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The 1970s

It all started on a college rugby pitch in 1970, when Fran Cotton & Steve Smith first met in Loughborough. "We didn’t get on so well at first. I kept thinking, who’s this cheeky so-and-so? But in the end, we hit it off and we’ve been team-mates ever since!" Fran Not long after they met, Fran recieved his first call-up and cap in 1971 and was joined on the international stage by Steve the following year. Throughout the decade the two friends took part in prestigious tours to South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, The USA and Canada.

The 1980s 1980 saw the end of Fran & Steve’s illustrious rugby careers as they looked to the future. They joined Bukta sportswear, that was responsible for producing alot of sport team’s kits around this era. It was here they honed and learnt the clothing trade, and in 1987, in a small office in Altrincham, Cotton Traders was born.

Choosing a name

"It took us maybe two minutes to come up with the name. Interestingly, you can’t normally trademark the word 'Cotton' because it’s a fabric - but you can if it’s someone’s name!" Steve

The White Story

The guys decided to risk everything with an advertisement in a Sunday paper - the advert was later dubbed 'The White Story', and is remembered as one of the most successful adverts in the history of 'off the page'.

The 1990s The early 90’s brought with them Cotton Traders’ first replica licensing agreement with the Rugby Football Union, first with England in 1991, followed by other countries, including Wales in 1992 and South Africa in 1994.

1995: Nelson Mandela sports Cotton Traders At the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, Cotton Traders shirts were everywhere but one of the most memorable moments of the whole tournament was when Nelson Mandela handed Francois Pienaar the World Cup trophy wearing a Cotton Traders classic of his very own!

1997: NEXT join the team Catalogue big-leagues, NEXT, join Cotton Traders and help us springboard to the next level with our own catalogues and stock distribution

1998: Our first retail store Cotton Traders opens its first retail store at Cheshire Oaks. We go on to open countless more nationwide.