Of the tailors I have interviewed recently in my Style and the Tailor series, several have mentioned that they wear John Smedley knitwear at the weekend. There is a reason for this.

Smedley rightly calls itself ‘tailored’ knitwear. It is fully fashioned, rather than being made of pieces that are cut and sewn together, which creates a much smoother and more ergonomic fit. You can see that in the shoulder seam of Smedley knits: its backward-sloping angle can only be achieved on fully fashioned knitwear, and it vastly improves the fit. Most tailoring, particularly that which prioritises comfort (such as Anderson & Sheppard) has a similar seam.


Classic items like the Dorset long-sleeved polo shirt have a much higher collar, making them suitable to wear under a jacket. Most polo-shirt collars are too small, and disappear under the jacket’s collar. Not a flattering look. The Dorset also has a turn-back cuff, which is much dressier, and like much of the Smedley collection is knitted in 30-gauge merino wool, making it easily light enough to wear under tailoring.


Much high-end knitwear is fully fashioned. But it doesn’t have these additional, dressy aspects, and it isn’t all made in the UK by a company that’s been making the same way for 230 years. Plus I don’t know anyone (other than Tom Ford) that makes fully fashioned cotton polo shirts.


Perhaps most importantly, the Classics collection doesn’t change. The body shape is the same across all the models – only the neckline varies. And since two years’ ago, nothing has been tweaked from season to season. That’s pretty rare these days.


More detail on Smedley models, including a feature on the factory, soon. 

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Adrian

Simon,
Thanks for this post. i have been a fan of Smedley for years. Their knitwear fits and looks great. it also lasts a very long time if washed with care. Most important for me is the fact the product is made in Derbyshire. a true UK gem.
Their webiste has a chat facility where you can ask any questions about the range and is most helpful.
Their products for me are very versitle and can be worn with a range of outfits.
Thanks again for the post and look forward to hearing about your factory visit.
Adrian

dsc

Simon,

with the collection being RTW, surely the fit depends mostly on whether you fit the human body ‘model’ on which the garment was based on. I’ve tried JS on numerous occasions and I find it a rather strange fit, baggy where it’s not needed and too small where it should be more roomy.

Regards,
Tom

dsc

I’ve tried the slim fits Simon, not impressed, strangely long sleeves and body, even on me and I’m a 6’5″. The head opening on the other hand was like something taken out of an XXS t-shirt, couldn’t get my head through a crew neck! Can’t do anything with the regulars as they fit like a bag. Not sure if these problems had anything to do with the fact that I’ve tried items from the official JS Outlet (much reduced price)

The above is why I’m surprised to read about good fit from JS.

Regards,
Tom

Anonymous

John Smedley was great 20 years ago. Not anymore. I gave up on them years ago. The quality has decreased and the price has increased. Uniqlo is so much better. I would choose a Uniqlo over a John Smedley any day even though they cost a fraction of what you pay for a John Smedley.

Piyu

you must be overstating it when things just fall apart – maybe in Chinua Achebe’s world but in today’s textile world, the difference between mid range and high end is subtle and not the big difference people imagine. I bought two Smedley sea island cotton polo tees mainly because of the sea island factor. The fit is nice but the quality of cotton cannot compare with a brand like Gran Sasso. To me, personally John Smedley like Sunspel is overrated. Things certainly do not fall apart for a Uniqlo tee – they are probably the best price to quality ratio.

Anonymous

I haven’t bought anything from John Smedley the last 10 years as I gave up on them after too many sweaters fell apart after minimal use. Perhaps they are better now.
I do have aspirations about quality and Uniqlo have proven themselves to be the best quality in my experience. Therefore I buy Uniqlo.

Anonymous

I don’t know about their sweaters, but I must admit that I too have good experience with some of the basic stuff from Uniqlo. I first tried the brand by chance, when I’d forgotten to pack sox while travelling to the UK (I live in Denmark, no Uniqlo). Especially sox are extremely impressive – they maintain their quality far beyond any other brand I’ve ever tried, including rather expensive brands. They are not knee lenght, but about mid calf, which is o.k for me.

