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Drop Out Sports and How It Came to Be

Ian Paley, of Garbstore and Drop Out Sports, explains the genesis of his new rugby sportswear brand. This is a man who understands the importance of detail.

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Disovery in New Zealand


“I’ve always loved factories, especially clothing factories and have really harboured a desire to own a factory at some point in my life.


My old assistant Oliver was brought up in New Zealand, and after many factory visits with him around the world, he took some time out and spent a few months back in NZ. Before he left I asked him to look around, see who is making anything interesting and to see what the local makers' scene in Auckland was like these days..


After a month or so we spoke about a small factory he had discovered. It was in the process of being ‘cleared’, the guts of it were being torn out and sold on, a few weeks too late on our part. Thoughts of immediately trying to purchase the business and space proved untimely, so Oliver went in and tried to purchase as much as possible from the many boxes of Archive material that was left in the warehouse..


The factory originally made rugby shirts, starting off by knitting the fabrics on old English machines, they supplied what was to become a very well know rugby shirt company with their original fabrics. Sadly, at the time of their demise all that was being made were uniforms for the local police force.”

A Box of Archive Rugby Shirts


Oliver brought what he could and a few pieces really stood out. Some extremely moth eaten Rugby shirts that were made around 1910-20. Wow! We had never seen this sort of thing in the flesh, only in pics.. it usually never lasted as it would have been washed and torn to shreds in life. The shirts came back to London with Oliver and for over a year we lamented on what could have been if we had got to the factory a few months before. It sat on my desk, for some reason I was unable to put it away in a box or move it to our showroom for storage.


At this point we were starting to see success with our fully English made knitwear line ‘ The English Difference’ , in that respect we had proved that we could recreate a vintage fabric and way of making to allow us to design and produce new ideas and garments in our own backyard.”


Historical Accuracy


“So from scratch we discussed how to recreate the shirts in England. I visited a number of rugby clubs and researched what was available at club level and really if anyone was making a true historical shirt that had authentic details and fabrication. Of course there are many shirts out there, none of which have any resemblance to where the rugby shirt came from. I was genuinely surprised, almost astounded that no one was considering doing this properly."

In the US, you can visit any game day store, be it baseball or football and a section of the stores always have the Cooperstown classic, 300$ repro jerseys, or Ebbets repro football/hockey jerseys.. all made authentically using the original techniques and great care over reproduction of original textile, hence the high price tag.. history costs money. No such luck with rugby shirts.

Getting the Details Right

“So from scratch. We started.


We found a rare gem of a mill in the Midlands who could spin organic yarn, as we felt if we could make this sustainable we should use the options that we have today to improve and what they made yesterday.. after a few attempts we made a true 100% organic cotton 380g jersey on an old English camber machine. The feeling was exactly that of the moth eaten jersey on my desk, only new, just as rough but this time using organic cotton. The collar was easy to find as many suppliers of cotton Twill in the UK still make the classic PE style heavy, almost drill, cotton.


The placket was more tricky, it had to be knitted as original, not just twill cut & sew as every single other rugby out there today. For this I had to go to our English Knit factory in Nottingham and ask their help, they of course obliged with a perfect knitted reproduction with fully finished edging as per original made on a 1960’s machine mainly used for ties! Next was the rubber button sourcing, luckily we had stock as we have used them on Manchester-made shirts in the past.

So now we had the parts needed.


We found a small, very technically skilled factory in Leicester specialising in jersey and making highly complex cycling clothing - we knew that with the correct machines and the quality we were after, it could be achieved in this type of environment. They also had a number of older style embroidery machines that are hard to find these days. We went back and forth with them, working very closely to get the right fit, making sure every detail was authentic.


The first shirt was made. It was perfect. Job done.


2 years of work, and 4 factories, 5 if we include the original factory in Auckland New Zealand.”


So this is the story of a deceptively simple shirt. Now you know how they're made, come and try.


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