Ulverston’s Working Class Heroes celebrate their tenth anniversary this year,
we caught up with founder Tom on the concept behind Working Class Heroes, what life has been like over the past 10 years and what their plans are for the future. Working Class Heroes were founded back in 2006, when Tom decided he wanted to do something off his own back and thus Working Class Heroes was born.
What was the main reason behind starting up Working Class Heroes?
“I had a job working for a supermarket and it was soul destroying, I was a manager there and the whole culture was based around bullying and it wasn’t something I subscribed to,and my brain was going how do I get out of this job, it was completely against my morale’s principles with how things were managed there including how I was managed by my superiors y’know I didn’t really like it. So I saved up a bit of cash and then looked at doing something off my own back” said Tom,
“I was always travelling to Manchester and Leeds to purchase clothing but it was like ‘hold on a second’ we’re ninety miles from these places I was skating and purchasing these products but I had to travel to purchase them. It was that simple, their was a gap in the market so I went into fill that gap not really knowing whether it would work or not”
I can only imagine the amount of planning it takes to build something from the ground up, what was it like when you very first started?
“When we started 10 years and it was just me and we had a really weird brand mix, which I don’t think is anything that we have now, because of course, when you first start you can’t get the brands that you want. You’ve gotta keep building up your profile, and elevating the store and what you do. The guys in Ulverston, pre us having a website, they supported us, which meant after 12 months we could move to a slightly bigger store, still just retailing bricks and mortar if you like. Carhartt came on board back then which is one of the one’s we’ve still currently got, they came on around the second year and we just continued from there really.
“Then your brands progress and the other things do, to I mean you’ve gotta want stuff that you want and the brands you wanna sell, but who’re you selling to? Are you listening to the customers? What are they after? Are you making sure you’re getting them what they need? Are you bringing in the basics for them? And are you also being progressive enough as well? Y’know we all want a nice chequered shirt and some nice simple denims from somewhere we recognize but we also wanna try new things.
“We want the shops that we go to help guide us through. So you’ve gotta put this curation together of products so the customer is like ‘All right well I Trust them, I might not have heard of that but I trust these guys so I’m gonna have a look at that’ and that’s important to do. For example, there’s no point in us getting Alexander McQueen in is there? It just wouldn’t work. But there are other companies out there who we’ll chase and we’ll talk to and we’ll get, and we’ll go yeah maybe we would like to introduce this to our customers who might not be aware of this yet and that’s quite a cool thing to be able to do.
“If we don’t keep progressing or we don’t keep evolving then their isn’t a future, y’know it’ll all just become the lowest common denominator and that’s not what, for me, individual fashion retail is about”
What are your plans for the future?
“It’s as much about the people who work here because that was the impetus when we started it, it was for my own employment. It was about creating a place where I wanted to go to work, where I wasn’t miserable, and somewhere where I wanted to be. There’s five of us now, and one of the key things, is to have a working environment that helps people to get on, a place that isn’t oppressive. And allows people to have their own responsibilities, work together and a place where you don’t think ‘God I’ve gotta go to work’ it’s a lot closer than that.
“Everyone’s got their own thing to do and they’re all just pushing that forward we’ve got a place to come and work that people actually want to be in, and that’s as important as anything else.
“We’re not looking at expanding and taking over the world. We’re looking at consolidating what we do and getting better with five of us that are involved, working a bit harder, working a bit smarter and keep it pushing on. We’ve only got key people here, there’s no canon fodder and we don’t want there to be, because then we can stay focused with what we’re doing.
“We love our shop in Ulverston, we’re very proud of it, it’s where we all live. It gives us an amazing sense of well being to have the store right in the centre of town. We’ll go for a beer on a Friday night and the guys who are In and out of the store every week they know who you are and that’s such a nice thing, I’ll never say never but I wouldn’t of thought it’ll go any further than Ulverston”
What was the thinking behind the name ‘Working Class Heroes’?
“Well, it wasn’t a John Lennon thing and it wasn’t even a class thing for me. It was way back in 2003 or something, I was reading a magazine, I can never remember what magazine it was, but they had this article called ‘Working Class Hero’ and it was a bit of tongue in cheek look at people who do a 9-5 Monday to Friday job, but they go skating at the weekend.It just stuck with me because it dawned on me that’s what most of us are like. Whether you were skating, mountain biking, drinking or whatever you were doing at the weekend, you were doing your nine to five and then at the weekend you were a bit of a hero. You were doing what you wanted to do and I just thought yeah, most people are like that.
“It wasn’t a term or a name that implied any exclusion, It was actually the term for me that included the most people, it involved everybody so the shop being called Working Class Heroes was because it was for everyone, it was for you and that’s what the names all about really. Most people think it’s something to do with John Lennon but it’s not, it was just some weird idea I had, but that’s what it means to be and it’s not self explanatory, you do have to explain it, and maybe once it’s lost but that’s what it means to me.”