Are These The Costumed Heroes Of Savile Row?
I was going to let it pass without comment, but since I’ve received a thousand million bajillion emails and tweets on the subject, a brief word on the protest of Abercrombie & Fitch’s plans to install a children’s store on Savile Row, around the corner from their London flagship shop, which is just off the Row on Burlington Gardens.
First of all: the folks at The Chap, who organized the whole thing, are generally very amusing. They understand that they’re being silly, and I tip my cap to them for that. The Chap Olympiad sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m all for tweed, brogues and neckties, obviously. Even if I’m not so into the tobacco thing that they’re obsessed with - a little stinky and cancery for my taste.
Second of all: I am no fan of Abercrombie & Fitch. Well, I should amend that: I’m no fan of the contemporary Abercrombie & Fitch, which is one of the worst clothing brands in the world. At one time, it was pretty much my ideal clothing brand, selling adventure clothes to the greatest adventurers in the world, but then it wound down, went belly-up, got bought by The Limited and transformed into what it is today. Which is awful. The worst.
I have to admit, though, that my general feeling about the protest is that costumes are for costume parties. Or fancy dress parties, as they call them over in the UK. The pictures of the protest embarrass me as much as they amuse me. It’s tough enough to defend traditional style against accusations of cosplay when you’re not actually engaging in cosplay. And given that the tailors of Savile Row sell contemporary, wearable, real-life-appropriate clothing, perhaps contemporary, wearable, real-life-appropriate clothing might have been worn for the protest.
The real truth is that when we were on Savile Row a few months ago, doing interviews for the very next episode of Put This On, the businessmen of Savile Row were completely unbothered by A&F. Richard Anderson, the tailor-owner of one of the Row’s more successful storefronts told me that while he’s no fan of their clothes, he appreciates the foot traffic. Patrick Grant, the owner of Norton & Sons, told us the same thing. They’re protected by a pretty extensive system of laws that require tailor-manufacturing to use most of the street’s square footage, so while it’s annoying and gross, it’s not really a threat to them.
So, in summary: A&F awful. The Chap charming. Savile Row pretty safe. Costumes for fancy dress.
(photo via The AP)

Are These The Costumed Heroes Of Savile Row?

I was going to let it pass without comment, but since I’ve received a thousand million bajillion emails and tweets on the subject, a brief word on the protest of Abercrombie & Fitch’s plans to install a children’s store on Savile Row, around the corner from their London flagship shop, which is just off the Row on Burlington Gardens.

First of all: the folks at The Chap, who organized the whole thing, are generally very amusing. They understand that they’re being silly, and I tip my cap to them for that. The Chap Olympiad sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m all for tweed, brogues and neckties, obviously. Even if I’m not so into the tobacco thing that they’re obsessed with - a little stinky and cancery for my taste.

Second of all: I am no fan of Abercrombie & Fitch. Well, I should amend that: I’m no fan of the contemporary Abercrombie & Fitch, which is one of the worst clothing brands in the world. At one time, it was pretty much my ideal clothing brand, selling adventure clothes to the greatest adventurers in the world, but then it wound down, went belly-up, got bought by The Limited and transformed into what it is today. Which is awful. The worst.

I have to admit, though, that my general feeling about the protest is that costumes are for costume parties. Or fancy dress parties, as they call them over in the UK. The pictures of the protest embarrass me as much as they amuse me. It’s tough enough to defend traditional style against accusations of cosplay when you’re not actually engaging in cosplay. And given that the tailors of Savile Row sell contemporary, wearable, real-life-appropriate clothing, perhaps contemporary, wearable, real-life-appropriate clothing might have been worn for the protest.

The real truth is that when we were on Savile Row a few months ago, doing interviews for the very next episode of Put This On, the businessmen of Savile Row were completely unbothered by A&F. Richard Anderson, the tailor-owner of one of the Row’s more successful storefronts told me that while he’s no fan of their clothes, he appreciates the foot traffic. Patrick Grant, the owner of Norton & Sons, told us the same thing. They’re protected by a pretty extensive system of laws that require tailor-manufacturing to use most of the street’s square footage, so while it’s annoying and gross, it’s not really a threat to them.

So, in summary: A&F awful. The Chap charming. Savile Row pretty safe. Costumes for fancy dress.

(photo via The AP)

We Got It For Free: Anderson & Sheppard’s A Style is Born

Anderson & Sheppard’s new book, A Style is Born, is being released today. The 296-page volume is special in that it’s part of Anderson & Sheppard’s evolutionary shift, but to understand that, we should start with some history.