Anonymous

If I had a coat of arms, a black smedley polo shirt would be one of the pictures on it. I’ve been wearing the same one I bought when I was 16 (almost 20yrs ago now) from Liberty’s in london. I love the cloth, fit, lack of branding, versatility of it and also appreciate that they don’t alter their designs. Thank you for giving this outstanding company some much deserved attention – Here’s to another 230 yrs!

Anonymous

I recently made my first purchase from this company, a charcoal merino crew neck sweater. It has quickly become my favorite sweater. The fit is beautifully slim, no excess baginess. The wrists (I am slim and also have fairly skinny wrists) are slim enough and stick to my natura wrist very nicely, without drooping like the knitwear of so many other brands (why do they assume that men who are that slim will have wrists that thick?)

Another great feature is the exposed seam on the wrists, indicating that the cuff is meant to be turned back. The material is sufficiently thin that you don’t notice, but the sleeves are the perfect length.

One question: what does ‘fully fashioned’ mean, as opposed to being cut and sewn?

Martijn Stolze

Ok, so I wondered the same thing. I recently brought a few Smedley knits. I tried to understand fully fashioned. What makes it better? Why does knitting it in that shape make it better than knitting a rectangle and then cutting it?

Frank

I am astonished that so many have had bad experiences. Smedley was a revelation for me, both as far as quality and fit is concerned. I own both merino and cotton versions, I wash them by hand. Their roll necks are classics. Although I am tall and lean and own a slim fit roll neck I much more prefer the classic fit. It just feels better. So perhaps knitwear is a more difficult field than one would think?

William

maybe not knitwear but i thought orlebar brown makes tailored polos?

Anonymous

Pique looks fine under a jacket.

Anonymous

I like the look but am worried about sleeve length. I’m a 42, but have 36.5 length arms. Sizing information on website insufficient. Please advise.

Anonymous

Well said. Thank you.

Anonymous

Simon
I am so pleased to see that a great deal of people out there feel as i do about knitwear. Overpriced, over advertised and in the case of the better makes, over-sized.
Why they think everyone is made to be on a catwalk is beyond me. The sleeves are always too long as is the body length regardless of what size i buy (in particular j Smedley). They are so bad that on the odd occasion i have been known to purchase ladies knitwear so i can get the right size and believe me, my body is not the unusual!

I have a great friend in the fashion industry who has worked for the top names (Liberty, Dunhill, Burberry, Burlington Arcade ‘specialists’ etc) and although she agrees that quality does differ amongst manufacturers, the cost production and raw materials at the ‘lower top end’ are no different to the ‘cheaper end’. She buys her jumpers and her husbands in Uniglo, T K Max etc. After all they soon pill and look a mess by which time you are tied of them anyway – and at the lower price end – they simply go in the bin.
I say spend your money on the items that last and buy cheaper jumpers.
As succinctly put recently in an interview by a very wealthy icon recently – the problem with quality is that it is overpriced for what you get.
Regards
Bradley

Anonymous

She buys her husbands in Uniqlo andd TK Maxx? Crikey.

Will

Makes sense when you think about it. That way she’ll have more money to spend on the expensive items for herself. Do your own shopping… 🙂

Alex Chan

Bought a JS after seeing a documentary by Patrick Grant and subsequently bought another after the Skyfall film. Never looked back since. Quality is amazing.

On a side note Simon, loved your recommendation on Incotex. Lovely trousers, the fabric and cut is something to behold. Although, I know you are not a fan of RTW clothing, but, due to time constraints, I have no other option. What would your recommendation on a sports jacket? Its my first one, what fabric, colour or brand would you recommend? I need it for a business trip next week. My tailor would not be able to knock one up between now and when I fly.

Anonymous

What is the name of the style pictured with the buttons in pairs?

