Jeans and tee shirts. All that you need and nothing more. That seems to be the concept of the recently freshened-up Cinch store in London’s Soho. When you swing open the frosted glass door and step foot into the sparsely merchandised space you are enveloped into the world of Levi’s Vintage Clothing. The funny thing is, there isn’t much to “envelop” you at that store, which is why I liked it.
The case for the custom suit is well-known and irrefutable: It’s the last frontier of superior craftsmanship, entirely built by hand. The knowledge that goes into a Savile Row suit can rightly be deemed historic. Your cutter might have been taught by the man who cut suits for Winston Churchill. The sheer range of fabrics is just as astounding. You may think you know everything there is to know about tweed—think again. Some sheds in Scotland make only a handful of bolts of fabric a year. One of those bolts can be the yours.
That doesn’t make it any easier when the reckoning comes: it’s going to cost north of $4000, and you’re going to take it like a man. Once indoctrinated, however, there are few complaints. Rare is the man with only one handmade suit—he’ll do everything in his power to buy another.
That money does not go into an advertising campaign or a cologne destined for duty-free stores. Instead, it returns, as is right, to tailors who’ve apprenticed for years to become expert at what they do. In fact, the profit margins at Savile Row tailors are surprisingly small, and many have closed or left the Row. It takes clear thinking to run a traditional tailor in the modern age. Enter Patrick Grant of Norton & Sons. Grant purchased the venerable tailor (established 1821), in 2006, while still in his thirties. The Norton space at 16 Savile Row is a classic, but not everybody can be in London for the three requisite fittings. So Grant dispatches his head cutter, David Ward, to the US four times a year. ACL recently met with Mr. Ward in a midtown hotel, where he had taken a suite of rooms to conduct fittings.
You wear a suit in New York and a lot of people will ask you for directions. People trust a man wearing a suit, it is just one of those things. In previous jobs I would wear a suit regularly and it was a matter of choice not necessity. I’m not an attorney in the court room and I don’t manage anyone’s money. And trust me, wearing a suit is much more fun that way. As time went on my interest in workwear waxed and my interest in clothes waned. As fall rears its head (more and more by the day here in New York), my thoughts shift back to suits and trench coats. The below is my interpretation of what I would be wearing if I was cast as the lead of Get Carter, something bullet proof to bang around London in. A mix of amazing English goods and updated American classics. Throw in an IWC for good luck and we are on our way. The only question is, what car to pair with this look? Well, I’ll leave that for you to discuss in the comments. Maybe something sporty?
I thought it was worth a look back at this fantastic BBC documentary about Savile Row that was originally posted on ACL May 3rd, 2008. How has The Row reacted? Since it has been far too long since I have been in London, I’m curious to hear your thoughts in the comments. Have other High Street retailers moved on to the famed street? How is the economic slowdown impacted the tailors?
Not long ago the BBC presented a facinating three part program on the world of Savile Row. In the first installment the English bespoke world is under threat from the American “High Street” brand Abercrombie & Fitch. Having previously worked on the public relations team at Abercrombie & Fitch, I am particularly familiar with the company. It is a very strategic and well run organization. A&F is a company where every decision is well thought out and purposeful, especially when concerning the brand image. I have to give credit where credit is due — the company’s branding and execution is on point with any of the luxury goods companies out there. That said, A&F’s decision to open on Savile Row while great for branding and image purposes, is painful to see and embarrassing to watch, especially as an American. The affect of mass market retailers on the institution (albeit a privileged one) of Savile Row, could prove to be disastrous. Though I suppose only time will tell.
I can’t seem to find the other two episodes…if anyone can locate them I will add to the post.
Edwardians, or “Teddy Boys” as they became known, are an English youth subculture that created a distinctive style by wearing clothes inspired by the Edwardian period that the tailors of Savile Row attempted to reintroduce after world war two. The term “Teddy Boy” came about as a result of a newspaper headline that shortened Edward to Teddy and subsequently to Teddy Boy. Below are a series of Teddy Boy photos from photographer Ben Watts that I find particularly interesting. The Teddy Boy subculture is a very unique phenomenon, similar in idea to the “rock and roll” revolution in America in the 1950s.
It seems the good people at Norton & Sons are not content with simply running one of the most respected labels in the world. Patrick Grant, the man who resurrected Norton & Sons, emailed this weekend to inform me of the imminent relaunch of the storied E. Tautz house as a ready-to-wear collection. The as yet to be seen collection (by me anyway, buyers and press got the first look this past week in Paris) of men’s clothing and accessories will launch in better stores this coming fall. The range will also be on preview for press and buyers during New York fashion week, so I hope to do a follow-up post once images of the collection are released. It is also worth pointing out that Mr. Grant and co. went to great lengths to produce the line domestically in Britain. As you know, local manufacturing is something we love here at ACL. A brief history of E. Tautz after the jump. The official Tautz site, which is worth a look, can be seen here.
Who says you can’t afford anything from a Savile Row tailor. The much admired tailor Norton & Sons have recently released their Trotters Bag. Per the company website. “The Trotter, the most junior rank on Savile Row, trots between cutting rooms and workrooms, carrying bundles of cloth and trimmings to the sewing tailors and returning with sewn garments. At Norton & Sons our trotters use a traditional stout canvas Trotters Bag.”
I don’t think it gets more insider than to own one of these bags, although I would much prefer to show my rank with a Norton & Sons suit.