Scottish fact of the week: Pringle

There are few fashion houses in the world that can claim to be approaching a second centenary. But Pringle, a Hawick firm established in 1815, is one such brand.

Models during the Pringle of Scotland presentation at London Fashion Week SS14. Picture: Getty

Most know Pringle best for its decades-long association with golf, its striking Argyle-patterned knitwear, and a range of tailoring innovations such as the ribbed waist.

But for well over a century, Pringle was a market leader in underwear. After a few decades manufacturing woollen hosiery, founder Robert Pringle expanded the business and produced knitted underwear for men and women. By the mid-1890s, Pringle had become a pioneering underwear brand, lauded for its unique use of silk and wool.

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Pringle became integral to the move towards more informal wear in the early 20th century, when sportier, looser clothes were in demand. Sports coats, loose cardigans and sweaters were just some of the garments that the Borders brand began to produce.

The Pringle label shown on an item in a Bond Street store

Celebrity endorsements have been a feature of Pringle’s history, and initially this proved positive. Hollywood stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Lauren Bacall were seen in Pringle outfits in the 50s, giving succour to the high-fashion image that Pringle was establishing.

Pringle’s association with golf began around the same time, but was a signpost to the company’s declining credibility as it leaned more heavily on golfwear as the decades rolled by (Pringle had discontinued its underwear manufacturing in the 60s, and was taken over by Dawson International in 1967).

It wasn’t until 2000 that Pringle enjoyed a renaissance in high fashion circles. Returning to private ownership and distancing itself from its golf ties (in particular, a £1.5m-a-year sponsorship deal with Nick Faldo), the company attempted to regain the status it had enjoyed with trendsetting innovations such as their famous twinsets. Sophie Dahl and Tilda Swinton have been among the brand’s most high-profile ambassadors in the last decade, while the brand’s status grew further still as stars such as David Beckham and Madonna were seen wearing Pringle sweaters and jackets.

Pringle is very much in the thick of haute couture these days; while it may still be searching for a truly distinctive contemporary identity, it has plenty of heritage to take inspiration from.