DarkTyde ocean-friendly divewear is a new, pandemic-born player in the divewear fashion market. That’s not a big market, to be fair. Off the top of my head, I can name only one other divewear brand that isn’t a kit manufacturer that also sells t-shirts and hoodies, and there are few scuba diving brands that are household names outside of scuba diving households.
Contrast that with surfing. There are more than 30 brands associated with the sport, many of which I know by name; some of which I had no idea were associated with surfing. Possibly we divers just couldn’t drive up and down the same ol’ strip long enough to find a place where the kids were as hip as the surf crew – and we certainly didn’t have a best selling 60’s beach-loving boy-band getting around with the hit single: ‘Divin’ Falmouth Bay’.
That niche in the market is where Jon Haley, together with fellow Southampton University oceanography graduates and dive buddies, Doug Hill and Jon Davis, decided they could fit a new, eco-friendly, ethical divewear brand. One which will, they hope, cross into the world of mainstream sportswear fashion and yet – because we’re all divers, after all, and must prioritise our distribution of funds – remain sensibly priced.
Jon reached out to DIVE and I received a pair of t-shirts and a hoodie to review – and I like them. Rather a lot, actually.
I have to be up-front here. I am not exactly a hip and trendy fashion guru. About the poshest shirt I own comes from Marks and Spencers. I have lived in oversized, dark-coloured T-shirts since I bought my first Iron Maiden shirt in 1988, long before middle-age and poor lifestyle choices made oversized clothing that bit more necessary. When I began my professional dive career in 2005, the band names were replaced with the logos of the dive centres I worked for – but I haven’t done that for a while, and the shirts are wearing a bit thin.
All that being said, I prefer to wear clothing that is ‘inexpensive’, as opposed to ‘cheap’. I’d rather have a comfortable £25 t-shirt that remains intact for more than 12 months than a £5 polyester hair-shirt that becomes oily rags the first time my motorcycle needs a bit of spannering. By pure happenstance, I was searching the Interwebs for such products when DarkTyde reached out with the samples.
I’m not entirely certain what a t-shirt review should include, but operating on the principle that what I like and look for is what a lot of other people like and look for, then I will say these things: the t-shirts are made from a good-quality material. It’s smooth and strong like my posh M&S shirt, not thin with scratchy seams like the cheap high street shop products. They didn’t shrink when I washed them and the logo remained where it should; they haven’t stretched out of shape and the printing hasn’t peeled – and I like the designs, and the logos.
The hoodie is the same. I generally prefer un-hooded, zippered fleeces but this would definitely have come in handy when I was out at sea during the Egyptian winter, which is really bleedin’ cold if you live there, and so I can imagine it will be very satisfactory for much of the UK diving season. I thought the pockets could be a bit deeper, though. because I know I’m going to put my phone there one day and it’s going to fall out. Hopefully not while I’m standing on the dive platform keeping warm during a surface interval…
I also like the theme of DarkTyde’s clothing, best described by Jon himself, when I asked about DarkTyde’s backstory: ‘We wanted to celebrate the slightly darker edge of cold-water diving,’ he said. ‘UK divers know there’s more to diving than coral reefs and clownfish and I think we all revel in the colder and generally grittier side of British waters. That’s how DarkTyde was born as a name, and why our collections generally use muted background colours.’ Even though I, personally, am an unashamedly shallow-water tropical fish-botherer, I like the darker, muted colours, and I like most of the designs – they’re very ‘me’.
In terms of manufacturing, DarkTyde has partnered with Rapanui, a sustainable clothing manufacturer based on the Isle of Wight. The blank products are made from 100 per cent organic cotton, grown using all-renewable energy in northern India. The manufacturing process is entirely sustainable, both SA8000 (Social Accountability) and GOTS (Global Organic Textiles Standard) certified. The designs are printed using ocean-friendly inks and shipped direct to the buyer in zero-plastic packaging.
Adding to the eco-friendly, sustainable theme is DarkTyde’s commitment to ‘circular fashion’. The clothing is printed on-demand, rather than in bulk to be kept as potentially unnecessary and unused stock, and which helps to keep the prices down, meaning the company can offer high-grade organic clothing at budget prices. Furthermore, once the clothing has been worn out, the t-shirts and hoodies can be sent back to DarkTyde for recycling using a QR code on the product’s label which can be scanned to print a freepost return label, whereupon the sender will receive a £5 credit for their next purchase.
Darktyde’s t-shirts are currently priced between £16-£18 and hoodies at £35 for men and women, with kids’ sizes £13-£14 and £22 respectively. With a £5 credit for recycling, that’s a very good deal for good quality divewear, packaged up in a product that looks pretty cool while simultaneously saving the planet.
‘Our mission is to persuade the diving community to wear (and recycle) organic cotton instead of micro-plastic-shedding polyesters,’ said Jon. ‘If we can do that, not by beating them over the head with the environmental message but by producing great designs on comfortable, affordable clothing, that look just as good in the bar as they do on the boat, then we will have achieved our goal.’
Mission accomplished, I reckon.