal activities. It was stylish, top button fastened under an SB3 or mohairsuit, and durableenough to wear all night and still look fresh in the morning.
Soon, after pressure from its sreetwear fans, the company was receiving requests from stockists to add tipping to the collars and sleeves. The Fred Perry shirt instantly became the first crossover brand from sportswear to sreetwear.
It started one of the most enduring and affectionate relationshipsbetween British youth culture and a sportswear brand. As British street fashion and music influenced the rest of the world, the Fred Perry shirt was noticed, adopted and worn in numerous countries around the globe.
One thing remains constant. The original slim fit cotton piqushirt is still made in England to the same shape, using the same fabric as it was when the Fred Perry shirt was first launched, way back in 1952.