The company was founded in 1906, and originally called Anderson & Simmons. It changed to its current name, however, when Mr. Simmons sold his stake to Sidney Horatio Sheppard, a trouser cutter at the firm. Per Anderson, one of the original co-founders, was a Swedish expatriate who learned his trade from an innovative Dutch tailor named Frederick Scholte. Scholte is credited with creating the London cut (also known as the English drape), which is a term that refers to the way a jacket hangs (or “drapes”) from the shoulders. There is more room over the chest and shoulder blades, which results in conspicuous, but graceful, folds of cloth that gently descend from the collarbone. The uppersleeves are built generously, but the armholes are cut high, so that that jacket’s collar never lifts off of the wearer’s neck. The shoulders are also unpadded, which leaves them to slope naturally along the body’s lines. The combination of all these things make the English drape cut extremely comfortable and easy to move around in, but still adheres to many of the basic standards of fit that make a suit well tailored.

This cut was popularized by the Duke of Windsor, who wanted to rebel against his “buttoned up” childhood. The Duke longed for a more comfortable way of dressing - he often found himself removing his coat, ripping off his tie, loosening his collar, and rolling up his sleeves. It was a gesture not just for comfort, but also, in a symbolic sense, freedom. In Scholte, he found the perfect simpatico - a man who would make him a softly constructed jacket that would be as much about comfort as it would be about elegance.

Since the Duke set much of the early- to mid-20th century mens’ fashion trends, his implicit endorsement led to a boom in the cut’s popularity, which reached all the way across the Atlantic. Many Hollywood stars became enamored with the look, and since Per Anderson trained under Scholte, they naturally went to Anderson & Sheppard.

While Per Anderson built the house’s silhouette, his partner, Sidney Horatio Sheppard (better known as SHS), set its tone. In his introduction to the book, David Kamp uses a line from American satirist and Anglophile SJ Peterman. Peterman said of the British: “The expression ‘It’s not done’ pretty well sums up not only the state of mind of the more solvent class, but the attitude of people in shops and businesses.” SHS was apparently an “it’s not done” kind of fellow. He was a schoolmaster’s son, well educated, socially connected, and somewhat of a country squire. He was said to be very autocratic, not one to mix with the tailoring fraternity, and worked hard to build the firm’s reputation, but without making it seemed like the firm sought attention to itself. In fact, this was done to such an extent that the firm seemed almost secretive. While other tailors such as Henry Poole and Kilgour joined associations and guilds, Anderson & Sheppard never joined anything at all. Save for a single advertisement published once in an outdoorsman magazine, the firm also never advertised. SHS eschewed publicity of any sort and thought it was vulgar.

SHS’s reticence and strict sense of propriety filtered down to the staff, and this transmuted into a kind of hardedge severity. Women weren’t allowed into the fitting areas, unless they promised to keep quiet. Cutters were known to storm out of rooms if wives offered a suggestion or critiqued a husband’s suit-in-progress. They also refused to deviate from the house’s famous English-drape style. One cutter, Mr. Hallbury, would respond to such requests by saying, “Are you asking me to make a Rolls-Royce with the front of a Mercedes, sir?” A fierier cutter, Mr. Cameron, would simply show customers the door, saying, “You’re in the wrong shop!”

In 2004, Anda Rowland became Anderson & Sheppard’s vice chairman, and now manages it along with John Hitchcock. She has overseen somewhat of a glasnost there. The famously secretive house, once closed to writers and journalists, is now opening up. There is a website, a blog, and cutters and tailors who don’t mind your paying them a visit in the back rooms. The tailors are much friendlier, and no one is ever thrown out anymore (though they still won’t deviate from their cut). This book, then, is part of that evolution. The handsome photographs give a glimpse into inner workings and everyday details of life at Anderson & Sheppard, from the sturdily woven fabrics to the tailors’ and cutters’ workrooms. There are also sublime archival images of legendary clients of yore, not least of which includes Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Gary Cooper, and Laurence Oliver. Nearly all of these men are photographed in their natural settings, and the elegance they portray is quite inspiring.

The volume is available for purchase on Amazon’s UK site, and I think it makes for a great addition to any library. It is part fashion history and part social history, and gives a near tactile immersion in one of the best tailoring shops in the world. I strongly recommend getting a copy.

Here’s an old article I’ve been meaning to post. John Hitchcock, the managing director of one of Savile Row’s best tailoring houses, Anderson & Sheppard, talks about the five bespoke items that every man should have in their closet. Assuming, of course, that you’re even the kind of many who would have bespoke items in your closet. Nonetheless, I think it’s a good checklist to have, client of bespoke tailoring or not. 

