Best menswear shop 2020: Dick’s, Edinburgh

Monday, February 10th 2020
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Best UK menswear store outside London: Dick's, Edinburgh

Runner's up: End, Kafka, Oi Polloi, Stewart Christie, Walker Slater, The Bureau, Aero Leather

One of the loveliest things about the PS awards this year was the opportunity to highlight some independent menswear stores around the UK. And in particular Dick’s - which I’ve never visited but now certainly will next time I’m in Scotland. 

Dick’s was founded in 2012 by Andrew Dick, around the same time as other independent menswear boutiques in other parts of the world - driven by the resurgence of interest in craft and provenance.

But actually, Andrew founded the store because he couldn’t find anywhere that sold Scottish knitwear. 

Permanent Style: Is that true, there was nowhere that was selling Scottish knitwear in Edinburgh?

Yes, it seemed bizarre to me, but a lot of the great knitwear makers weren’t stocked here - you’d find them in London, or Tokyo, but not Edinburgh. Even today, we’re the only stockist of Mackintosh in Scotland. 

Has the menswear scene improved much in the past eight years?

Not really - there’s Kafka in Aberdeen, and Oi Polloi further south, but that's it. There's still a lack of good menswear stores.

We used to have Jenner's, the department store - I bought my first pair of Paraboot there. But now it’s a House of Fraser, and the first thing you see when you walk through the door is the Superdry concession. It’s enough to make you weep.

There was Ricci too, that was a great little store, and stocked Paraboot. But it closed down - in fact, customers have come in and said how delighted they were that there was another store with a similar approach. 

Two other stores in Edinburgh were nominated by readers - Stewart Christie and Walker Slater - do you all know each other? 

Oh yes, they’re great, though more on the tailoring side and maybe more aimed at the full-tweed Scottish look. Stewart Christie has a wonderful workshop upstairs making everything. 

Edinburgh has a lot of tourists, and that helps both them and us. I’m amazed how many people know us from online, and come to visit the store. We had a woman from Japan last week who was waiting outside when we opened. She said it was the first thing she was doing in Scotland. 

Do you think a shop today has to have a strong online presence to survive? 

Probably. Retail is tough and the international business helps a lot. It’s approaching 40% of what we do. 

And online is also just part of how people shop. I know local customers that would rather look online to see what’s new, instead of coming into the store - which always baffles me. 

I confess I do the same, even for shops like Trunk that are 5 minutes away. I think it reassures me that I’m not going to miss anything. 

I do understand that, as long as you go in too! I think the B-word - Brexit - will be the next big challenge for retail. We just need to deal with that. 

I assume the biggest issue will be the brands you import from the EU? Readers often ask about how it will affect price and shipping, but you already ship to lots of different countries with different duties or taxes. The problem is supply. 

Yes exactly. It will make Italian brands more expensive (if there are tariffs) and even for British manufacturers, their raw materials often come from Italy. 

What brands would you highlight that PS readers might not be aware of? 

Well we loved carrying Danolis shirts, but unfortunately they’ve just gone out of business. 

There’s Harley knitwear (above), they’re not too well known, but you will have seen their shetlands - they make for most of the big designers. Once you’ve seen their jumpers, which have no side seams (in fact, no seams at all), you can’t miss them. 

They do everything from True Voe shetland (using local, undyed shetland yarn) to soft shetland (with some lambswool mixed in) to super-soft geelong. They’re based in Peterhead, of all places - which is better known for its prison.

Or Laurence J Smith - an old name in shetland knitwear and hard to get here, because they have so much business in Japan. I remember we had to doorstep Mr Odie to get his attention.

How has the brands you stock evolved over the years?

We started out focusing on Scottish knitwear, but then I remember going to Pitti for the first time, and seeing all these wonderful Italian makers. We started carrying slightly more expensive things, like Finamore and Massimo Alba, and were a little afraid customers wouldn’t go with us, but they did. 

Does the local customer live up to the (very English) stereotype of being tight with their money? 

It varies a lot. There’s people from Glasgow where money is no object. But there’s certainly a type of New Town customer in Edinburgh where you feel they don’t buy their clothes - they inherit them. I've seen people come in to a local repairs shop with some extraordinary old clothes, trying to keep them going.  

