Rahul Gandhi's Burberry T-shirt and the story behind Britain’s iconic brand

Rahul Gandhi-Burberry t-shirt
Rahul Gandhi’s white Burberry t-shirt made headlines during his 'Bharath Jodo Yathra'.

When the media was busy covering Queen Elizabeth’s death, parallelly Rahul Gandhi’s white Burberry t-shirt was also making headlines. When BJP mockingly tweeted that his Burberry T-shirt costs Rs 41000, people were busy searching for the actual price of the branded t-shirt. They had posted two pictures—one had Rahul Gandhi wearing the T-shirt and another photo of a similar-looking t-shirt priced at Rs 41, 257.

And with this, the seemingly unnoticed Bharath Jodo Yathra picked momentum and was reported by the media, much to the relief of the congress party. Rahul and his entourage will be in Kerala from September 11th till 19 days. For now, let’s put a lid on the Bharath Jodo Yathra and concentrate on the Burberry t-shirt.

Burberry is a British luxury fashion house founded in 1856 by Thomas Burberry, headquartered in London. They manufacture and distribute luxury goods in innovative designs including trench coats, leather bags, and footwear. They are also manufacturing perfumes, cosmetics, luxury glasses, etc.

Who is Burberry?

Born in 1835 in Brockham Green, near Dorking, Surrey, England, Thomas Burberry was educated at Brockham Green Village School and apprenticed in a local draper's shop before starting his clothier's business in Basingstoke in 1856.

At this time, Basingstoke was a small town with a population of just 4,500 people. The Burberry business empire was born in 1856 under the leadership of 21-year-old Thomas Burberry, when he opened his own store in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England. Initially, his designs were inspired by everyday clothes worn by common people. But later, Burberry continued to experiment with the development of materials and clothing that could be used for outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, and horse racing.

By 1870, they had established their business by focusing on the expansion of outdoor clothing. Burberry's involvement in the development of waterproof sportswear was a huge success as Burberry's business was expanding rapidly. According to the 1871 census, Burberry employed over 70 people. By 1878, he had established a large factory that focused on wholesale manufacturing and 'ready-made garments' and by 1881 the company employed over 200 workers.

In 1879, Burberry made the revolutionary invention of 'gabardine': a coarse, tightly woven fabric made from Egyptian cotton by an innovative process and was considered water resistant. 'Gabardine' drew rave reviews at the International Health Exhibition in South Kensington and was patented to make suits, overcoats, trousers, uniforms, windbreakers, and other garments. This discovery in 1888 made Burberry a world-famous brand. In June 1904, he appeared in the trade journal Men's Wear, where he described the new fabric as resistant to heat, cold, wind, and rain, making a coat suitable for any weather.

It is of course history that George Mallory, who attempted to climb Mount Everest in 1924, wore a Burberry gabardine jacket. Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout Movement, loved the gabardine jacket.

With the success of gabardine, Burberry received orders from the elite at the Jermyn Street Hotel, which ultimately led to the opening of Burberry's flagship store in the Haymarket in 1891, which became a popular wholesale store like the "Walking Burberry".

Burberry's gabardine was also used by explorers. In 1893, Norwegian polar explorer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Fridjof Nansen became the first explorer to use gabardine on his journey to the Arctic Circle. British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton wore Burberry gabardine for a total of three expeditions in the early 20th century, including the famous Endurance Expedition. In 1911, Burberry Gabardine was also worn by Roald Amundson, the first man to reach the South Pole.

In 1901, Burberry developed the Equestrian Knight logo, consisting of the Latin word "prosum" meaning "forward," and later registered it as a trademark in 1909. Burberry also designed the clothes of Ernest Shackleton, who led the 1914 expedition to reach Antarctica. His main interest was developing waterproof clothing as well as developing a wide range of products. To that end, he partnered with British cotton manufacturers to market weather-resistant fabrics that appealed to the growing middle class and rural population.

In 1900, Burberry was contacted by a high-ranking officer in the British Army and asked to design a coat to replace the army's existing heavy coats. This request led Burberry to create the famous gabardine trench coat: the coat became an essential product for the soldiers of the First World War, and eventually became an important product in ordinary civilian life as well.

It became a staple of Burberry style and continues to be in the media today, which contributed to its reputation as a style icon seen around the world. To meet the needs of British military personnel, the "trench coat" was worn during World War I. After the war, it became popular among common people. The famous Burberry check has been in use since the 1920s, primarily as a lining in its trench coats and specially designed aviation clothing by Burberry. In 1937, A. E. Clouston and Betty Kirby-Green broke the world record for the fastest return flight from London to Cape Town on a brand-sponsored Burberry flight. Burberry was an independent family-controlled company until 1955 when Great Universal Stores (GUS) took ownership.

Burberry married twice, first to Catherine Hannah Newman and the second time to Mary Marshall. He had two sons and four daughters from his first marriage.

Burberry retired in 1917 to Abbots Court, near Weymouth, Dorset. He used his spare time to focus on religious and humanitarian beliefs. He was very focused on a healthy lifestyle, which he influenced throughout his life by making clothes for soldiers and athletes.

An anti-alcoholic, Burberry campaigned against tobacco and smoking and was a devout Baptist who loved to hold morning prayer meetings. In 1926, Thomas Burberry died at his home in Hook, near Basingstoke, at the age of ninety, after witnessing the transformation of his company from a small shop to a public company called Burberry in 1920.

On November 1, 2016, Burberry released 'The Tale of Thomas Burberry', a short film inspired by the life and achievements of Thomas Burberry, recreating key events in the brand's history. Filmed in the style of a cinematic trailer by Academy Award-winning director Asif Kapadia, the story and screenplay were by Academy Award nominee Matt Charman, and actor Domhnall Gleeson stars as Thomas Burberry.

In March 2021, Burberry was the first luxury brand to be targeted in China as part of sanctions against systematic human rights abuses and genocide in Xinjiang.


The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.