A navy pinstripe double-breasted suit: A fine navy pinstripe avoids the louder gangster look that some people associate with the double-breasted suit. The double-breasted suit is one of the most flattering garments that a man can wear as it creates a longer line and more defined waist. This hides the stomach and accentuates the chest and shoulders.
A herringbone tweed jacket in brown, blue or gray: Tweed is the easiest and most classic way for a man to bring color into his wardrobe. Depending on the color and pattern, the jacket can be worn in the town or in the country; with gray flannel trousers or with jeans; with a shirt and with a sweater, and throughout autumn and winter. [Good tweeds are] hard wearing and get better with age.
Mid-gray flannel trousers with turn-ups: Gray flannel continues to be a favorite with our customers in the creative industry as it has a relaxed feel. These trousers work with most jackets and even just with a shirt and sweater. Avoid belt loops and choose side tabs or brace buttons and a buttonfly. The width of the turn-ups is important, as it is better not to have any rather than thin ones.
A classic white cotton shirt: Gary Cooper and Cary Grant were champions of the white shirt, as it always looks fresh and elegant. I prefer mine with a semi-cutaway collar, double cuffs and mother-of-pearl buttons. [However] always [get one] without a breast pocket or a button down collar.
A single-breasted Chesterfield-style navy-blue herringbone overcoat with a matching velvet collar: You can put this over whatever you are wearing; even pajamas, and you will instantly look smart. The real tastemakers in the 1920s and ’30s wore theirs very fitted as they knew that the overcoat creates an immediate impression.

Kind of puts my 10 essentials list to shame. Note: that list is more about what personal items I have that get me through a typical day, and was written when the weather was still very cold in the Bay Area. Jesse also wrote two similar lists - The Essential Men’s Wardrobe, and a more personal one here. 

Here’s an old article I’ve been meaning to post. John Hitchcock, the managing director of one of Savile Row’s best tailoring houses, Anderson & Sheppard, talks about the five bespoke items that every man should have in their closet. Assuming, of course, that you’re even the kind of many who would have bespoke items in your closet. Nonetheless, I think it’s a good checklist to have, client of bespoke tailoring or not. 

A navy pinstripe double-breasted suit: A fine navy pinstripe avoids the louder gangster look that some people associate with the double-breasted suit. The double-breasted suit is one of the most flattering garments that a man can wear as it creates a longer line and more defined waist. This hides the stomach and accentuates the chest and shoulders.

A herringbone tweed jacket in brown, blue or gray: Tweed is the easiest and most classic way for a man to bring color into his wardrobe. Depending on the color and pattern, the jacket can be worn in the town or in the country; with gray flannel trousers or with jeans; with a shirt and with a sweater, and throughout autumn and winter. [Good tweeds are] hard wearing and get better with age.

Mid-gray flannel trousers with turn-ups: Gray flannel continues to be a favorite with our customers in the creative industry as it has a relaxed feel. These trousers work with most jackets and even just with a shirt and sweater. Avoid belt loops and choose side tabs or brace buttons and a buttonfly. The width of the turn-ups is important, as it is better not to have any rather than thin ones.

A classic white cotton shirt: Gary Cooper and Cary Grant were champions of the white shirt, as it always looks fresh and elegant. I prefer mine with a semi-cutaway collar, double cuffs and mother-of-pearl buttons. [However] always [get one] without a breast pocket or a button down collar.

A single-breasted Chesterfield-style navy-blue herringbone overcoat with a matching velvet collar: You can put this over whatever you are wearing; even pajamas, and you will instantly look smart. The real tastemakers in the 1920s and ’30s wore theirs very fitted as they knew that the overcoat creates an immediate impression.

Kind of puts my 10 essentials list to shame. Note: that list is more about what personal items I have that get me through a typical day, and was written when the weather was still very cold in the Bay Area. Jesse also wrote two similar lists - The Essential Men’s Wardrobe, and a more personal one here

Stephen at The Simply Refined sent me this video he shot with Leonard Logsdail, one of the finest tailors in the United States. Logsdail has a lot to say about the tailoring process and particularly about how important his relationship with his customers is. Very interesting stuff.

What Is Traditional American Style?

Our most recent video, Tradition, features a conversation with Jay Walter, a true-blue American style traditionalist. The American aesthetic is largely a creation of the mid-20th century, and after some years of being maligned, it’s being re-evaluated at the moment, as “Ivy League” style (a close variant) has its moment.

Above are two men in tailored clothing. In black and white, we see a customer at J. Press in the mid-20th century. In color, we see a contemporary photo of Patrick Grant, proprietor of Norton & Sons, a Savile Row tailor. Each of these guys is wearing an outfit that couldn’t be more emblematic of their nation’s signature styles.

