When Jody Symons started a two-year research and development process for the Voyager shirt, the flagship product of his Hardvark brand, he had a substantial wish list: it needed to be breathable, in a natural fibre, machine washable, antibacterial, antiwrinkle and with stretch performance. While many men’s working wardrobes are full of fine cotton shirts, that just wasn’t an option here. “The problem with cotton is it’s not a great fabric when you’re on the move,” he explains. “It deals poorly with moisture and doesn’t hold its shape well – so you get unsightly patches and creases.” Instead, he worked on a more sumptuous premise – the Voyager would be made from merino wool.
Hardvark is based in London, but its roots and inspiration are Swiss and it lives online. Three years working as an investment strategist in Switzerland put Symons on the doorstep of one of the most sophisticated skiing scenes in the world, and the Voyager shirt (from £95) is the direct result of time spent on the slopes of Verbier and in its bars and clubs. He saw a dichotomy between performance wear and fashion and wanted to bridge the two. The former could look better; the latter could be more functional.
“Merino wool is functionally far superior to cotton,” he explains, “which is why it has become the athlete’s fibre of choice in sports and outdoor wear. But you can’t wear a base layer to a meeting. We wanted a shirt that looked classic, performed like active wear and was easy to care for. We could have made a dry-clean-only merino wool shirt in six months, but we took two years to develop a wrinkle-free stretch shirt that’s soft, drapes well and is machine washable.”
Fabric tech is one thing, but the Voyager, which comes in black, blue, two blue ginghams and a plaid, has styling on its side too. “I worked with a designer who previously tailored shirts on Savile Row,” says Symons. “Our shirts have a side panel, which is a more expensive construction but gives a more flattering fit for all body shapes.”
The site also offers sweaters (£185), T-shirts (£70), beanie hats (£55), boxers (£40) and socks (£16) – all with a merino base. For men who need to boil their wardrobes down to the smallest of capsules for business trips, it’s a winning proposition.