Support our shops. At least the real ones
It is genuinely important that - if you can - you visit a UK shop and support it now they’re open again.
Why? Because good retail offers something distinct that could easily be lost.
Let me explain the difference between a good menswear store and a take-it-or-leave-it high street version.
With high street shops, the image and the in-store experience are completely disconnected. The advertising might be of chiselled men sailing a yacht, or a rugged one riding a motorcycle. But in store, what you get are 20-something sales assistants that know nothing other than where the till is.
The only point of the store is convenience. The convenience to be able to see material in person, try on different sizes, and not wait around for a delivery at home.
That’s all they offer. And if people increasingly live outside city centres, this convenience will fade. It will become more convenient to just order several things and send some of them back.
I am not so concerned about those stores. It would be a shame if they closed, but only because aspiring menswear nerds would have nowhere to learn the ropes for a few years.
Going to a good shop is different. Here, the image and the experience are the same.
Shopping online from Trunk Clothiers is pleasant enough. I quite like the little chap that blows a trumpet on your email receipt, celebrating the purchase.
But it does not begin to compare to the experience of browsing the stores on Chiltern Street, getting a coffee from Monocle cafe, and sitting on the bench outside No.8 in the late-afternoon sun.
That is one of my favourite places in the world. Not craft stores in Kyoto, not the Spanish Quarter of Naples, not the cobbles of Chelsea: talking to a knowledgeable member of the Trunk team on a warm afternoon, probably about Alden sizing, as hip staff from Winkreative wander by.
Trunk would not be anything like the same without its stores in Marylebone. But let’s face it, Uniqlo would. It’s just an outlet.
The Anderson & Sheppard haberdashery is one of the few shops that genuinely feels like a club.
Once, I made a gaffe when a PR was touring me around a (different) menswear store. They were proudly showing me the made-to-measure room, when I made some quip that at least they hadn’t created a ‘club room’ for customers to ‘just hang out’.
It turned out the club room was next door. The aim, as the PR explained with a fixed facial expression, was to ‘foster an informal interchange among the clientele’.
Every high-end brand wants this; very few achieve it. The problem is most customers don’t want to chat to the sales staff. The staff know little about clothing, and have little in common with their ‘clientele’ anyway.
At Anderson & Sheppard, everyone that comes in seems to be a long-time customer. Emily and Connor have been working there, I think, ever since the shop opened, and know the clothes inside out. They will offer you a genuinely nice cup of tea, which will remind you you should use a teapot more at home.
It’s the same at Connolly across the street. At Adret, just opened a few doors down, the founder Adam himself is sitting there in the window.
Go to Clutch Cafe up in Fitzrovia, and frankly it’s hard to avoid a conversation about selvedge denim or loopwheeled sweatshirts.
This retail is different. It’s real. This is where the products live and breathe, where style genuinely evolves through interactions with customers. God I miss those interactions.
The other shops are outlets: mere function. The heart of the brand beats somewhere else: a design studio, a marketing meeting, or worst of all, an venture capitalist’s spreadsheet.
For them, shops are merely a useful way to display and sell. And if they stop being useful or profitable, they will close.
We cannot allow good shops to close. They are what good menswear has been built on. For 50 years and more, what we know as menswear has been established by the likes of The Andover Shop, John Simons, Bardelli, Paul Stuart and The Armoury.
Yet dozens have closed. Even since writing my book on the subject (the Sartorial Travel Guide) several have moved or shut down. The latest was The Vintage Showroom, which announced last week it would not renew its lease.
Please visit menswear stores over the coming weeks, and show them how much you value them. Because if you don’t, they will disappear.
On Permanent Style, we will be doing our bit to spread the news about offerings and any new reasons to pop into stores. And we’ll be profiling a series of shops never featured on PS, beginning with three over the next week. I hope you like them.
Thank you Trunk, Clutch and A&S for the shots of welcoming staff, taken this week. Those below are of new stock in store.
Totally agree with this post. How many good real shops have been hit or forced to close doesn’t bear thinking about. We need to support the survivors.
