Ask any layperson, someone who knows very little about rugby and scrummaging (You know? Stuart Barnes, Greeks, Scottish Rugby Blog stash reviewers, etc) and I’m pretty sure they could tell you, from a photo, what Phil Vickery did for a living. From the bull neck to the Gorilla chest to the full cauliflower ears, everything about him screams prop forward. He even has that slightly frowning, dead eyed, non-nonsense look of a serious scrummager. His rugby CV is not bad too, including as it does 73 England caps, 5 Lions caps and the small matter of a World Cup winning medal, gained over a stellar 15 year stint at the coalface. Since retiring in 2010 ‘Vickers’ has successfully launched and then built up his near eponymous brand, Raging Bull (a nickname given to him by Sir Clive in 2003).
Initially starting as a quite unremarkable teamwear supplier they then expanded into off-field, mens clothing based on a problem Phil Vickery himself found in trying to source clothing to fit his unique sizes. It was within this niche that Raging Bull got an initial foothold in the market and have gone on to establish themselves as a universal clothing brand in their own right with concessionary presence in House of Fraser and Debenhams, a host of celebrity endorsements and a healthy £3m turnover.
But what is the kit like? Well, Raging Bull sent Scottish Rugby Blog some samples of their freshly launched Autumn/Winter 2016 Collection for review and we scientifically tested it to destruction (well…not really but we did wear them to the Autumn Internationals and the pub and stuff). The results are as follows:
I think it’s fair to describe the pitch of their design with three adjectives: ‘Traditional’, ‘Understated’ and ‘Mature’ although they prefer ‘Hardworking’, ‘Distinctive’ and ‘Honest’ based on the values of Mr Raging Bull himself apparently. Either way there are no teenage designer rips, garish logos, cosmetic fastenings and/or abstract shapes in these garments. Instead the emphasis is very much on quality and fit. That said, there are some nice little design touches that please the eye. Branded rivets on the jeans, Plaid checked material on the inside pockets, detailed embroidery on the logos of the pullovers all give subtle hints of branding that could set Raging Bull apart. A lot of the design features focus on the theme (unsurprisingly) of a bull and this works well particularly on the back pocket of the jeans (for example) where there is an embroidered, bronze stitched bull motif that is both subtle and stylish. The off-field Rugby shirt features a Union Jack on the underside of the collar, presumably to be displayed when ‘flipped-up’. Unfortunately the Union Jack has a number of political and cultural connotations in Scotland (let’s not go there…) so may prove divisive. However, these small touches are to be celebrated and the brand would be stronger still if it could do more of this and perhaps develop a few trademark designs to fully cement its place in the market.
Raging Bull prides itself on have a huge range of sizes and fits “the different builds that form everyday man” including a Big & Tall range and a wide array of sizes that goes well beyond high street retailers. There certainly should be no problem finding a size to fit your type. Whilst this is to be applauded they could also improve on this by offering a range of different fits too. For example, the shirts have a range of sizes that go from Small to 7XL (yes that’s 7XL – presumably for some of those Georgian front-row lads?) but only seem to come in classic fit which can be a bit square in shape. The offer of a ‘slim fit’ or ‘tailored’ design would allow for more finessing of the fit on shirts, polos and t-shirts. Likewise the trousers and jeans are well fitted but an ‘athletic cut’ (for those with small waists and big thighs or a slim/Skinny fit option would be great (for scrumhalves). Overall though, these are minor gripes. If you can’t find a pair of ‘winners and losers’ that fit with a range of waist sizes that go from 30” to 48” then something is very wrong. They are also dipping their toes into the womenswear and kidswear markets too which will be one to watch.
If there is any criticism of Raging Bull then this may, surprisingly, be where you may find it. There were some very minor quality issues with the samples sent to us (note: this may only affect the sample garments we were sent). Little things like the rivet popping off on the that small, pocket-within-a-pocket on the right-hand front jeans pocket, the zip tag coming off on the neck zip of the pullover and a couple of stiches breaking under the arm of the Gillet were not major dramas but noticeable nevertheless. Aside from that the general quality seems very good. The cotton/cashmere mix on the jumpers is both heavy, hardwearing and soft and warm at the same time. For that matter, all the garments sent through were very warm and weatherproof and stood up exceptionally well to the ravages of a Scottish Autumn. At times it was surprising to be standing in BT Murrayfield on a cold November evening and be warm in a t-shirt, jeans, jumper and waxed jacket but the Raging Bull stuff held up to the elements stoutly. Overall it’s a big plus on the quality and value for money stakes. The small quality issues experienced by us are obviously not representative of a brand that rates quality highly and has consistent praise in this area.
With Raging Bull it would appear that Phil Vickery has taken his on-field success and hit the bullseye (pun very much intended) in the menswear game. Whilst the design element of Raging Bull is subtle and on the traditional side its real selling point is the sizing and quality of the product range. In terms of retail pricing it’s not as expensive as the likes of Eden Park but more so than similar items from, say, Marks & Spencers for example. Like Mr Vickery himself there’s an integrity and solidity to the brand which makes it an attractive prospect. Rage on Bull, rage on.
Raging Bull: https://www.ragingbull.co.uk/