David Gale Hilditch & Key2

 
My first ever shirt cutter, David Gale (above), moved from Turnbull & Asser to Hilditch & Key recently. It’s one more sign that things are going in the right direction at Hilditch.

First was Steven Miller taking over the running of the brand, having moved from Turnbull & Asser itself. Then there was the news that Bate’s hats, which lost its own shopfront in 2009, was to be moved into the smaller of the two Hilditch shops (having two never made much sense), giving it a window on Jermyn Street once again. 
 

David Gale Hilditch and Key

 
Then finally, David’s move away from T&A. David made my first bespoke shirts, covered here on Permanent Style when it was still rather new, back in 2009. And although I’ve since changed my taste in shirts – preferring the softer and more hand-worked Italian makers – I’m still a big fan of David himself. The fit on those first shirts was as good as any I’ve had since. 

As readers have pointed out, these changes do mean that prices have gone up at Hilditch. But to a certain extent that’s what we pay for a new, much nicer shop, for a new website, for Bate’s at number 37, and for a bigger range of high-quality accessories. Aside from money spent on advertising, I don’t think they are things we can really complain about – at least, not while also bemoaning the death of gentleman’s retailing in the West End.

The bespoke shirt operation now has far more space, and a cutter on site with a view out onto the street. Most of the RTW shirts are made in Scotland, and there are few other interesting projects underway.
 

David Gale Hilditch and Key2

David Gale Hilditch & Key5

 

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Jerry

This might be a good idea for them to refresh the Paris store – all aspects of the store. For those of you who have been there, you will probably understand what I mean.

Frank

I understand Mr. Gale cuts the cloth at Hilditch, but where does the sewing of the bespoke shirts take place? In Scotland too? As far as I have understood, Mr. O’Flynn is the only one in London that still has shirts cut and sewn on the premises, while others like Mr. Lachter, T&A, E.Willis take measurements and do the cutting but have their shirts assembled elsewhere.

Anonymous

Frank Foster is entirely in London.

Anonymous

No. The pattern is drawn up by David Gale on the premises in London, but is then outsourced/offshored to Italy to be cut, made, and trimmed.

FYI, Stephen Lachter does not cut. He takes your measurements, but then outsources the pattern drafting, cutting, and making, to an external workshop which is outside of London.

Correct. The only “true” Westend shirtmakers that remain, if you would like, are Sean O’Flynn and Frank Foster.

Mac

Simon,
I wish David Gale all the best at Hilditch & Key. He has a fine reputation.

I’m not crazy on the store re-design personally. It all feels maybe a bit too Italian and too pristine. Still, good luck to all concerned!

Nick Inkster

I may be proven wrong, but it feels to me that it’s all gone a bit marketing speak……as soon as I see the word “designer” appear on the website to describe a category of shirt, I get a bit nervous.

Omar

That’s where I disagree; as a shirt customer, and quite a few of my current shirts are from H&K, why should I pay for hats and other accessories when I am not interested in them? As a customer I should get value for my shirts, not cross subsidise other less profitable products

rups

Simon, have the ready to wear shirts in H&K actually improved in quality in order to justify the price increase? If so what are the changes to the shirts from before the management change?

I bought some shirts from H&K a year or two ago and haven’t been pleased to be honest. Material is wafer thin, there were multiple loose stiches (not just bad finishing but actual stitching coming apart) on different shirts and the buttons are thin and sharp. They lie at the back of my shirt closet and I prefer to wear all my others compared to them (including naff ones picked up from fenwicks for 25 quid!)

Waistcoat wearer

If I remember correctly, the H&K RTW slim fit shirt does NOT have a gauntlet button. I must contradict such assertions as that of Cole’s that their sleeve design without gauntlet buttons does NOT mean the gauntlet gap opens. Maybe H&K would alter their RTW and add a gauntlet button/buttonhole if requested, for a fee, of course? New & Lingwood RTW have gauntlet buttons, or should, if they don’t forget to sew them. For sure gauntlet buttonholes!

DE

David is very able and has probably forgotten more than most of us will ever know about bespoke shirts! I can’t see anything negative in H&K improving their range of clothing and accessories alongside an improved cut in their ready-to-wear shirts. The new bespoke prices also seem very reasonable.

Howard

Hello Simon,

I was wondering if you know any websites that sell cloth? I have been looking around because I want to get my second bespoke suit but I could not find a page that looked legit.

Best regards,
Howard

Waistcoat wearer

I think H&K and Robert Noble deserve support not just because both are located in the more worker friendly UK, but also deserve praise because their customer service is customer friendly!

