Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ben Sherman: official member of the Parka Avenue Mod Hall of Fame

I sometimes hear people complain about the direction Ben Sherman took in the last decade. "It's too commercial." "The quality is lacking." "It steered away from it's Mod roots." "It's made in China." "My uncle wears a Ben Sherman." Although some of those complaints might be legitimate, I have to confess that I still love Ben Sherman. That doesn't mean I will buy every piece of a collection but every once in a while, I'll will put my hands on a shirt or a pair of slacks that I must add to my wardrobe.

Photo of Ben Sherman's original factory building 
taken in 2009 while on a trip to Brighton

I like the fact that I can walk into the Bay store in downtown Montreal and choose something off the rack. And if I wait a few months, I can buy it at half price at Winners (our name for TK Maxx). Buying a Ben Sherman in a store in Montreal a few years ago was simply unheard of.

2010 spring collection from the Bay in downtown Montreal

And I don't miss the days before the Internet when I had to order my gear from the Merc catalogue. Every time I would cross my fingers and hope that the shirt would fit and the color was right. I would usually send out an order form with a postal money order (in £) and wait a month for the clothes to arrive. I wouldn't phone in my order for two simple reasons. One, I didn't have a credit card. Two, I tried once and I didn't understand a word the Merc employee was saying in his thick cockney accent. I must remind you that although I write this blog in English, French remains my first language.

Merc catalog - winter 1998
Merc Catalog autumn-winter 1999-2000

Merc Catalog autumn-winter 2000-1001

The selection was also pretty scarce. It was limited to 2 pages in the catalogue. You had your basic gingham shirt in 3 colors: blue, red and black. They also offered the classic polos in a few different colors. To some of you from across the pond, your common Ben Sherman gingham shirt might not be anything to brag about but back in the day, I was one of the rare ones to own such a shirt. Besides, none of the people I went to college with had a clue about this Ben character. So considering the limited availability of the garment, if you had one, you stood out.

My Ben Sherman collection has grown considerably since then. I have just recently given my two first Ben Sherman's away to a couple of friends. It's not because I didn't like them anymore. Let's just say that my physique has changed a little since I was 16. One thing hasn't changed. The shirts still look great, a true testament to the brand.

My closet has now opened its doors to trousers, shoes, jackets, ties and even underwear. Lately, my favorite product has to be the watches. As a true watch fanatic, it's only fitting that a few of them find their way in my collection.

So here's to you Ben. I tip my pork pie hat and raise my martini glass in your honor. You've given me years of quality, smart clothes and you've helped me look my best. For this I thank you. So it's a pleasure for me to officially induct you in the Parka Avenue Mod Hall of Fame.


  1. hahah man, I thought those pages from the catalogue were current and I got a bit excited. I have a gift card from 2 xmas's past I haven't used because I haven't seen anything from them I thought worth buying.. but thats me.

    those laundered shirts look pretty decent though.

  2. Don't miss the days of mail order either! Ha Ha!! Internet is better but still can have the same pitfalls. When people bitch about the style choices or being too mainstream it comes down to the fact that they have to stay in business. They still make plenty of traditional choices. A few years back I purchased a Ben Sherman that has the Mod bullseyes on it. Not too traditional, but I find it quite cool none the less. Jump The Gun makes some really nice button down shirts in the traditional ilk. Beware! They run slim in the waist. I'm a 15'5 in the neck but had to get a 17.5 to fit the beer gut! Lol I do wish Ben Sherman would use better quality material for the price you pay. I find Brooks Brothers to always fit and they use better quality cotton and find the price to be the same or less. Several years back Austin Reed was putting out some top notch Mod style clothes. Great materials, same price point. Dillards department store was carrying the line here but quit because sadly no one buying it. Austin Reed is an old English company, I'm sure anyone interested can check them out online.

  3. Est-ce qu'on peut trouver des montres Ben Sherman à Mtl? (j'ai l'impression de poser souvent la même question...)

  4. Hélas non, mon Stéphane. Je crois que tu n'auras pas le choix de te tourner vers Internet. C'est drôle que tu me mentionnes ça car j'ai posé la même question au La Bay centre-ville et il ne savait même pas que Ben faisait des montres!

    L'autre produit que j'aimerais bien me procurer c'est l'une de leur eau de cologne. Je sais que ce n'est pas conseillé d'acheter un parfum en ligne, sans l'avoir senti, mais heureusement j'ai pu sentir celui du nom de 2-Tone lors de ma visite en Angleterre. Pas mal du tout!

  5. I have a love-hate relationship with Ben Sherman, we're like an old married couple who have been in and out of love for the past 25 years. The thing that troubles me about their shirts is the sizing varies. Admittedly I am sadly now an XL though sometimes I'll mail order one and it's more like a L or M! The major complaint amongst myself and fellow mod consengenti is they are too short waisted. I've seemed to spend an eternity tucking the damn things in. I also miss the standard cut solid color ones which have vinished. I've gone out and bought similar cut shirts and had buttons added and the shirts slimmed to remedy that but ever now and then I spot one in a nice pattern and once again my credit card bill soars.....keep the faith.

  6. The Merc. You're dating yourself there sir, ha ha! I recall whenever I'd ordered a Ben from them in the early 90's if they didn't have what I wanted they'd take it upon themselves to send another, sometimes with ugly results. I was spolied by having 99X (R.I.P.)in NYC which at the time was only an hour away, to buy them so I could actually see what i was getting. I'll say this, I bought my first Ben Sherman in 1988 and if I had not put on a few extra pounds since then I'd still be wearing it because the shirts held up remarkably well and for the most part, still do.

  7. 99X !!! You bring me back too! I use to receive their photocopied black and white catalogue. I think I ordered a few patches for my bomber jacket from them. I migth of bought a classic Fred Perry also.

    As for Ben Sherman, I have to agree with everything you say. I bought a grey cardigan from them a few weeks ago from their Signature line. When I go with the classics, like their Signature Oxford shirts, I'm always happy.

    It's when they try to cater to the hipsters and come out with a western style shirts that I have a problem. *Chills*

    I checked you post at:

    You have a mighty nice knit there sir!

  8. Let's see what I wear today: BS shoes, BS socks, BS knit boxer, BS shirt, BS cardigan... Yes I probably like Ben Sherman :) But you're right, BS too often changed clothing sizes. Now I wear XL, but not so long time ago I wore L (I know what you think: start a diet!). Patrick, I can't more agree with you, I hate the new campaign addressed to hipsters too. Well, apparently BS creative directors regard hipsters as the new Mods!
    BTW God bless the TK Maxx :)