David Hurn

Socks, hats and survival equipment in south Wales

I have spent more than two-thirds of my working photographic life based in my home country, Wales. It can be a very joyous country; it can be very depressing. I have documented the annihilation of the coal industry and the more-or-less decimation of steel – so many put out of work, so many still out of work. But I wanted to be positive, so I chose small industries based on individual skill and craft, which, experience has taught me, usually bring with them job satisfaction and quality goods.

Who could not be enchanted by a firm set up in 1892 by the present owner’s great-great-grandfather, a miner who suffered from cold feet, to sell socks to other miners in the area? Corgi Hosiery now has more than 50 skilled workers, some of whom have been there for over 50 years. They make socks of the highest quality, among them the Corgi Regimental Collection, commissioned by the Prince of Wales for the regiments of which he is Colonel-in-Chief. For every pair sold, a donation goes to the charity Combat Stress.

Alison Tod makes hats, but what hats! Each one is handmade, each a production of creative inspiration. I would class her as a sculptor.

BCB started out selling cough medicine under the name “Dr Brown’s Cough Bottle” to soldiers in the Crimean war. Now the company specialises in survival products. Their patented Blast Boxers offer soldiers Kevlar protection to the groin area from buried improvised explosive devices and have proved invaluable in reducing injuries. They also produce camouflage face paint, insect repellent and sun cream.

Other photographers include Martin Parr, Stuart Franklin, Jonas Bendiksen, Mark Power, Peter Marlow, Chris Steele-Perkins, Alessandra Sanguinetti. Peter Marsh, the FT’s former manufacturing editor, introduces the issue

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