Charlie

I purchased some cloth from Robert Noble online… They were exceptionally helpful. I had purchased a readymade jacket, and after tailoring it became my favourite jacket I own. The fabric was by Robert Noble, I contacted them, and they were able to send me samples until we found the exact same cloth. I purchased a few yards, and was then able to have my tailor make a bespoke suit from it. Cannot recommend Robert Noble enough!

Mac

I’m not sure why anyone would want to narrow the available range of cloth options. A tailor would have a large number of cloth bunches from all the main cloth merchants and a few of the smaller ones too. The cloth merchant can advise you on everything apart from how it tailors. I think it’s better to discuss cloth with your tailor. ‘Cut, make and trim’ will rarely save you any money. The cost of a bespoke lies elsewhere.

JJ

Hi Simon. I just bought a pair of navy RL-linen pants. What kind of sports coat goes with navy pants?

Richard

My goodness, but they’ve wacked their RTW prices up, haven’t they? Long time reader, first time commenting, Simon. It’s you I have to thank- plus Russell- for my being the happy wearer of several Graham Browne suits

S

Simon,

Who is taking over after David Gale at T&A?

S

Dachshund

It will be interesting to see if the quality of the RTW improves commensurately with the prices. Like rups, I’ve been pretty unimpressed in the past by their RTW offering. Inconsistent sleeve lengths, cloth didn’t last very long, etc., but they were at the cheaper end of Jermyn St (if you ignore the likes of Lewin). I quite liked the smaller of the two shops, which was much friendlier than the rather cold reception one got at the larger store. In the end I gave up as on balance they weren’t good value (save that I still bought boxers in the sale, as they were good and decent value). Then a sudden and massive price hike and a flashier website. They would have to improve by a quantum leap to justify it. I make no comment on the bespoke offering as I haven’t tried it.

Gil

Not so long ago (2012) the standard price for a ready-to-wear shirt was £90. By the end of 2014 they increased the price to £155…
Furthermore, the cuffs frays faster than on my Turnbull & Asser shirts (too expensive as well now). Two overpriced brands even if their shirts are nice.
Currently the market supplies RTW as well as MTM shirts of similar quality for less than that. I will pass.

rups

of course H&K were one of the Jermyn st shirt makers who did 90% of their business in their sales … so nobody really paid more than 60 quid or so for one of their shirts. still this was overpriced for what you actually got .. which was a poorly constructed blousy shirt made of the thinnest cotton imaginable, just terrible stuff. cant believe they didn’t go bust .. in fact they operated two shops in this manner (one of which is now bates). Turnbull shirts are actually much better but have been far too expensive for a long time now. Budd have an old world charm, but again similar expensive prices and they carry a ridiculously small inventory .. have few options in terms of style and colour and never have your size when you want it. its no wonder that the English shirt retailers are finished with this sort of business model. The only guys you really see going into these places are fat sweaty under the armpit English men who are 50+ and don’t know any better .. or else young wannabe hotshots who think they are buying into tradition … oh dear!

Mac

That’s not very friendly, Rups. ‘Fat sweaty 50+ Englishmen’? I find that comment distasteful. Those English shirtmakers that you also denigrate have been in business since long before you and I were born. They must be doing something right, whether it’s to your taste or not.

Most clients who wear bespoke Savile Row suits don’t have their shirts made. They probably buy RTW ones in Jermyn Street. Disappointing, yes, but most wealthy Savile Row clients are not dandies who spend all day preening themselves in the mirror. Clothes are not their priority. Their work is. That’s why they’re wealthy. There are some clients who do dress very well, of course. Thank God.

What’s the alternative to Jermyn St for smart formal RTW shirts? Designer brands would be more still more expensive and too fashion-led. High St would be cheap, badly cut rubbish. Some Savile Row shops do RTW shirts. Other than that, I’m struggling to think of anyone.

rups

Well, I agree the premises and name of the English shirt makers have been in effect long before we were born, however, the quality and manufacture of products isn’t nearly the same as even a decade or two let alone going back further than this! I don’t see the point of heritage if the product they sell today is nothing like the one their heritage was built on in the first place. I haven’t opened up their books but looking at the amount of traffic and the constant discount sales on the windows of the Jermyn St shirt makers tells me they are NOT doing much right. They change hands frequently and I suspect profitability is low.

Im not sure Savile Row clients are wealthy because of their dedication to their work 🙂 If you sit around for a while in the front room of a tailoring house on the row you will find many (if not most) of them are part of the international plutocracy i.e. friends and (extended) family of crooks in various regimes … also, you get your share of finance high rollers and lets not forget the American big (net worth as well as girth) businessman.

