David Saxby & Old Hat

November 22, 2011

David Saxby & Old Hat

On my recent trip to the UK, I had the good fortune to spend a couple of days in London, and I decided to head out to what I’d heard was the best vintage store in town: Old Hat. It’s on the Fulham High Street, which is about a half-hour train ride from the center of town, but it certainly delivers on its promise.

It’s actually more of a complex than a shop, with three storefronts – men’s vintage, women’s vintage and a made-to-measure gallery. Old Hat is a classic vintage shop, with racks and racks of dusty tailored clothing, ranging from the perfectly good (ready-to-wear Daks) to the fantastic (Savile Row bespoke). The lower level looks like the basement where your elementary school held gym class when it was raining, with pipes running here and there and halogen torchieres providing the light. My kind of place, in other words.

It’s the kind of spot where there are piles of trousers for day formal on top of the counter, and fifteen or twenty feet of rack space dedicated to evening wear. The staff is lovely and pleasant, and while I went home empty-handed, it was a blast to visit the store.

Even more of a blast was connecting with the owner of the place, David Saxby. Saxby was behind at the counter at the made-to-measure shop that bears his name. It’s filled to the brim with classic country clothes in bulletproof tweeds. There are stacks of sock garters and piles of driving caps on every surface. Saxby himself is a charming and fascinating host.

He told me he got into vintage clothes after a stint as a camera dealer (before that, he’d been a professional photographer). When he wanted more country clothes than he could buy second-hand, he started contracting with English manufacturers to make them for his customers. One by one, the manufacturers shut their doors, until David found himself buying the plant and hiring the staff of the last. Now, his factory, an hour or so outside London, makes the kind of rare breed clothes you really can’t find anywhere else, short of bespoke.

When I was there, David was wearing a preposterously loud country ensemble, and he looked spectacular. His manner matched his look – sharp, funny and very slightly outrageous. We discussed suit silhouettes (he only makes one and three-button coats), Fred Astaire (he says if Fred Astaire wore a butonniere with a pocket square, then it’s right, because Fred Astaire is Fred Astaire), the best American factory-made suits (that’s Oxxford, if you’re keeping track) and more. I’d meant to get back on the train and hit another shop before heading back to my wife and baby, but between the conversation and digging in Old Hat, I ended up in Fulham for two hours.

If you’re in London, or making a trip, be sure to stop by and say “hi.” You’ll enjoy the experience.