I agree. But the way to support our shops would have been to oppose lockdowns in the first place.
Let me explain.
The world of menswear, especially #influencers, embraced the New Normal with bounding energy, optimism and enthusiasm. Designer masks, tutorials on how to sew your own mask, and that sort of thing. There wasn’t a single voice of opposition, someone to bemoan the new normal – if not to oppose it outright.
It wasn’t just menswear, so I’m not trying to single out your industry. Scientists did the same. The tech industry did much worse. Financial services too.
The shops in question, alas, were forced to acquiesce and keep a low profile. What could the shopkeepers do? Many of them haven’t the clout that influencers wield, nor the reach.
I share your views. We need to support small, independent shops. They’re the lifeblood of day-to-day civilised life. But it would have been much easier if the menswear industry hadn’t rushed body and soul to support the new normal. I know, it would have meant moving far outside the comfort zone into the realm of adversarial politics. Menswear already does politics, but only on issues on which everyone agrees: the environment, racism, etc.
I’m not holding out much hope for the future. Small shops have been devastated. They were struggling already. This was the coup de grâce.
Not to get too political, but what would opposing lockdown meant to have achieved? The government would suddenly open up shops because menswear enthusiasts want to buy their chinos in store rather online? Not to mention by not having a lockdown it would drag this whole pandemic on far far longer than otherwise. Lockdown wasn’t pleasant by any means but you just have to look at the dramatic drop in infection and hospitalisation rates to know that it worked and now we are in a much better than before. As Simon says the amount shops we lost along the way is a genuine shame, but now is the time to regroup and support the shops that we do love more than ever. Complaining that lockdowns harm businesses, in the context of a global pandemic, is irrelevant and helps nobody.
Guys, just to say I’m going to draw a line under this, to avoid getting into a big debate about approaches to Covid. It’s a complicated topic as well as sometimes an emotional one: I doubt we’d get anywhere useful, and this is probably not the right place for it in any case. Thanks
Leaving aside the politics of the lockdowns (as you say, this is not the best forum for that sort of debate), it would be interesting to have a post on the long term consequences in terms of mens fashion.
For instance, nearly all of the people I know who used to live in Manhattan or in downtown Washington DC have moved out of the city and have done so permanently. My workplace and numerous others have already stated that they will be allowing telecommuting on a permanent basis. In fact, one of the partners I worked with just moved to a state where my law firm does not have an office.
This raises obvious questions about what type of menswear it makes sense to purchase. As you have mentioned elsewhere, people will always want to dress nicely for certain occasions – e.g., dinner out at a nice restaurant. However, now that I’m no longer commuting to and from work, no longer taking a brief walk in the city during my lunch break, etc., my needs have completely changed. For instance, although I liked the navy PS trench coat and in the past could have easily seen myself getting one to replace my old one, a trench coat (particularly a navy trench) is primarily an urban item. Very handy for fending off the rain in the city, but I can’t see myself wearing one just to go to the grocery store in the suburbs or in a village. A jacket like the Wax Walker would be much more appropriate in this setting. Similarly, I can’t see myself upgrading a briefcase under the current circumstances. Although I go to my office once every other week, under the circumstances, my old briefcase will do. If I were to upgrade, it would be to something more casual like a nicer tote bag.
Thank you, yes it would be good to dig into that in an article. The casual wardrobe will expand, and become more rural too. Shops will be the same I think: more destination, rather than convenience.
I can see why you went anon.
I couldn’t agree more!
It was lovely to step back inside three of my favourites on Monday – Crockett & Jones at Royal Exchange, Anglo Italian and Trunk. I have missed actually looking at clothes and shoes instead of staring at my laptop…
Support those shops and brands you want to be there after all this has passed.
” in store, what you get are 20-something sales assistants that know nothing other than where the till is” – In our local Debenhams they often didn’t even know this. It was like being served by Tom Hanks in Big. I’m amazed they lasted as long as they did.
