Friday, 23 August 2013

Style Icon: Bill Nighy

An exciting landmark for the St James Style blog as we requested our first ever celebrity interview yesterday and were unceremoniously turned down. To be fair, I didn't expect much else but as someone in my life probably once told me "it can't hurt to ask". I thought of asking because I've only ever seen Bill Nighy in person twice and both times were on Savile Row. That made me wonder who his tailor is and led to a bit of Googling which resulted in the discovery that, off-screen, he is a man of considerable personal taste and style with some very interesting opinions on clothes. Famously, he owns dozens of bespoke suits but (equally famously) they are all navy blue, and that is almost exclusively what he wears.

I'd have loved to interview him, of course, but I can't really blame his agents for saying no. Anyway there's more than enough material out there for me to do a Johann Hari and just acquire quotes from elsewhere and pretend he said them to me...

I wouldn't do that though.

This interview with him on Mr Porter (oh, so they can get an interview, can they?) is interesting and I love the Jarvis Crocker quote which I'd not heard before. I wish, though, that I could have asked why he prefers single vented suits. These are less formal, but arguably less fussy and that seems to be what he prefers, with a 'simple' suit - two piece, 'not particularly styled', 'not a waisted jacket' and so forth. I can't say I particularly agree with all of his choices but that's not the point - I admire the fact that he knows what he likes and cares about how he dresses; that's what matters (and what people online so often forget in their search for some kind of objective standard of dress). As he himself points out in the interview, he doesn't compromise and I admire that too. No matter how much you like suits, I think it takes confidence to continue to turn up to Chamonix 'looking like the Blues Brothers' - it's so easy to dress down when you know that that's what everyone else will be doing, and Mr Nighy's unswerving commitment to wearing what he likes and knows he looks good in is a model for all men.

When I have seen him wearing suits of his own they're undeniably very elegant, and clearly bespoke - in one shot that comes pretty high in a Google image search the hand-stitched buttonhole is especially obvious. It goes to show that even with a suit that is 'not too styled' and without a waisted jacket bespoke makes an enormous difference. Actually, given his preference for this sort of thing and the search he mentions for a structured but softer shoulder, going bespoke is arguably more important. And, of course, as he says - it's desperately difficult to get trouser lengths right (and they must be right) without a really good tailor. Even good off-the-peg shops that sell unfinished trousers and pin them for you are going for a rough approximation, that you are then expected to assess and approve, and then hope that it's achieved when the trousers are hemmed. When you consider that with bespoke it can take comprehensive measurements and two or more fittings to get the trousers right, you'll see how inadequate that approach really is.

Anyway, despite all that, I didn't actually ever find out who his tailor is. In the Mr Porter piece he is wearing a Richard James suit but I imagine that was supplied by the stylist. He does mention John Pearse, a 'tailor to the stars' and a Daily Mail article (not linked - I don't link to the Daily Mail) mentions Dunhill, which offers a limited (but serious) bespoke service in a handful of its big stores. The only thing is, neither of those are based on Savile Row so that doesn't get me any closer to who he was visiting there. Or perhaps he just lives nearby, and likes wondering through!

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