Monday, 26 July 2010

Ede & Ravenscroft

Ede & Ravenscroft have had a sale on and I couldn't resist the cream pinpoint shirt reduced to £25. Even at full retail price, Ede & Ravenscroft's shirts are a good deal cheaper than the top end Jermyn Street shirt-makers like New & Lingwood. Perhaps that reflects the fact that E&R are best-known for providing form dress and, in particular, fulfilling the slightly unusual clothing requirements of lawyers, academics and the Peerage.

Still, their shirts are a beautiful step up from TM Lewin or Hawes & Curtis, my usual suppliers. Pinpoint is a tight Oxford weave which creates a lovely rich fabric with a slight lustre and, especially in this summery cream colour, looks great with a blue blazer and cotton trousers.

Aside from shirts and, of course, court dress, Ede & Ravenscroft do a nice range of suits, waistcoats and accessories. Regular readers will recall that my white evening waistcoat came from there, and they stock a decent selection of the sort of clothes that are hard to get elsewhere: tunic shirts, a variety of collars, brown foldable trilbies, and various other well-made and not-unreasonably price odds-and ends.

I must remember to shop there more often. Especially since I have noticed that their tailored shirts start from just £125, and that they have no minimum order.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Book Review: Bespoke - Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed

The majority of tailoring and style books seem best suited, as I usually observe when reviewing them, to the coffee-table. Full of pretty pictures, but short on really engaging content, they seem to lack a clear purpose.

'Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed' suffers from no such problem. Entirely free of pictures it is, instead, a genuinely fascinating and entirely gripping story. It is the remarkable autobiography of Richard Anderson, who started a gruelling Huntsman apprenticeship at seventeen and went on to become head cutter and then to found his own firm, Richard Anderson Ltd. at 13 Savile Row.

Mr Anderson's story is certainly interesting enough in itself, and his depictions of the many funny, horrible, tragic and simply mad characters on Savile Row, tailors and customers alike, are endlessly entertaining. However, he makes the sensible choice to intersperse his story with the sort of detailed descriptions of bespoke tailoring technique, process, protocol and culture that absolutely fascinate me. Few other authors touch on this for the simple reason that, however much they might like suits, they do not have Mr Anderson's life-long history on Savile Row.

Although the title might suggest a detailed examination of Savile Row itself, Anderson, perhaps wisely, restricts himself to his own personal experience, with the result that the focus is almost entirely upon Huntsman and then on Richard Anderson Ltd. The title's use of the tailoring term 'ripped and smoothed' is perhaps particularly appropriate for Mr Anderson's treatment of Huntsman, which is fairly thoroughly ripped apart for its management under Don Bargeman and Trevor Swift. Regardless, in both positive and negative aspects, the book gives an almost unique view behind the calm and traditional facade of Savile Row, and for that alone it is very well worth a read.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Rowing Blazers

I had a rowing blazer made for me in club colours by Tom Brown Tailors a few years ago. It's a decent made-to-measure, with just two fittings and seems to be largely machine stitched. Nevertheless it is, as you would expect from a tailor with such a good reputation, very nicely made. (Apart from the fact that second colour is not really correct, that is. Tom Brown always seem to make them this way. Perhaps they can't find any properly maroon cloth.)

Rowing blazers are a bit unusual. Typically they are fairly unstructured, with an absolute minimum of canvassing, and no chest piece. Mine has a three-roll-two button stance, which is best for the sort of soft, casual, look that is normal for this sort of blazer. The informal style is added to by having large patch pockets (the side ones on mine are about the right size for carrying a bottle of champagne. I'm just saying.) and just two cuff buttons. Most unusually of all, all of the blazers I've seen are, like mine, ventless. This strikes me as odd because it's not a particularly casual or informal style, as having a single vent might be. If anything, it is a rather formal cut that would normally only be seen on dinner jackets and, even then, only rarely these days. On a structured jacket this can give a very nice slim appearance, although on the softer rowing blazer it's less obvious. I still haven't quite worked out the reason for the lack of vents, whether it is simply a relic of when blazers were knocked up quickly from bits of cloth in the club colours, and anything that added to the tailoring work was avoided, or whether it is just to avoid breaking up the stripes that are common on rowing blazers.

A rowing blazer like this is very rarely suitable anymore, if it ever was. The material is far too heavy for it actually to be a comfortable option on a summers day, even if it was appropriate, so it is restricted to relatively formal summer sporting events. A more generic stripy blazer in a slightly lighter-weight wool might have more general use, but then that would take half the fun out of it...

Thursday, 1 July 2010


An almost inviolable rule of dressing is that if an item of clothing is designed to be worn to play sport, then it ought only be worn to play that sport. Of course, clothes do cross the divide eventually - polo shirts being a notable example, but they no longer bear much relation to real sportswear. Actually wearing items of clothing that would not look out of place on a sports field is rarely a good idea. Of course, this is particularly relevant at the moment because the streets are flooded with people wearing football shirts. More fool them, if you ask me, but its no skin off my nose.

Still, it did remind me that there is one item of clothing that still maintains a reasonably strong sporting link and which, nevertheless, I happen to think looks great as an item of casual-wear.

The cricket jumper is, of course, just a certain style of cable-knit v-neck, and rarely worn on the cricket pitch these days, so perhaps it too has made the leap to being just casual wear. Still, I think part of its appeal is that it retains an association with sport, and especially relaxed summer sports, that makes it the perfect jumper to throw on as the sun goes down on a summer evening with jeans, chinos, cotton ducks or linen trousers.

Hackett do a nice one, although the different coloured bands strike me as a bit odd and, in any case, I prefer sleeveless cricket jumpers. Ralph Lauren also almost certainly do them, although the one on their website is a rather non-traditional style. Still, if you're looking for a more reasonably-priced option, then you could do a lot worse than the Help for Heroes one. Traditional, with a club-style colour scheme that you're perfectly entitled to, and the money is for an excellent cause too.