Anonymous

John Smedley is amazing but don’t tell everyone. I’ve just purchased several new pieces and have lots that are 10, 15 years old. I would say the quality has never faltered. I have a grey crew neck that I wear for walking, gardening, play fights with my Labrador…and it looks smarter than other knitwear that I bought last autumn! If they ever offshored the production however, I don’t think it would have the same appeal for me.

Mike

Slim fit is not available anymore.

Has slim fit recently been replaced by Italian fit?

Mike

Yesterday John Smedley let me know there are no slim fitting models at this moment.

Why would a brand choose to stop producing slim fitting clothes?

Mike

Mr Porter sells John Smedley items in a slim fit. Is it made specifically for Mr Porter or is it the new Italian fit?

Mike

Simon, are there any alternatives for a slim fit?

I am looking for a similar look, quality and price point. Umbria Verde makes knitwear in a similar style but does not sell directly to customers…

dsc

Curious if anyone here can do a comparison between JS from say 10 years ago and what they sell now? I’ve read in a few places that the quality isn’t what it used to be, but I can’t comment on this myself as I only own pieces manufactured in the last 6 or so years.

My second question is related to JSs sea island cotton garments – are these simply really delicate and meant to be given much attention in terms of care? I’ve recently bought some sea island cotton polos and sweaters from JS and they stretch like crazy, I get bags around my elbows after bending my arms once and the cuffs go all concertina on me with the slightest of stretch. Perhaps this is what I should expect when purchasing things on the cheap from their official outlet? I do have an older long sleeve polo in island cotton and that’s a complete opposite to the softness of the sweaters, it’s almost like tin foil even straight out of a wash, with cuffs hard as cardboard even though I always wash it as delicates at 30degC.

Regards,
T.

Marc

I recently purchased several Smedley sweaters, the Claygate, Tapton and Shipton, and I’m underwhelmed with their over-priced and overrated apparel, living off their laurels. I returned everything and to make matters worse, I incurred hundreds of dollars in international shipping costs as Smedley does not pay those costs even when they are at fault, as in my case.

The Claygate is misleadingly described on the Smedley website as a “substantial jacket” when in fact it is nothing more than a thin, even flimsy, sweater. So thin, in fact, that when held up against the light, you can see right through it. Calling it a substantial jacket and charging $345 for it is unconscionable.

The Tapton and Shipton are cut very short and Smedley does not say so on their Website, although, I now see others elsewhere pointing this out. I’m 6’2” in height and the Tapton and Shipton barely cover my belt and do not cover my lower back.

In contrast, a Sunspel shirt I also purchased has a proper length, 2+ inches longer than the Smedley items. The Sunspel shirt also feels and looks more substantial, for a similar price.

I’m particularly unimpressed with the Smedley Shipton sweaters which look, feel and fit like children’s products. Ridiculously over-priced at $240. Some may call them “finely made” but I call them flimsy.

I’m totally unimpressed with John Smedley products and customer service.

Paul

Simon, if you were to recommend one Smedley polo, which would it be? I’m considering Dorset, or Adrian, is there something else? Maybe black, or charcoal? It would be used for just about anything I can get away with, including wearing under sportcoats.

Paul

Thank you Simon for the quick and super helpful advice on the color.

Anonymous

Hi Simon I am looking to order a navy crew neck Merino jumper/pullover for the pending Australian (mild) winter. In terms of quality is there much difference between:
Berk Superfine Geelong Crew Neck or a John Smedley Crew neck? The Berk is slightly cheaper at present. Is their default cut usually traditional/looser or slim/Italian fit?

Would appreciate your thoughts and recommendations.

Thank You

Anonymous

Sorry Simon I forgot to ask how do you rate WILLIAM LOCKIE
Gordon 1 Ply Geelong Crew Neck in terms of quality compared to John Smedley and Berk’s Merino? William Lockie appears to be at a lower price point that these other two.

Many Thanks.

Anonymous

Thank You