Style & Grooming

The Newly Resurrected Brand Making Cricket Whites Cool

We speak with Henry Lloyd-Hughes, founder of N.E. Blake & Co., about the family history which inspired him to start his own label

Name: Henry Lloyd-Hughes

Brand: N.E. Blake & Co.

Location: London

USP: Contemporary cricket whites with a unique heritage to be worn on or off the field

Instagram: @neblakeco

“People sometimes stop me in the street because they recognise me from TV – but they never know it’s from there, because I’m not that successful,” laughs 33-year-old London-born screen and stage actor Henry Lloyd-Hughes. “They think they went to a wedding with me or something – I must have one of those faces. They’ll say, ‘were you at Daisy’s wedding?’ or ‘hang on, are you Steve’s mate?’”

In fact, Lloyd-Hughes, both jauntily charismatic and down-to-earth, has more of an impressive portfolio than he lets on, having taken on roles in the Harry Potter film series and The Inbetweeners in his 20s; the 2012 Hollywood adaptation of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina alongside Keira Knightley, and in recent years, television period dramas including Indian Summers (2015) and Les Miserables (2018). He is also set to introduce a new character in the anticipated second season of cat-and-mouse chase series Killing Eve, which begins on Sunday this week.

It is his passion for playing an entirely different kind of game, however, that led him to start a new venture in men’s fashion. “I’ve played in and run an east London-based cricket team for almost ten years,” he explains. “We’re called –  I’m sorry, it’s quite embarrassing, I hope you can handle it – The Bloody Lads. In addition, my great grandfather, Nicholas ‘Paddy’ Padwick, ran a sportswear business that started in the 1920s and he owned a shop in Reading called N.E. Blake & Co., which my grandmother lived above. Last year, my grandmother died and the business’ archive was passed on to me.” Sorting through the photographs, paperwork and archival catalogues sparked something in Lloyd-Hughes’ imagination: why not reincarnate the company in 2019, with a collection of contemporary cricket whites to be worn both on and off the pitch?

Having been interested in fashion from a young age, Lloyd-Hughes knows his stuff – particularly when it comes to archival sportswear. From working in the menswear departments of Liberty and Dover Street Market as he was cutting his teeth as a budding actor, to amassing “rooms and rooms” of vintage garments from the 1940s and 1950s, he has also worked closely with a tailor for years, making bespoke garments for himself and The Bloody Lads. “I hope for a crossover appeal,” he says. “I love the idea of a Japanese teenager who has no interest in cricket and is really into vintage workwear pieces, getting their hands on N.E. Blake & Co. But also, it being worn by people who are actually playing the game itself.”

The brand launches in a few weeks’ time with three key pieces, each named after some of history’s most revered cricketing heroes: the “The Peter May” shirt, a replica of the shirt worn by May in 1958 crafted in soft jersey cotton with a classic broad collar; “The Len Hutton Trouser”, high-waisted and double pleated in thick cotton drill and “The Jack Russell” bucket hat, which is sure to be a best seller considering the current craze for similar headgear. “All of these pieces incorporate the best details taken from vintage pieces, refining them and giving them a new lease of life,” explains Lloyd-Hughes.

At a time when sportswear is undoubtedly one of the most sought after and profitable menswear trends, N.E. Blake & Co. is certainly debuting at the right moment. “I think it will have a streetwear crossover – but really, who knows what will happen. All I know is that I am passionate about the product and I’m hoping that once people will start trying it on – or playing in it – they will be equally as excited. I’m now just desperate to get it out there and have people start enjoying it.”

N.E. Blake & Co. is available online now.