Alternatives are plenty .. which is why nobody apart from the aforementioned sweaty fellows go to Jermyn street anymore 🙂 Firstly you have the giant in the room .. the Americans … Ralph Lauren (as well as Gant, Hilfiger et al) who make a very good shirt, especially a button down. Brooks Brothers still make a very good oxford cloth button down (but try the slim fit which is really a normal fit). Its a well made solid shirt which will last. I don’t like to concede that a big brand does anything well … but all of these makes do a better job than Jermyn street. Then you have Charvet … for the man with a (very) deep pocket. Then you have a plethora of Italian makers like Canali who make a flattering but quite traditional shirt. Lastly there are Scandinavian makers who make a very good shirt, Eton shirts are nicely cut and use good materials. Some of the best shirts I ever wore were bought from a Danish company called Sand. Traditional but beautifully cut in luxurious material which looked like almost like silk.

R

Anonymous

Rups, you should join the diplomatic corps. You have found your metier.

John E.

There is one. Harvie and Hudson. Their regular price is around 60 pounds but for three or in sales it comes down to the mid 40’s. They’re not bad but the quality isn’t what it was when they were made in the UK in the 80’s and 90’s. They do however, have great range of fabrics. I’ve got a couple I purchased in the late 80’s and they are pretty good.

John E.

Really? Of course huge girth, sweaty Americans are an extinct species in the RL and Brooks Brothers stores on Madison. They’re full of slim runway male models. No room for ugly Americans at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone doesn’t bring an action for discrimination against the fat and sweaty. And you’re holding up BB’s shirts as models of excellence relative to the custom made available from Hilditch or Harvie, ? I can see you’re obviously a person of distinctive judgment.

John E.

@rups

Where do you get your shirts? Marks and Sparks?

David Royce

Most of the ready-to-wear shirts are actually made in Pakistan. I have the factory info if you want it.

Christo

Jermyn Street really needs a mid-range brand around £40 a shirt.

Lewins and Tyrwhitt used to be very good but have lost all fabric quality to undercut each other. My 10 year old shirts are vastly superior to those I bought last year to replace worn out favourites. I admire T&A and H&K and genuinely wish them success, but I can’t help wondering who can afford these prices for a RTW shirt? They are now well out reach for me, as much as I admire the cut of their collars.

The bottom of the street has fallen too far, and the top is now out of reach.

Graham

Not to be pedantic, but it’s Bates and not Bate’s.

Hazen P.

These comments are hysterical; from the cotton being too thin to empirical studies on whose cuffs fray first. Get serious. RTW T&A and H&K have used almost identical 2 ply poplin for years. H&K has always had slightly more attentive construction (single needle, matching stripes, etc).

Hilditch and Key

Interest article and interesting exchange of point of views….
I have been a client of Hilditch and Key since 25 years (my father since longer), and of Turnbull and Asser since 10 years…and pre-H&K refurbishment and new management the way that I was saw Jermyn Street was pretty much the following:
1/ One group where I would not really buy the shirts due to the quality: TM Lewin, Charles Tyrwhitt etc
2/ Niche players: Robert Emmett, Emma Wills, New and Lingwood etc
3/ The Global Luxury groups: Hackett, Thomas Pink etc
4/ The three classic, well know brands (and privately owned brands) who specialises in shirts: Harvie & Hudson, H&K, and Turnbull (only discussing here the RTW lines). It seemed to me that H&H had a shirt priced between 45-69 GBP, H&K between 85 and 125 GBP, and Turbull at 135 and above….
I personally find that Turnbull’s prices have become ridiculous with shirts starting at 165-175 GBP. I have told them that their shirts are now an item of luxury and not an item that you quickly buy while walking around shopping in London on a Saturday….At those prices you really think twice…
Hilditch had a great shirt, well priced, great sales, maybe stores that needed a new look and feel but now what a disappointment….
Why on earth do they need to sell shirts at 155 GBP? Why on earth do they need to change the fit and make all shirts slim fit shirts, why on earth do they need to sell clothes? I hardly see anyone in that store and most people that I know who were loyal customers have stopped buying shirts there….
I recently purchased a formal shirt at Harvie and Hudson and I have to say that for 69GBP it is an amazing shirt….and for the Hildtch pricing I rather walk into Turnbull and get that quality. But I have to admit Hilditch has a great cutaway collar and a great classic collar….I agree with some of the above comments…RL makes great shirts and very well priced…BB too…and I am not ready to pay 300 EUR and more for an Italian made shirt….I feel that with the changes at Hilditch Jermyn Street has lost a house who was producing a great product at an acceptable price, and also feel that with these changes that business must not be doing too well….

