Steve Sanderson and his business partner Nigel Lawson have been two of the most influential men in chaps’ fashion since 2002 – despite, or perhaps because of, keeping their base in Manchester rather than London. Oi Polloi’s brand of aspirational casual wear – low-key clothing with obsessively thought out details – is something a new generation of menswear stores in London have sought to emulate, and their influence is everywhere – at Universal Works, Albam, Present… The shopper Oi Polloi catered for in Manchester – not necessarily wealthy, but willing to save for something special – is now the focus of men’s brands everywhere.
You might have lots of their stuff in your wardrobe already: Patagonia anoraks, Superga plimsolls and Nudie jeans were all first seen at their Manchester store. Sanderson’s secret of success? ‘We always tried to buy the best, whether it’s a G9 Harrington or Gloverall duffel coat. We never cared whether it was vintage or heritage. It’s just simple, class design.’
On display in their Soho store window is a droll poster that reads: ‘We sell good clothes.’ ‘The message is pretty blunt,’ says Sanderson. ‘We like the idea of being a menswear store. We’re not going to go down the route of scented candles, face creams, shampoos or whatever.’
The interior has been designed to look like a stock room, in reference to the company’s wheeler dealer roots: ‘We started out sourcing vintage gear in old stockrooms,’ says Sanderson, ‘which we mixed with classic and contemporary pieces. In a way, we’ve come full circle.’
And so, labels with difficult to pronounce names adorn clothes that are exotic and sophisticated, but simple and understated too. The inner artisan look comes from Lyon brand Arpenteur, whose clothes ‘look like they were found in a dusty corner of an old shop owned by a small, bespectacled man named Pierre.’ They sit with French orthopaedic shoe retailer Anatomica, and a brand of sneakers called Shoes Like Pottery. But for all their fancy provenance, these are clothes that would fit outside a Soho pub or a bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Buy them now, and watch all your mates follow suit.
As featured in the 100 best shops in London
|Venue name:||Oi Polloi|
1 Marshall St
|Opening hours:||Open 10am-7pm Mon-Wed, Fri-Sat; 10am-8pm Thu; 11am-5pm Sun|
|Transport:||Tube: Oxford Circus|
|Do you own this business?|
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