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Rugby players (and other athletes, too!) can look sharp without sacrifice thanks to this new Vancouver clothing line.
Sure, there are plenty of advantages to being a six-foot-two, 200-pound professional rugby player. You can always reach the top shelf. You never need help opening a pickle jar. Your rippling muscles keep you warm throughout the cold Canadian winter. But finding a suit that fits properly? That’s a whole other playing field and many athletes have found themselves on the losing side.But there’s a new brand in town: Aedelhard, a men’s apparel company specializing in business attire for rugby players and other athletes. With performance-tailored suits designed specifically for athletic men, their intention is to fit even the broadest shoulders and thickest quadriceps into a fine four-way stretch knit fabric. That’s right. This suit will take the wearer from ruck to red carpet—they just need to remember to shower first.The company’s founders, Michael Nguyen and Darrell Kopke, first met at a pre-seed start-up program at the Creative Destruction Lab in Toronto, where they discovered a shared love for rugby—and a desire to create the world’s most comfortable suit. Tailoring seems to make up the very fabric of Nguyen’s being (pun intended, you’re welcome): he’s a third-generation tailor with a flare for athletic apparel and has worked for the Raptors, Leafs and Bluejays. Kopke’s retail story began with selling zippers, but he’s since become a founder of Lululemon and Kit and Ace, and an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at UBC. He’s also a former rugby player who knows firsthand how difficult it can be for athletic men to find flattering formal wear. Together, the pair set out to create fashionable clothing fit for the field.To clothe a unique body, you have to start with unique tailoring. Aedelhard uses “body mapping,” a measuring process that locates muscles more specifically on the body than regular tailoring, to ensure ultimate comfort. “The biggest thing athletes have difficulty with is finding tailored clothing that can fit their body type,” says Nguyen. He observed, for example, that athletes were often forced to buy pants that were loose and baggy in order to accommodate their larger thighs. To combat that, Nguyen used body mapping to investigate which areas needed more room and which could be taken in, fashioning a design to properly fit the average rugby player. The result is a pair of pants that have extra room in the front thigh area and that are narrower in the back, with a raised back waistline tailored for a more muscular caboose.Aedelhard’s suit jackets were also designed using body mapping—and have virtually no construction. The absence of any lining or shoulder padding leaves room for “extreme movement,” says Nguyen. Rugby players usually feel “stuffed” in the average suit, but already, big names (including Andrew Coe, a team Canada athlete in both the sevens and fifteens) are praising the apparel company for their innovative design, comfort and style.It’s not just about dressing up, though. Kopke and Nguyen both agree that the world needs more gentlemen—and dressing diehard rugby players in buttoned blazers is just the beginning. Named after a rumoured 19th century club in Lincolnshire, England, Aedelhard is working hard to bring rugby’s core virtues (chivalry, honour, respect and sportsmanship) to the forefront: “The lore at the time is that the private clubs played a specific role in shifting societal discourse around what it meant to be a gentleman,” says Kopke.Sportsmanship and respect are key components of every sport—so why is rugby, specifically, so important to the founders of Aedelhard? “If you play rugby, you understand that interacting with a referee is ‘please and thank you,'” explains Kopke. “You never speak back, it’s always respectful.” He recalls a time when his brother was benched after running 50 metres to score a try because he had mocked the other team: “You can win, you can play hard, but you can’t disrespect your opponent,” says Kopke. “The world needs these values; the world needs modern gentlemen.”Although the company is still very new, Kopke and Nguyen already have plans to give back to the rugby community. They pledge that two percent of all sales will be donated to developing youth rugby programs, hoping to one day follow in the footsteps of the Toronto Inner City Rugby Foundation (TIRF) and Play Rugby USA, organizations that give children in underserved communities the opportunity to play. “We admire the impact those two organizations are leaving in their communities, and we would love for that to be extended across North America,” says Kopke.