David Waddington

Well, I might have written (most of) the above response myself:
1. Lewins, Tyrwhitts. Cut price, skimped material, unpleasnt to wear as a result.
2. Emma Willis – not bad in RTW. I hear her bespoke are very good.
3. Hackett and Pink. Global Luxury groups…they wish!
4. H&H, T&A. Nice shirts, fair cut, nice material, quality decent.
Ahhh, but H&K. Great quality; lovely cloths; great service; rubbish prices, but in the sales I could afford them, and I can honestly say that since 1983 virtually all my work shirts have been H&K. When I couldn’t make up a 3 or 6 in the sales I bought some for my son – skinny beanpole, slimfit…! What is more, I still wear nearly all of them – put in elastic knot cufflinks and they are a great scruffs/gardening shirt.
So, for 32 years I have been on the mailing list. I wonder if anyone at H&K has heard of customer research. I didn’t hear from them before they made the changes – how many other customers did?
Now, I think I have bought my last H&K shirt, and I feel very sad about that. It seems like yesterday when I was doing my own building work on a home in Balham, and just dived in to the store in jeans and a very, very disreputable t-shirt, picked up 6 shirts and dived out.
Plus ca change as they say.

David

Hi Simon,

Just visited H&K today for the first time.

Astounded at the appalling service.

Staff with seemingly little else to do (I was the only customer) appeared disinterested.

I left empty handed feeling like my visit had been an inconvenience.

So disappointing.

Mr. Gale was there too but didn’t raise his head from what appeared to be a vital admin task.

Pointless investing in the store refit and revitalising the brand if you then employ staff who lack the basic ability to smile and say hello.

D

David

PS. I have also written to H&K directly today to share my feedback.

Daniel Thomas

Hello Simon, I note that H&K ready to wear prices have eased a little. An increased number of labels no longer sport “Made in Great Britain” which I would have thought was one of their strengths in a street now dominated by shirts made off-shore….

Colin

Just contacted H&K to check bespoke prices: start at £225 a shirt, minimum order of 4 (better than T&A’s 6) Their detailed, helpful reply was received within 90 mins. Shirts are made in UK: cut by David on premises (and I specifically requested to be measured by David) and hand sewn in Scotland. I would argue that £225 for a bespoke shirt made entirely in the UK (with retail premises in central London) is remarkably good value and whilst the minimum order size remains annoying, you are guaranteeing a perfect fit (for you) with this process, since the subsequent shirts are not cut until you have worn and washed the initial shirt at least 3 times so that any adjustments can be made. £225 is comparable to Luca Avitabile (albeit no min order). As a comparison Emma Willis bespoke starts at £330 per shirt. So for those that prefer an English style of shirt (with the option of a higher collar) H&K seem like a good option. Personally, I really don’t mind if the in house service turns out to be a bit stuffy and slow as that’s arguably part of the charm of these old english houses; as long as I get a top quality product then I’ll be happy. I will write further if the above differs from the reality once the shirts have been made.

Boris

These are exactly the same bespoke conditions you will get at Harvie & Hudson some steps away (start at £225, minimum 4). But without the “stuffy” part (which I would not call “charm of old english houses”) and a much better customer service. Since the relaunch, it is almost impossible to receive any reply by e-mail from Hilditch & Key. Furthermore, I cannot comprehend their RTW rollercoaster pricing policy anymore, which (step by step) has reached the “old times” £59 sale price again – a price tag they had stated never to offer again after their relaunch. All in all, this does not sound like professional management and branding to me. Simon – let’s consult them, please!

Gustav

I completely agree! H&K under new ownership also changed their iconic RTW cutaway collar into something indistinguishable from mass market brands – their once famously soft interlining has been replaced and the collar band has been lowered, particularly in the front. Now it looks like any standard cutaway OTR collar and lacks character. The overall silhouette of their shirts was slimmed down and called “contemporary”, but they still add side pleats, which somehow does not make sense – even less, after they have reintroduced the former “classic cut” some weeks ago. Having been a big H&K fan for years, the overall demise of my favourite shirt brand makes me a bit sad.

Rups

Gustav, did you actually like their old shirts? You didn’t find the shirt was blousy with wafer thin material?

I have to say you cant blame them for trying to overhaul the business if it wasn’t paying for itself. All these people coming out of the woodwork saying they shouldn’t have changed weren’t spending as far as I can tell as the shops were dead even on a Saturday afternoon … save at sales time when as I said a while back above they seem to have done 90% of their business.

Gustav

Dear David, as I said: I have been a huge fan of Hilditch & Key for years – and owner of around 60 lovely H&K shirts, both RTW and MTM. I neither noticed “wafer thin material”, nor were these shirts too blousy, if you bought the slim fit (the cut was similar to Harvie & Hudson and others). Nobody is blamed for progression, but if you destroy unique product features overnight (such as the RTW cutaway collar), double the prices and do not talk to your clients anymore, there might be some space for constructive criticism by the clients, without being anti-progressive at all, don’t you think?