Difference to note (pictured and unpictured):

  • The American suit features what’s called a 3-roll-2 buttoning arrangement. That means that there are three buttons on the front,but only two are openly visible and only one is intended to be used. The third (top) button rolls under the lapel. This is a classic button arrangement for suits of any nation, but it’s particularly vital to the American look. The English suit is in a classic English configuration: a narrow double-breasted.
  • The shoulders of the American jacket are soft and nearly unpadded. This is called a “natural shoulder,” and it’s comfortable and casual. Contrast this with the built-up, strongly-shaped shoulder on the Savile Row suit.
  • The American jacket lacks darts (folds, sewn into the fabric for shape) on the front. Most continental jackets have a dart on each side, running from about nipple level to the waist. This gives the jacket shape over and above the shaping permitted by the side seams. The classic undarted American coat is called a “sack,” because, well, it’s sack-like, rather than following the countour of the front of the body.
  • The classic American jacket has a single vent in the back, often a “hook vent.” The hook vent, a J. Press innovation, is cut wider at the top (giving it a hook-like shape) to prevent awkward splaying. An English coat is typically double-vented (sometimes called side-vented), which helps prevent splaying. Sometimes it’s unvented, in the style of the “golden age” of men’s style, the 1930s.
  • Pants in the classic American suit are, as Jay Walter described in our piece, typically flat-front, rather than pleated. They often have plain fronts as well. Generally, this is a simpler, more relaxed style.

There are of course other difference in the aesthetics - Americans have a predilection for button-down collars, even sometimes wearing them with suits, for example. The knit tie is a particularly Ivy League aesthetic. Belts are favored over braces, and loafers, especially penny loafers, are beloved.

The end result is a distinctive, American aesthetic. The shape is youthful. Because it lacks darts, the jacket falls straight, rather than emphasizing the shoulders and chest and narrowing the waist. The goal here is to attain the slim, straight body of the 20 year old, rather than the strong-shouldered, broad-chested body of the Powerful Man favored on Savile Row.

Of course, this style is just as much associated with an insurance salesman in Muskogee as it is with a young Bobby Kennedy. On the hefty man these youngsters of the 1950s and 60s became, the look has a different effect. The shapelessness and weak shoulders of the look can make a heavy man look, for lack of a better word, dumpy. Still: it is classic, comfortable and proudly American.

What’s important to remember is that a suit’s silhouette isn’t an absolute value, following exactly the curves of the body. There are choices about what to emphasize, what to de-emphasize, what to build up and what to slim down. These are informed by individual aesthetics and cultural tradition. I hope this will help you make informed choices for your own wardrobe.

A month or two ago, I happened upon a beautiful Henry Poole dinner suit. Henry Poole are called “the founders of Savile Row,” one of the finest tailoring houses in the world.

Then, this weekend, I found two more. Same customer, lounge suits this time.

I figure there must be some folks here on PTO who’re interested in owning a $4000 suit, and I don’t feel like putting these on eBay… (Now sold, pending payment.)

It’s On eBay
Henry Poole & Co. Tuxedo
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this coat on the rack. Henry Poole? Really? But there were no trousers. That meant an absolutely frantic search through the pants rack… and paydirt. 
Henry Poole & Co. invented the tuxedo in the late 19th century as a more casual dinner suiting for their client the Prince of Wales. After an American saw it and ordered one for himself, which he wore for dinner in the Tuxedo Club in New York, the tuxedo was born. 
This thing is in perfect shape and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s a couple inches short for my 42L frame, but if you’re a 42R or maybe even a 42S, you could have a piece which cost $3000-4000 for a tenth of that. It’s a piece you can genuinely wear for life.
Starts at $390 on eBay

It’s On eBay

Henry Poole & Co. Tuxedo

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this coat on the rack. Henry Poole? Really? But there were no trousers. That meant an absolutely frantic search through the pants rack… and paydirt.

Henry Poole & Co. invented the tuxedo in the late 19th century as a more casual dinner suiting for their client the Prince of Wales. After an American saw it and ordered one for himself, which he wore for dinner in the Tuxedo Club in New York, the tuxedo was born.

This thing is in perfect shape and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s a couple inches short for my 42L frame, but if you’re a 42R or maybe even a 42S, you could have a piece which cost $3000-4000 for a tenth of that. It’s a piece you can genuinely wear for life.

Starts at $390 on eBay

It’s On eBay
Gieves & Hawkes Greatcoat
Speaking of RJMan, here’s a Gieves & Hawkes coat he found on the Bay, dated 1953. The seller only ships to the UK, but I bet if you emailed he might be amenable to international shipping. 
Buy It Now for

It’s On eBay

Gieves & Hawkes Greatcoat

Speaking of RJMan, here’s a Gieves & Hawkes coat he found on the Bay, dated 1953. The seller only ships to the UK, but I bet if you emailed he might be amenable to international shipping.

Buy It Now for

PTO Pal Nick Sullivan of Esquire teams up with joins with Patrick Grant, owner of the Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons for a drive around the UK to visit the places where some of the world’s finest clothing (and the constituent parts of the world’s finest clothing) is made. Check out more at Esquire.