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MUSTO History Illustration

A revolution begins. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Keith Musto was never happy to accept that being cold and wet were necessary inconveniences of sailing. “We sailed in Guernsey sweaters and old flannel trousers for years. You got wet and you accepted it. But, as we progressed up the ladder in terms of competition, we realised that this was a problem that needed to be solved. I went to one or two manufacturers who were making clothing at that time and spoke to them about improving the designs, and there wasn’t a lot of interest. We soon made our minds up that although we didn’t know how to make clothing, we’d learn quicker than the manufacturers at the time could catch on to the fact that there was a need and a demand for better clothing. So we started working on what sailors really needed to make conditions better for them.”

The origins of Musto go back to the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Keith Musto and sailing partner Tony Morgan battled their way into the British Olympic sailing team against all the odds. They were physically smaller than their fellow competitors, yet Musto and Morgan worked tirelessly on their fitness and on engineering their boat to perform as well as any other. Their work paid off. These modest Essex boys joined many of the greatest names in world athletics at the XVIIIth Olympiad.

“The editor of Yachting World told a group of us after one competition that we could be Olympians if we set our minds to it. And that registered. When I started sailing in the Finn class I would travel back and forth the 150 miles from Benfleet to Lymington on a Lambretta, to where the boat was moored. I remember falling off on the Winchester by-pass once. The car in front stopped and my hands were so cold that I couldn’t apply the brakes and went into the back of him.”

“Our main problem was weight – or the lack of it. We felt the only way to address that was to be fitter than our competitors. So we asked the PE instructor at the local school how we could get fitter, and he said: ‘Well, what do you do?’ We told him, and he put us through a process of exercises – what we now know as circuit training – and finished up by saying: ‘Well, if you do that every day between now and the Olympics, then you’ll win a medal.’ So we did it every day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, whenever…”

Tony Morgan:

“Keith and I were regarded as a couple of people below the salt on the table. One day we were chastised by the most senior person in the class, saying: ‘But I hear you train…and we simply don’t do that.’

They were slick, very competitive and had adopted innovative sailing strategies that made up for their lack of height and bulk. Keith Musto and Tony Morgan led the field into the last of seven days of competition on the waters off the coast of Enoshima, where the Olympic regatta was hosted. There was, however, one final act of drama to come.

I think we were a fantastic team together and there was never any question about who was in charge. Keith was the boss. We welded together extremely well. Indivisible.

I think I had the temerity to say to Keith ‘We’ve done it!’ and he said ‘Look over your shoulder’ and we could see New Zealand coming up and they’d taken a wild flyer and we could see what was going to happen then. I don’t know how many nanoseconds in front of us, but enough to count.”

Keith Musto:

“Not winning was quite a disappointment and it still is. I wasn’t really suited to that type of dinghy which needed more weight, although it was a great education and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. But winning was what it was all about. And we didn’t win.” Keith Musto

When we came back I wanted to make sure it had no effect on me. I was painting a big white wall at home in the lounge. I got a hammer and a nail and hung the medal on it. I stood back, looked at it and thought: ‘That’s a good place for that medal’. I called my wife Jill and said: “How about putting that medal there?” She looked at me and laughed and said: “Don’t be silly, it looks ridiculous.”

But to me it wasn’t ridiculous. It represented just a moment in life. Keep it in perspective. That medal has never been on display. It isn’t now. There are other things to do…’

Musto article from 1992

We recently came across this article from 1992 featuring an interview with Keith Musto talking about our sailing and equestrian wear:

“This Autumn 10 one-design yachts will set forth from Southampton on The British Steel Challenge, a 28,000 miles around the world yacht race – going the wrong way against the Roaring Forties and Screaming Fifties of the Southern Ocean. Aboard each of the 10 yachts will be 12 crew members, some 120 yachtsmen in all – all relying on MUSTO protective clothing at the personal recommendation and choice of Chay Blyth, the inspiration behind this unique event and undoubtedly Britain’s most experienced high latitude sailor

The British Steel Challenge, 1992

But then the recommendation of MUSTO Ltd as the sole manufacturer/supplier of the ocean jackets and trousers – with built-in chest harness, facility to attach a life harness and reflective patches – should come as no surprise to anyone involved in sailing. In the past 21 years, protective clothing for yachtsmen has improved in every department of design, materials and assembly – and MUSTO has pioneered almost every one of them. Indeed. MUSTO clothing has been used in every Whitbread round-the-world race since 1981. The company simply has more round-the- world experience than probably any other manufacturer.

Founded in 1971 by Keith Musto, himself a Silver Medallist at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, the company set out from the beginning with the aim of being the first to supply a complete range of sailing clothing, from dinghies to round-the-world yachts – and from head to toe.

‘Most of the sailing clothing on the market at the time the company was founded was quite frankly not very good,’ explained Keith MUSTO, ‘and did not provide adequate protection from water or cold temperatures. Manufacturers of such clothing were generally those producing clothing of one kind or another, but did not seem to know too much about the tremendous range of demands that sailingwear had to face. We thought we could do better, even if we had to learn about clothing manufacture’.

