One of London's oldest and most distinguished brands sells, or perhaps 'purveys' is a better word, hats. The hat is not only a useful garment it is a fashionable one too, adding style, charm and distinction to any outfit. The company in question, Lock and Co, is a family run business in the heart of London, and has been in business for a staggering 337 years since its founding in 1676.
A gentleman’s brand
Lock and Co was founded in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London when the Lock family realised how easily their importing business had been disrupted by the flames. Finding premises in St James was an immense coup, as it brought the hat business conveniently close to the haunts of many notable gentlemen of the day. The St James Coffee Shop nearby, was a popular haunt of many famous Whigs (now known as Conservatives).
The business grew and thrived, becoming known as the place for military hats and caps with the advent of the Seven Years War in 1756. During this period and the following one hundred years or so the fortunes of the family waxed steadily. In the very late 1800s, the firm experimented a little with the quality of their hats and quickly found, as many other businesses do, that unsatisfied customers tend to return poor quality goods. For this reason, a strong emphasis was laid on creating high quality products. This attention to detail quickly gained the approval of the upper-classes, including the Royals, who happily gave Lock and Co their trust and their custom.
Adapting to the times
The company survived fairly well through the First World War, but World War Two, dragging on for much longer and bringing with it the hardships of rationing and poor supply links, saw the company suffering somewhat. After the war the company began to recover and sent feelers abroad, to companies like the American Brooks Brothers with whom they had a good business relationship for many years. Over the next twenty years or so the company maintained business, and gradually saw a slow decline in formal headwear, such as traditional bowler hats and Homburgs. This was offset by a growing demand for more informal, leisure headgear. Accordingly, Lock and Co produced a line of tweed caps, summer hats and sporting headwear, all designed for the informal market. In the early 1990s Lock and Co began to cater for women too, introducing a line of millinery. Ladies hats have always been a high fashion item, from Twenties-inspired cloche hats to ultra-modern fascinators, such as those seen at society weddings, important race days and other similar events.
The name’s Bond… James Bond
Lock and Co has survived and thrived for centuries because the business has remained a family-run concern, in which good service and superb quality come first. The success of the company proves that honesty and honour can serve a company well, enabling it to succeed and grow especially when it is created and maintained by those who care about the brand's image. When one thinks of famous London brands, such as Foyle's for books and Stanley Gibbons for stamp-collectors, we must surely add Lock and Co for hats! The business is quick to adapt to changing circumstances; even catering to the movie business. The hat worn – and thrown – by the villainous Oddjob in the James Bond movie Goldeneye was provided by Lock and Co!