The Barker Group in Bournemouth, Dorset, is reporting a huge increase in demand for its traditional starched-collar service. The laundry now processes around 80,000 stiff collars a year for clients all over the world, who include royalty, the judiciary and the military.
Managing director Matthew Barker says that the theatre, television and film, market has grown significantly in the last five years and that television period dramas such as Downton Abbey have led to a boom in demand for his company's service. He said: "We were doing ten collars a week, sometimes fewer but now we do in excess of 1,500 a week for customers in the UK, mainland Europe and America. Last year we had our first client from Tokyo."
The company launders and re-starches all types, including turndown collars, wing collars, and straight (imperial) collars. A stiff collar is separate from a shirt and is fastened by studs. The starching makes the collar as stiff as cardboard and it is then polished to give a sharp finish to formal wear.
The starched collar allowed gentlemen in the 1800s and early 1900s to wear the same shirt for a week, just changing the collar. The collar starts as a piece of cotton and goes through 60 different stages to become the finished product.
The Barker Group has supplied collars for UK series including Downton Abbey and Poirot and for movie blockbusters such as Sherlock Holmes and Titanic as well as the forthcoming big-screen version of Dad's Army.