Anderson & Sheppard Coat Part III
The past couple of weeks, I’ve taken you on a bit of a magical mystery tour through the world of Savile Row Bespoke with particular emphasis upon the world beating collective talents at Anderson & Sheppard.
It might not feel like it at the minute, in fact yesterday felt like a subdued April Fool’s day given the turmoil that the UK is going through at present, but we have many wonderful industries to be proud of.
Industries which are progressive.
Industries which are world leading in their teaching and investment in future generations.
Industries which, regardless of what the immediate future holds, will survive and prosper in the long run.
Whilst perhaps one of the most niche of these industries, I believe that bespoke tailoring and Savile Row is a shining example of this.
In Part 3 a little bit more about the coat itself…
If you ever make the mistake of telling someone that you are planning on doing up a house, you’ll get under breath mutterings about “stress”, “just don’t”, “the cons out weighing the pros”, “stress”, “just farrow and ball it and get new curtains”, “stress”, “what’s the point”, “life’s too short”, “stress”, “mate"“.
Invariably these come from those that haven’t nor ever would - the easy life crew.
Those that have, tend to stay quiet, for no other reason than It’s a closely guarded secret about how they made it through.
I know this from experience as, for a large chunk of last year and a large chunk of the year behind, I did up a house.
Funny old place: mix of 18th Century Coach House, and well not a clue about the rest. Could be 70s, could be 30s.
Also ‘did up’ is probably the wrong phrase. Complete internal transformation is slightly better, and as for the singular ‘I’ well the professionals wouldn’t allow me anywhere near it.
What was unlovable, is now home.
Characterful, rather than a crime against housing and as far removed from identikit living as is thankfully possible.
Because, through careful selection of materials and the skill, craft and expertise of our builders, it has been transformed.
One of my favourite things is when people walk in through the front door and what they expected isn’t what they see. Because frankly it’s got a face/exterior, that even a mother would question, although one now licked by Farrow & Ball pink ground.
The process was one of the most fascinating and pride filled experiences of my life. One in which I was on a daily basis amazed by the talent and work of the people on site.
That ability to take something existing, and whilst keeping most of its base structure, change it internally and externally entirely into something else is a true skill.
One which takes not only initial talent but long term dedication and frankly passion.
And as March 17th’s drink of choice suggests, “good things come to those who...”.
It’s also addictive. Discussions about the next project, building something and the rest.
Now that the shock of the new has worn off, the space become accustomed to and the process is but a memory, what makes me smile are the little details. The oddities, the quirks alongside the way the light interacts with the space as the day progresses and how the house has settled, moulding itself to your way of life.
All things inherent in the best bespoke tailoring.
Truly new is always shocking and occasionally truly great, but in reality, great can take some time. What is new may become great, although it’s newness may have been all it ever had.
Then again, just because something is old or perceived by the mainstream to be classic, doesn’t mean it is great. That shock has to remain and although softened by time, it’s there bubbling away.
Ok. Got it?
But, there’s nothing shocking about a two button sports coat. I mean come on. It’s old man gear. Get with the times. Embrace the new. Get shocking. Live a little.
Yeah. You’re wrong.
How about embracing something truly great? That’s surely shocking?
And, you might chortle, but there is something truly great about this two button sports coat.
It runs counter to everything we are told that we must want and desire. It takes time to make, is utterly season-less, exceptionally practical and should last forever, oh and will never be of the moment and ‘on trend’.
Like the house, whilst the process was fascinating and the ability of those who made it is truly mind blowing, it’s the way it has settled which delights. Quirks and all.
Taking something fairly odd - hello – and through careful choice of materials mixed with talent, skill, dedication and hard work managing to alter its appearance, creating something which isn’t just shocking in its newness but in its ability to stand the test of time, to avoid the mainstream and become its own…
There’s also shock in the subtlety. When I described the cloth to loved ones, those that cannot hide their true opinion, I was nearly convinced I’d made a mistake. “Cliché” and “pastiche” and “provincial lads out on a mad one” were some of the words used.
I knew they were wrong though. ‘Field’ by Woven in the Bone is brilliant. Ever changing countryside and urban greens laced through with gamey brown blood. “Boom, Boom”, Basil Brush, this is not. The British countryside in three seasons, meets the park, meets the city, driven and on foot.
At 14oz, it’s tough, breathable, warm but not cloying, and soft enough to be – sorry- used to sit on the floor, thrown in car, and in that palette worn everywhere and in pretty much all weathers.
From the rain, through to walking the dogs, popping the bins out in sweatpants, over a sweatshirt to grab the paper and milk in the morning.
And more conventionally, with a sweater and shirt underneath, or as a layer between an overcoat, and simply over a denim shirt.
The cloth really is worth close inspection if ever on Old Burlington Street. But it’s the way that the coat uses the cloth which sets it apart.
During my first fitting Danny Hall, my magician of a tailor, a man capable of correcting and perfecting all my genetic flaws, well at least until I slip the coat off, told me that because of the natural movement in the cloth, it was more interesting to work with, provided slightly more of a challenge but one which was worthwhile.
Pattern matching is Savile Row, but given the above and the pattern throughout the cloth, this is a masterpiece. Lines run into each other, meeting perfectly, and mystically become straight and wavy where needed.
It’s a subtle and intensely satisfactory optical illusion. One which, once experienced, you can’t help but spot the failings in the other garments around you.
In fact that’s the problem and the blessing. Everything makes such sense that it’s hard to go back to anything else.
The drape cut envelopes and protects, whilst feeling almost weightless, invisible.
People had asked whether I’d noticed the extra cloth across the chest.
Yes & no. It’s extraordinary how much extra movement you have, you want to put your arm above chest height, easy. Good luck doing that in anything else.
For the aesthete, it’s far more pleasing. Done up or undone, it draws the confused eyes of sausage skin tight blazer wearers, those coats that they forgot to add the fabric across bum to - they must have forgotten surely?
At no point does it feel big. This isn’t Rodney in Del Boy’s knock off, has to be pulled from behind, camel hair coat. Nor does it feel what you might call roomy. Just right. Always just right.
The placement and softness of the pockets, the way they function, the ever so slight perfect flicked curve – in a past life I made some shirts in the UK and spent months going slightly mad playing with and attempting to perfect the curve of a collar so I know how difficult that is to get right.
“Right”, that’s the word. No simpler, nor better explanation.
Notches in lapel manage to be sharp and soft, mirroring the soft shoulder.
A shoulder and arm hole that makes you wonder, why anyone would cut, construct and pad any other way?
Because the supposed sharpness of some other’s cut and reliance on padding for shape is on the whole bourgeois and naff. The only sharpness comes from within, from ease of movement and self confidence.
Even the things you’ll never see are proper, the angle of thread to hold anything in buttonhole – don’t get me started on the button holes themselves, I don’t understand how they are seductive but they are - the lining with it’s movement adds another level of comfort.
The comfort thing we’ve discussed at length in Parts 1 & 2 but this is without doubt the most comfortable item of clothing I own.
Only when you try on and wear a finished bespoke garment do you truly understand the fuss. The rush, the instant standing significantly taller, significantly thinner. Nothing pulls. Nothing is annoying. Everything working together perfectly.
What they don’t tell you is how good it’ll make you feel. This sounds daft in my head, perhaps a step too far, but wearing this makes me feel sexy. I never expected that. The taller, thinner, I half expected, but not that.
And in a world where we are increasingly bombarded with identikit visions of perfection, all of which designed for others, why not enter into a world where things are designed just for you?
That said, once you start…