Rups

Interesting Gustav. Ultimately the formula wasn’t working, so they had to make a change, although which changes were for the best are difficult to work out if they made them all in one go. It maybe that the company does even worse following the changes.

The shirt market in RTW is extremely competitive now and much of their traditional client base has whittled down over the years. I figure they want to move into the T&A luxury shirts space with a fatter margin catering to the jet set type who want to buy a ‘heritage’ product.

Gustav

Sorry, Rups was your name, not David. I apologize.

El Gordo

Comments to the original piece make most interesting reading. I see several distinct components. First, new owners. Second, margin vs. perceived quality. Third, sensibility vs. change/marketing. Allow me to address them in turn. I shall focus on RTW shirts. It should make it clear from the outset that in my opinion things are certainly not going in the right direction at H&K.

The new owners like Steven Miller, as any investor, seek a return. In this instance it would seem this has been done by overall cost cutting. The Scottish factory has been closed, and I understand all RTW shirt manufacturing is contracted out to Italy in volume; the benefit of this change is marketed as an increase in quality, finer cottons etc., etc. Contract manufacturing also frees up capital for the remodelling of retail footprint. By increasing floor space one can accommodate a more diverse offering, diversity being no bad thing. Plus the separation of Bates.

New owners, without fail, wish to put their stamp on their asset, and by their perception, improve what they’ve purchased; with or without understanding the implications, or what they are doing, or in this instance, through consulting the customer base. Change for changes sake. Equally applicable is, “we’re saving a dying business”. I’ll come on to that.

Margins are improved through levers such as reduction of manufacturing costs, closing Scotland, manufacturing volume discounts, outsourcing to Italy, reduction of extras (remember the spare collar stiffeners and little ironing and laundering booklet?), reduction of materials, and I’m talking down to shaving an inch off the tail of every shirt saving thousands in cotton costs over 12-18 months. By taking these steps to increase margins, a good story relating to quality can be spun, the cotton is x times better, lasts x times longer, is x times finer etc. because we use x in Italy. Some consumers may perceive the marketed improvement as a real benefit. Sadly, these changes also permit the new owner, under the disguise of greater quality, to increase prices ferociously. After all, they must recover the costs of diversifying the range, retail remodelling and increases in fixed costs such as ground rent etc. One individuals shiny, opaque, nipple exposing, rigid collar and cuff, scratchy cotton, ruined Prince collar (the cutaway was called Prince) abomination of a shirt is a huge step forward vs. the lament of an historic customer.

What I see as the most negative impact of the new owner is not the desire to increase margins, remodel the retail footprint, increase quality though manufacturing cost reduction, or diversify the products available at H&K; all of those things can be sensitively executed. What really is foul is the absolutely disgusting and wanton destruction of one of the finest Jermyn Street RTW shirt’s based on dimension, construction, longevity and ability to age of a RTW shirt. What has possessed the new owner to make the changes they have I don’t know. I would like them to explain themselves.

Changing the manufacturer and materials could be palatable. What is not, is the dimensions and construction changing. Yes, the original RTW were somewhat baggy, but this was easily remedied by purchasing a slim fit or paying for minor alterations. A strong case can be stated for the original slim fit being available with the standard tail length, rather than an enforced shortened one (because it was felt most customers wore a slim fit casual shirt outside their trousers!?), which the new owners have done in part; the tail still not being full length, as all shirts are still an inch or two shorter than the pre ownership change ones.

The case remains that the fact the new owners have ruined a RTW stalwart of Jermyn Street is disgusting. The collar has not only changed in dimension, trust me I’ve painstakingly measured new and near brand new original old stock, some form of carding has been inserted in the collar and cuffs that not only stiffen it for no good or relevant reason, but give the appearance of a 99p piece of excrement from a market that has the collar points turn in and shrivel like a penis in an ice bath. On close examination there is poor stitching and an inch or two chopped off the shirts length. Remember what I referred to about saving money on cotton by removing an inch from every shirt?

I could go on and on in excruciatingly painful detail about how foolish the new owners have been. Life is too short.

What I would appreciate is a response. I would be delighted to hear from anyone in any seniority at H&K that would like to justify the changes and describe the rationale for the dimension changes.

Let me be clear. I will put up with increased prices, I will happily accept diversification, I will just about swallow supposed an increase in cotton quality, even though it looks like wearing a nylon shell suit, but I will not accept changes in collar and cuff dimension and this dreadful degrading N&L style, TM Lewin-esq collar and cuff carding that turns the shirts into total and utter diarrhoea.

