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Power to the Dog

Having gone to ground in recent years, the famous Thomas Pink Fox is back


Gucci has its snake, Apple its, er, apple – which is probably enough biblical symbolism for anyone. Thankfully, here at Thomas Pink, we like to keep things on the lighter side. Which is why, when we launched back in the 1980s, the brand motif that appealed most was the humble fox. Today, we like to think of the Thomas Pink Fox as a kind of spirit animal. In an age where many companies prefer to lecture you on their values rather than focus on exceptional products, the Thomas Pink Fox remains the perfect ambassador. Where once the fox was seen as vermin – cunning, mischievous and a threat to farmers’ livelihoods – our understanding and attitudes toward what zoologists (and Google) call Vulpes vulpes has changed a great deal.

The Thomas Pink Fox first appeared in 1984. Back then, he looked raffish but also slightly rapacious, perhaps inspired by the greed-is-good mores of the age. After all, the many signs he adorned outside Thomas Pink stores hung in the world’s major financial centres, from Gordon Gekko’s Wall Street to the Thatcher-powered Square Mile.

Stories of the fox’s guile and gluttony extend far back into history. Among the earliest was the fable by the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop, in the fifth century BC. Long before he launched his premium skincare range, Aesop recounted the story of a fox who was particularly taken by a bunch of grapes hanging just out of his reach. Quite how sweet the fruit is we never discover; in failing to reach his meal, the fox declares them ‘sour grapes’.

These early representations, perhaps even that of the original Thomas Pink Fox, trace their origins to Europe’s agricultural past, when foxes posed a daily threat to poultry and small livestock. The fears of rural folk took shape in a continent-wide fairytale known variously as Henny Penny or Chicken Licken (and later, in the US, as Chicken Little). When a young chick receives a bump to the head from an acorn, he sets off on a journey to tell the king the sky is falling down (Rishi Sunak, we’re talking to you). Along the way, he gathers a band of similarly named poultry with whom he shares his paranoia; Ducky Lucky, Cocky Locky, Goosey Loosey… you get the picture. Finally, fatally, the troop happen upon Foxy Loxy, a cunning canid with murder on his mind. He eats the other protagonists – except, in some versions, Chicken Licken – thus serving up a morality tale about the consequences of mass hysteria. First dedicated to print sometime in the early 19th century, it has been published in some form or other ever since.

Elsewhere in literature, famous foxes are legion, albeit confined mostly to children’s fiction. While there may be no enigmatic snow leopard or prize-winning goldfinch, there is at least Br’er Fox, from the Uncle Remus stories, Mr Tod (Beatrix Potter) and the recent illustrated bestseller by Charlie Mackesy, in which the fox of the title has to share top billing with a boy, a mole and a horse.

In popular culture, references to foxes proliferate. Music will take you on a journey from Fleet Foxes, the Seattle-based indie rockers, to the foxtrot, the famous ballroom routine thought to be invented at the turn of the 20th century by vaudevillian Arthur Carrington and whose stage name was Harry Fox. Cinematic foxes include Robin Hood (Disney, 1973), The Fox and the Hound (Disney again, 1981) and more recently, Foxcatcher. This 2014 sports biopic starred Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum, and which now we come to think of it had almost nothing to do with foxes; it garnered a slew of Oscar nominations but not a single cigar. On US television, in contrast, the fox is so revered it has its own news channel.

It’s fair to say the Thomas Pink Fox has been lying low in recent years. So it’s with both enthusiasm and pride that we welcome him back. Specifically on our new Cotton Linen Dyed shirt, which features a new version of our favourite animal embroidered on the chest panel. In a change to his acquisitive forbear, our latest iteration appears a more considered soul. His paws (it could equally be a vixen) and tail are neatly gathered beneath him, an attitude speaking less of profit and plunder and more of thoughtful reflection. Woven in Italy from the finest longstaple cotton and blended with premium linen, the shirt is dyed using natural processes to be kinder to the environment. In addition to our Fox motif, the shirt also boasts Thomas Pink’s exceptional construction, while a button-down collar ensures versatility.

One of the most enduring representations of this wily canine appeared in 1970, with the publication of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. Ostensibly a children’s story, it’s also one of Dahl’s many pleas for the preservation of the countryside and a warning of the threats posed by industrialisation. The tale of a fox who, like his Thomas Pink cousin, finds himself gone to ground, Dahl’s tale centres on a family of foxes being “evicted” by three callous farmers and their mechanical diggers. (Altogether now, ‘Boggis, Bunce and Bean…’) A canny old operator with access to the chicken houses of his pursuers, the titular Mr Fox is also a family man, doing his best both for his wife and children but also his community and friends. Written nearly four decades before “Call Clooney” was a reminder on Wes Anderson’s phone, the subsequent film adaptation brought the story and its messages to a whole new generation.

Dahl’s yarn feels particularly prescient, a staging post in the rehabilitation of an animal once seen as a rural pest, but which has now become a staple of Britain’s nocturnal urban landscape. Footage of them is plentiful, from CCTV to the BBC’s Natural History Unit, while urban foxes routinely form the subject of photo stories in national and international newspapers, periodicals and online; trotting along lamplit pavements, scavenging in dustbins, or doing the “thing” which produces that horrific noise.

Along with their countless champions (Chris Packham, we salute you), there are, of course, those calling for greater control of urban fox populations, not least the nation’s street sweepers and bin men. Generally, however, the urban fox is considered a good thing. If not quite reformed, certainly well enough regarded, an urban denizen going about his business thanks to tolerant city attitudes. Which is precisely how we like to think of Thomas Pink’s contemporary canine companion.