It feels like value and quality are big drivers in the brands you carry too? 

Yes, that’s been the case from the start. In fact, most of our customers are not menswear obsessives. They don’t know the brands. They just come in looking for good-quality clothes, and seem to find it. 

They’ll wander in, try on and buy a pair of Barena trousers, and not know the brand or where they’re from. If we can deliver for that customer in every category then I think we’re doing well. 

Were you surprised to win the award?

Yes I was - a friend of my wife’s had told us we were getting a few mentions, which was nice. But you never expect to get much attention as a small shop. 

Any specific plans for the future? 

Nothing big, but there are always new brands. One we liked at Pitti was Capalbio - Italian outerwear, soft and practical. I think Monocle described them as Tuscan cowboys. 

Nice. Bringing the Tuscan cowboy to Scotland. I hope it does well. 

Thank you Simon, and thanks to readers for the nominations too. 

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Robin

Love this .
Nice to see a small business get more coverage whilst also letting me learn about quality brands I can look up .

I personally mentioned Walker Slater and can’t recommend their tweed look enough.

Well done , Simon .

Kenny

I’m surprised that Andrew has found it so difficult to buy Scottish knitwear. End Clothing, mentioned above, has a great selection of Jamieson’s shetlands. Bosie’s website (bosie.co) is another option for Harley’s shetlands and offers four levels of brushing! House of Bruar sells a wide range of shetlands for only £70.

For many years, Cordings has been my default choice for buying Scottish knitwear but the sizing has been slimmed down in the last of couple of years. I will probably try Community Clothing’s jumpers which is made in Hawick. Does anyone here have experience of CC’s knitwear or know who makes it?

Kenny

In 2012, it was much easier to buy Scottish knitwear. I bought Harley’s shetlands from The Highland Stores in London. At that time, The Hawick Knitwear Company (now gone) supplied several retailers including House of Bruar, Cordings, Farlows and the greatly missed Pakeman, Catto & Carter in Cirencester. Peter Scott’s factory in Hawick closed in 2016. The excellent A Hume in Kelso and other retailers have been selling William Lockie’s knitwear for many years. Andrew’s comment therefore remains a huge surprise.

Matt

End Clothing is based in Newcastle upon Tyne not Edinburgh.

Nicholas

Nice to see three nominees in Edinburgh. Stewart Christie is great! They made me a lovely mid-grey 3 piece for my wedding.

jamiemcp

I love Dicks, as an Edinburgh local it is about the only intresting shop we have, also their sale is amazing. I picked up a Danolis shirt for £40 a couple of weeks ago.

Walker Slater is very tweed focused and not somewhere I would normaly shop. I’ll let you know about Stewart Christie in a couple of days as I have just had my first pair of flannels made up by them.

Rogey

Dick’s is a beautiful shop run by really nice people. In addition to the knitwear you mentioned, they also carry Jamieson’s and Inis Meain. They carry things you probably won’t find elsewhere. I’ve gotten two terrific, simple belts made by a local woman, Gail Ferguson. This award reminds us, hopefully, that we need to support stores like this, which in turn support companies like Harley and Inis Meain. Vote with your wallet; stop in and buy something.

Rogey

Sorry, Simon, “an” at the end of my comment should be “and.” If you can fix it that would be great.

John

Hi Simmon,
This is a very interesting post!
I remember having stumbled upon the name Walker Slater in the past. Apparently, they seem to be offering exquisite knitted silk ties, and yet at a very affordable price point. What of course I find surprising. Is that indeed the case?
John

Rich Mack

Nice to see a menswear store doing good things to keep men in style.
And so far away from London where I see style in young men has gone downhill in more than recent years.
I was in retail for more than 20 years in London’s South Molton St as well as St. Christopher’s Place and London’s Covent garden where only Paul Smith was a direct challenge.
Now not his brand which is outlandishly brazen and overpriced can bring in a new clientele.
Perhaps it’s a trend society is going thru’ like trainers being the norm when decent brogues and tasseled loafers were once a joy to see on mens’ feet with decent stay press slacks or classy indigo denim jeans neatly cut and worn without sagging asses!
Yes, the man of today in the UK, especially London cannot keep up with the likes of what I see you wrote. If fact, just get over to Italy or certain parts of Paris to see men dressed with chic.
And not for a footie match with that ugly Italian patch on their sweaters…
Glad I kept my garms in good nick.
I can reinvent my look again and again.
Long live people like that store in Glasgow for the finer lad who knows his stuff.