Gustav, I agree with you whole heartedly.

David Waddington, I too did similar, purchased in bulk and used the worn ones forever.

Rups, their formula wasn’t working for multiple reasons, not due to the dimensions and construction of collar and cuffs and some shirts being a little baggy. When trying to ‘save a business on it’s last legs’ one doesn’t through the baby out with the bath water. One makes subtle changes, as they have in remodelling the shops, diversifying the range, moving Bates, new website, really stretching the bespoke up ward by hiring someone as reputable as David Gales etc.

What is complete madness is ruining a fantastic product. Heritage brands, a hateful term/description that disgusts me, are about subtle improvement, while maintaining the key features that made them what they are, and therefore in a position after 117 years of trading to be classified as heritage.

So come along H&K, or Simon Crompton, we’re waiting for a response.

I don’t even think people buy shirts in H&K sales now, so how long they’ll last as a business is anyones guess. Very very sad.

Gustav

I found a simple solution to all these issues: I turned my back and became a Harvie Hudson client and now get a cutaway made very similar to the “old” H&K Prince collar.

Bjørn

I also noticed these massive changes in their RTW collars and therefore sent an e-mail to H&K, asking if there was any fusing involved. Their reply: All their RTW collars and cuffs (!) are made fused since two years. This is quite remarkable, as the unfused construction and the soft feeling of their collars used to be famous.

Nick Inkster

I was a customer at H&K for many years, then moved over to Charvet and more recently allow Luxire to copy my Charvet shirts at a fraction of the price.

I used to really like the Hilditch cutaway style, both for its shape, and firm but soft unfused finish.

On a whim, I bought a few in their recent mail order sale, despite being astonished by the current pricing regime, which seems extreme by any measure for RTW, but also by the way in which that lovely soft collar is now a horrible fused finish so stiff that it is almost completely inflexible. I assumed it would soften after a few washes, but alas no; if anything it is even harder and stiffer.

I wrote to H&K expressing my dismay, and in their reply they merely mentioned that I would not be eligible for a refund as the shirts had been washed. I sent them to a local charity shop and hope somebody is able to get some benefit from them.

It’s quit shocking to see a once great name join the race to the bottom.

El Gordo

It is such a pity to see H&K sink to these lows Nick. The shape, structure, loose lined collar and cuff finish of their shirts was what made H&K so distinctive and great.

I can imagine you received quite a shock when the ‘new’ RTW version arrived at the sale price of what used to be full price. Leaving the dreadful fused nature of the shirts collar and cuff to one side, I also found the cotton scratchy and wide weave (no idea if it’s good quality, but I preferred the softness of the old, even if it was inferior) on the two I purchased. The charity shop is the best place for them.

Their customer service is abominable too. I’ve heard of lots of incidences of people returning shirts and complaining about the changes, and the poor down trodden staff simply shrug, and say ‘this is it from now on’, and refuse to refund (in your instance) and refuse to help process returns, until much persuasion from me, in mine.

It’s simply baffling how the H&K management think there are sufficient mugs out there that will happily pay £150+ full retail price for a RTW shirt that’s really no better quality than the cheap and cheerful end of Jermyn Street; based on the fusing, actually far worse quality. Budd or T&A pricing surely requires the same quality.

The management of this former Jermyn Street icon have completely lost it. I can only hope customers are voting with their feet and leaving in droves; there’s never anyone in the shop when I walk past.

Peter

I have an opportunity to visit London in a couple of weeks, and had been planning to drop by H&K to get measured up with the intent of stocking up on a full quiver of bespoke shirts. I, too, fell in love with their soft-lined unfused collar and cuffs. The extremely elegant cut of the Prince collar. Unfortunately my current stock are on their last legs, and as I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, My tailor in Hong Kong simply cannot get it right. In particular there is a “secret” stiffener on the leading edge of a H&K Prince collar that they can’t even recognize, let alone emulate, despite copying the dimensions as far as possible.

Anyway… having read this thread and seen the new prices for H&K shirts I’m thinking I should try one of the other top shirtmakers. Which ones would be able to emulate the old-style H&K cut, collar and cuffs accurately? And what sort of price are we looking at in comparison?

Thanks in advance to anyone who can give some advice… and double thanks if I get it before next week!

Gerald

Hi, I really likes the HK shirts cut-away white work shirts. I have been a customer for decades. then I discovered earl this year that they were now £150. A huge increase so I went looking elsewhere. Hawes & Curtis do a full cut-away white for £17.50 yes £17.50 and a bit more when not on Black Friday or at the sales so I bought 4. they are perfectly usable though not as high quality; so far are surviving the dry-cleaners efforts very well.