Three-layered system

This challenge, after much research, development and experimentation, finally resulted, in the late 1970s. in the first ‘three layer system’ of protective clothing for yachtsmen. These three layers work together to separate the wearer from moisture generated by the body inside the clothing, as well as from water produced by nature on the outside.

Overall, the three layer system gives more comfort, more protection, and greater freedom of movement. with fewer garments and less weight. Non-absorbent Meraklon fleece provides the body warmth and keeps moisture (whether body-generated or condensation-induced) away from the skin. Neoprene is used to provide the waterproof outer clothing. However, as soon as you pierce Neoprene with a needle it has the potential to let in water. This led MUSTO to design sailing clothing in which no seams are exposed in key areas. Essentially, MUSTO clothing is designed more in an engineering sense than the normal clothing point of view.

‘Our materials are not just waterproof and strong, but soft and delightful to wear. They have been designed to do a job of work. to do it better than anything else on the market, and to go on doing it for a very long time, ’ commented Keith. The success of MUSTO designs were quickly recognised by everyone from the club sailor, to Olympic competitors, right up to Whitbread round-the-world race winners. The Royal National Lifeboat institution also appointed MUSTO to supply its offshore crews with clothing.

Such was the rigorous testing demanded by the RNLI that crew clothing was subjected to wind tunnel testing, combined with water pumps and spray nozzles. And if that wasn’t enough, occupants had to undertake step tests in those conditions. At the end of each test the amount of water ingress on each person was measured.

Certainly there can be few clothing manufacturers whose garments have been through such demanding testing. For MUSTO, however, the results were such that they could justifiably claim to provide ‘the best protection in the world’.

More recently, the 1991 Admiral’s Cup race was won by France, with all crew members aboard the three-yacht team protected by MUSTO foul weather clothing, while Grant Dalton, skipper of Fisher & Paykel in the Whitbread round-the-world race, writes, ‘Our comprehensive MUSTO three-layer systems proved to be without peer and we were able to withstand the snow, sleet. hail, rain and intense cold ensured in the Southern Ocean in relative comfort’.

But it’s not only in the demanding side of sailing that MUSTO has come to the fore. There is now a MUSTO Snugs aprés-sail leisurewear range, which is also proving very popular. These are available in bright colours and as mix-and-match across the ranges and can be teamed with anything from jeans to MUSTO’s yachting pants. There is even a range of Snuglets for the kids.

MUSTO’s three layer system



Country range

The enthusiasm of the Musto family’s interest in horse riding has also lead them into the establishment of a country range of clothing. Like the sailing range. the design and scope of the country programme is wide, incorporating clothing for riding, shooting and fishing. The experience gained from protecting people afloat is now used in conjunction with the special needs of the country to offer the very best in performance clothing.

The quality of the products in design and materials is more than proven by the many congratulations that are received from users in all walks of life. A recent satisfied customer was Luciano Pavarotti, for whom a special-size riding jacket was made.

The sports leisure market has always interested MUSTO, so it was not surprising for the company to move in this direction. As always thorough research has paid off, such as with the MUSTO Snug range of jackets and shirts which have virtually become a cult item. Not only in the UK but also in mainland Europe. This range is expanding quickly into trousers and other products.

 

Current season equestrian collection


Rapid growth rate

Now operating in three divisions – sailing. country and leisure – MUSTO has developed a complementary range of clothing products which has enabled a growth rate ol’ some 40% to be achieved in the past year and an anticipated turnover of around 126.5 million in the current year.

Sailing clothing reaches peak sales through the summer months; countrywear has peak sales through the Winter months; while the leisure programme is year-round. The result, MUSTO is currently working flat out and has not been affected at all by the UK or worldwide recession. Everything from initial design to final selling is undertaken in-house by MUSTO, from two manufacturing sites in Benfleet, Essex, and the Midlands. Production technology is primarily based around Brother and Eastman sewing technology (of which MUSTO has some 70 machines). Around 45% of all the sailing clothing is currently exported, with Germany as the most significant market. MUSTO also has licensees in Australia and New Zealand and its own sales company in the USA. In the UK, sailingwear is sold through some 400 chandlers. Even more UK outlets handle the country and leisurewear products.

Design-wise, MUSTO is becoming increasingly interested in some of the latest computerised design technology. Indeed. Keith Musto and some of his senior personnel were at the recent Clo-Tech ’92 exhibition to assess some of the latest developments. As Keith himself commented, ‘The more the leisure side of our business grows, the more potential there is for design’.

Overall, there is one important aspect to MUSTO: the latest Ideas do not cause the company to forget the other products within the programmes. Nor does it forget about the valuable team of people that go to make up the company.

Diversification of ranges has undoubtedly created strong home and export markets to place MUSTO squarely among today’s leading specialist sportswear companies. A position which Keith Musto aims to retain.”