Jason

It’s great to see a good independent being celebrated.
I bemoan the losses of the greats of the past :
Victoria & Albert, Marcus Price, City Stylish (Newcastle), West One (Sunderland) , The Village Gate (London) and the like were all social hubs that were curated by stylish Flaneurs. Visiting them was always a delight.
E-Commerce obviously has a role but sitting at home and measuring your Digeridoo before ordering from Mr Porter is positively anti-social by comparison.
I’ve no idea of the financial equation associated with running such an establishment in current times. I suspect it’s precarious but where there is a will there is a way.
I recently visited Anglo-Italian in London. It was a joy and will certainly visit Dick’s next time I’m in Edinburgh.
Viva the independent and congratulations to Dick’s on winning !

AJ Burns

As an Edinburgh boy (now living in Melbourne) it is great to see Dick’s win this award. A few other notable mentions in Edinburgh are Kestin Hare, Stewart Christie (whose new owner has just down a book on tartan), Walker Slater (if you like that particular tweed look), Armstrong’s for great vintage, a nice branch of Ede and Ravenscroft and Frontiers for Howlin’ and similar brand. Also Church’s have a store plus for what on this blog would be called “high street brands” Hackett and Gant, which both sometimes have nice things. Plus Epitome is a lot of great brands but all womenswear.
I do agree with Andrew on Jenners, sadly, losing their shine and there have been a few other losses like Pakeman, Catto and Carter and Crombie.
Further north you have End in Glasgow and Kafka in Aberdeen. But a lot of losses in the borders…which feeds onto the High Street (Royal Mile) where nearly every shop seeks the same things (you can get some good stuff but the choice is lost and there is a lot of rubbish).
Interesting in my 10+ years in Melbourne it has almost done a flip from nothing to some great brands and stores like Christian Kimber, Modern Classic, P Johnson and Pickings and Parry.

Triskel

Rich Mack’s comments are interesting but mirror my observations only in part. When I started going to Italy thirty years ago I was always struck by how stylishly most men were dressed and by the plethora of men’s clothes shops, all with beautifully arranged window displays, in even the smallest towns. Travelling in Italy recently I was struck by how much things have changed, and for the worse. Scruffiness is everywhere and clothes shops, selling the sort of thing I imagine readers of this site like, many fewer. I discussed this at some length with the two brother-proprietors of a shop in Ravenna who were closing down. What they told me was that competing with the internet is difficult (as the internet offers a much greater choice and, often, faster delivery than any shop can cover) and that they had few young customers, in consequence of which no young men wanted to take over the running of their shop. It is very sad, and to see the multiplication of clothes from such shops as Superdry, is not edifying, but until there is a change in fashion (will that ever come?) I think all we can do is value the surviving shops and support them.

harryofmonmouth

Go to see comments about Scottish Knitwear, which I’m a fan of.
Perhaps its the internet which has been its saviour!
As a fan of shetland sweaters, for the last few years, been getting some “beauties ” (geniune shetland and made in Scotland) – shetland sweaters are around from some quality on line retails,but the nearest they have come to Scotland, is when the ship, docked at felixstowe! Try the Croft House

Shem Teo

Hi simon will still be an award for best customer service in 2019/2020? I think thus is an area which many stores (including reputable ones) need to work on, especially in their online communication with customers. For example, as much as I like drakes, many of my emails on product enquiry go unreplied. They are not the only ones though Im afraid. The best I find is angloitalian, especially jake. His replies to queries are incredibly fast and come across as sincere. I find in this day and age where consumers have so many options with regards products, the aspect of customer service may go some ways to making a difference.

JB

What a lovely story and seemingly well deserved win in this category.
I wish them all the best.