I felf a sense of disloyalty but I can by several shyirts for the price of on HK. Why was the proce hiked up so heavily ?
Yours sadly
GeraLD

Litigator

I know that this article/thread is old, but here are my two cents:

I purchased several of the RTW shirts in the late 00s/early ’10s (this century, not last of course…). I loved them – the lack of fusing in the collar, the attention to detail (pattern matching at the seams) and beautiful quality cotton. Obviously, RTW never fitted perfectly, but for the price (particularly when on sale), it was great value for money.

A few years down the line and I’m in the fortunate position of being able to go to Jermyn St and order bespoke. I had considered a number of establishments (Emma W, Budd, T&A), but headed to Hilditch & Key because I had such good experiences of their RTW.

And I have to say, I’m thoroughly impressed with the shirts I’ve had made. The fit is perfection. The cloths are great. Yes, the shirts seem to be made in Italy, but that doesn’t bother me. I wouldn’t mind if it was made in China so long as the materials and workmanship is top notch (although perhaps you would wish to not pay £240+ per shirt made in China, as the mark-up would presumably be astronomical). I’m not sure if David Gayle is still around – I’ve been dealing with Ross Chapman who is extremely pleasant and helpful.

The team would be more responsive to emails – I’ve made contact on at least two occasions asking to place repeat orders, ready to give card details over the phone, but never had replies. But all in all, I’m a very happy customer and will be using them for years to come.

El Gordo

Litigator, I’m glad to hear you’re pleased with your order. Can you qualify a couple of points please?

In your initial paragraph you mention you loved the loose lined collars and cuffs of old (non fused) and attention to detail of the matching seams etc. Of course this was when the shirts were manufactured in Scotland by well trained staff, and there was a completely different ethos to the business.

You go on to say you’re now purchasing bespoke from them and remain impressed. Great.

Does this mean that you’re prepared to pay bespoke money for fit, quality of cloth and cut, but are perfectly happy for H&K to stick their bloody disgusting fused collar and cuffs on what sounds like a lovely shirt?

As you can tell from prior posts, I have a massive problem with fused collars and cuffs. They make shirts look like George from Tesco, shinny, no ironing necessary, garbage.

Like you, I’d probably be fine paying for bespoke, if they don’t force me into fused collar and cuffs. Sadly every time I ask I’m told “sorry sir all shirts from now on will have fused collar and cuffs.” That being the case I’ll never spend a penny with H&K ever again.

Are you able to confirm that should I go bespoke I can have loose lined collar and cuffs? Many thanks.

Litigator

El Gordo, sorry for the very delayed reply.

Interesting question you ask. About the fused collars, there are two points: (i) yes, in general terms, I have to say these are inferior (less luxurious) to the old non-fused collars, but (ii) there are some practical advantages – they can be ironed more easily without those awkward folds appearing between the two layers of non-fused cotton (although I had mastered how to iron the non-fused collar, my cleaner sadly could never get it right). That being said, Ross did tell me that they could do collars the “old way” if I wanted. I didn’t take them up on that, because I was curious to try to fused collars… not sure if they have changed from that position as your post suggests. For me, the collar isn’t a deal-breaker as it is for you, although I suppose it is somewhat like buying spare laces from a local dry-cleaners to put in a pair of Edward Greens…

I would still place further bespoke orders with H&K (it is quite handy that after the minimum order of 4, I can order as few as I want at a time (even just 1)). However, I think I am going to try one of the others for the next order (Budd or T&A), if only to see how their collars (and shirts more generally) compare.

Finally, I am still mildly underwhelmed by the lack of responsiveness to emails (I received an out-of-office today when chasing up an order saying that the H&K individual would be returning to the office in July…). And it has been over 12 weeks since I placed my last order, and still not yet received (probably due to the factories being closed in Italy).

El Gordo

No problem Litigator, we’re all busy people. I agree with point (i), hugely inferior to the old loose lined collars and cuffs, see the comment from Nick above who dropped his at the charity shop. I simply don’t buy the easier to iron guff of point (ii) these businesses spout. Non iron shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt etc.

Simply learn to iron properly, which you clearly did, or teach the daily to iron properly. If people took their H&K shirts to the dry cleaner for laundering and also became frustrated by the folds created by poor ironing, they’re using the wrong dry cleaner /laundry service. I’m sure you’ll recall, H&K shirts used to actually come with a booklet explaining how to iron properly! There is occasionally some effort required to be elegant.

More recently I attended the shop and asked if the shirts could be supplied with loose lined collars and cuffs. The gentleman I spoke to initially said no, it’s all fusing from now on. As a turned to walk out he then confirmed they could make a shirt with loose lined collar and cuffs; in rather furtive hushed tones like he wasn’t allowed to tell people. The concept of a stock special would be deployed. Which I think is a fairly standard RTW shirt with a ‘special order’ element. No minimum order and I think £205 the price quoted.

So it is possible to get close to the originals. Yet for another £45-50 one can walk to Budd and have fully bespoke shirts. I even asked Budd if they could copy a favourite shirt. Absolutely they said, anything you like, all loose lines collars and cuffs, made in the UK. Minimum order of four though, then after that as and when.

As for H&K’s underwhelming customer service and lack of responsiveness to a bespoke customer, sorry to say this, but what do you expect? The business has been gutted, stripped of all historic sensibility, down sized, diversified, quality out, prices up and an ethos of ‘trade on this historic name until we bankrupt it’. I do feel for the staff.

Litigator

PS – I have some further observations and thoughts having re-read Simon’s original article.

Although, as noted, I am generally pleased with my shirts, my experience as a bespoke customer is that H&K’s bespoke offering doesn’t quite have the prevalence in-store, or from a customer service perspective, that a reader might reasonably expect based on Simon’s article (noting that it was written over 2 years ago when the ambitious growth plans had only just kicked off).

First, I have never seen any sign of David on-site in the Jermyn Street shop (having been in at least 5-6 times over the last year for fittings, collection and re-ordering shirts). I have dealt only with Ross, who whilst thoroughly nice and knowledgeable, is really a salesman and not a cutter. My understanding is that David works part time (2 days a week) and even then is not always in the shop, so I would not say that there is a cutter frequently on site.

Secondly, the customer service is not where it should be on the bespoke side. My general experiences over the last year are that the shop staff (either on the phone or in person) will only be able/willing to answer queries on bespoke shirts when Ross is in. For example, having chased up my 12 week+ bespoke order over the phone today, I was told that nobody could provide any info because no bespoke staff are working today. Nor did the person I spoke to offer to take down my number and get one of the bespoke team to call me. Granted, bespoke is a niche operation that requires specific individuals (which is why appointments are always recommended), but I get the feeling that it is no longer the core of their business on Jermyn St, which is a shame. As someone registered to their mailing list (being offered RTW shirts daily at £67.50 in their sale), this is not really a surprise.

To put it simply – if anyone belatedly stumbles across this article expecting a smooth, top level bespoke service from H&K in 2017, putting aside the shirt itself, it may fall slightly short of expectations. But I wouldn’t tell someone not to try it – it’s certainly worth a go.

Nick Inkster

As a footnote, I wrote two further emails to H&K pointing out that I thought their response to my complaint could have been somewhat more considered, but heard nothing by way of response to either of them.

Safe to assume that the new owners simply don’t care.

Nick Inkster

On a separate thread on knitwear somebody raised the point about Eric Clapton having bought Cordings many years ago.

He did so to keep the brand going as it was for reasons of heritage and tradition, in apparent contrast to the folk who bought H&K.

Hawes & Curtis is another famous Jermyn Street name which has gone down the route from quality to mass market. Once a warrant holder for several Royals, it is now a name where four shirts for £100 is the marketing lead………

Such is life.

Rups

I think where it matters cordings don’t still retain traditional values sadly. Main example is that all their jackets are fused garments. Also their cord trousers are low rise and fit like jeans.

On the surface it looks very traditional though because of the overall look. The greeny brown heavy tweed jackets, the colourful corduroy trousers etc. I think if you wear this stuff now it does look quite stuffy, old fashioned English country gent. Could be passable if you actually live in the country and go shooting etc and want a cheap tweed jacket etc to wear though.

EL GORDO

Interesting you view the Cordings cords as low rise and like jeans Rups.

When I went in, about a year ago, they were still very much cut in the style of ‘Toad of Toad Hall’ fitting. Huge baggy seat, very high waisted. For the more portly, elderly country gentlemen. Perhaps they’ve gone to the other extreme now. I’m slim though, 30-31 inch waist, so perhaps the baggy nature is accentuated on me. Nonetheless, I’d still run a mile from slim fit, tight garments; dreadful.

I’ve now found a super tailor in London who knows what he’s doing, has excellent connections to Italian manufacturers, and can make excellent pieces at an excellent price point. As much as he can make you bespoke trousers, the off the peg can be done to accommodate most elements you seek. I shan’t be attempting to purchase trousers from brands or respected/no longer respected retailers any longer.

To mildly keep the thread on topic, I’m still disappointed to see Hilditch & Key are still peddling their rubbish and clinging on to trading. Boy do they enjoy spamming emails out these days too. Such garbage. So, so sad.

Drew Milligan

Hello, Simon! I wonder if you have an opinion on how things are at H&K 6 years on?