I’d hope that as big brand retailers close unprofitable stores, landlords will be forced to allow more interesting, creative businesses to lease the space on more reasonable terms.
Sadly though, I suspect a lot of councils will just allow developers to re-zone the space as housing.
And yes, I’m itching to head into town and splash some cash: as soon as my daughter goes back to school, I’ll be visiting Blackhorse Lane, Rivet & Hide and maybe a few others!
Just a quick reply on the point about landlords. Some but not all are unfairly demonised. Landlords are investors in the same way as all business owners. In many cases pension funds (public and private) hold investments in them for their members.
Expecting a reasonable rate of return and being greedy is not the same thing. Also re-zoning for housing isn’t always a bad thing especially if you need somewhere to live. It’s all about competing needs and perspective.
Sorry I know we should be discussing menswear but sometimes I can’t resist the temptation to balance the views.
It’s a good point Stephen. The issue with landlords I’ve dealt with around London is often the investment timeline. They seem to look purely to maximise revenue in 3-5 years, which basically means bringing in designer brands that already have shops elsewhere in London. This makes them just like everywhere else, erodes any natural character, and actually means a worse return in the long run, because there’s nothing unique about their offering anymore. This has slowly been happening in the various arcades in Mayfair.
Some such as the De Walden estate in Marylebone are different, and this has really paid off for them. Marylebone has become the most interesting area in central London. And they’ve done it by allowing more interesting shops at lower rents, with a smattering of higher rent ones and residential, all of which pay more because Marylebone is now a ‘cool’ area.
This is very interesting as I know literally nothing about commercial real estate. Did I understand correctly that in Marylebone the landlord will offer a lower rate than in neighbouring areas if you’re an independent good quality retailer? Kudos to them if that’s the case. Also on this topic, how’s the rent situation on Savile row these days?
Yes, exactly. That’s why Chiltern Street looks like it does. They want shops that don’t have branches elsewhere, and have a following, to bring people to the area. Mind you the residential is then very pricey.
I don’t know on the Savile Row rent I’m afraid
Lambs Conduit Street is similar. It owned by one landlord in its entirety, which took a 10+ year strategy to change the feel by inducing independent business to rent there.
Absolutely, good point.
The sad thing is, I know the landlord that owns the western side of Savile Row – where our pop-up is – has also tried to do this, and bring in smaller menswear shops that fit better with the Row. But the rents are still too large in that part of Mayfair, so almost none of those types of companies can actually afford to be there still.
Leaving aside the question of concentrated generational wealth, the ownership of entire neighborhoods by estates who take a more curatorial approach to tenants (and urban planning in general) is a marked difference between London and New York, where ownership of smaller plots means that landlords are under greater pressure to maximize revenue.
Great analysis here Simon. I really enjoyed travelling all the way off the beaten track to a shop in south London that stocked made in Japan clothes and accessories (Alpha Shadows). It was based in a decrepit artist studios building, but the shop itself was tastefully decorated and furnished. The best part was knocking on the door and stepping in to browse and buy. Sadly, it seems to have vanished.
Yes, that was sad. Particularly as it’s about 10 minutes from my house
Very good points!
Although I have a question, who made the brown (linen?) trousers you’re wearing with your denim jacket?
Thanks in advance!
Yes, they’re linen – Whitcomb & Shaftesbury
This article is beautifully expressed and so perfectly spot on. Thank you Simon!
Staff are so important. Some in shops along Bond Street and Knightsbridge look out almost daring you to come in. Others like A&S and AI are so welcoming. A few years ago I went in to Kent and Haste and purchased just a tie. Terry Haste was so friendly and more than happy to spend time chatting about Jermyn Street Shirtmakers and Savile Row Tailors. Customer service goes such a long way. I think that’s why your pop ups have been so well received; excellent and well-chosen products in a lovely atmosphere and interested staff.
Assuming that the employees of high-street stores „know nothing except where the till is“, that’s really not the over-the-top snobby attitude I would have expected from you, but I guess constantly buying and wearing hand-made clothes changes a man‘s character, and apparently not for the better.
I have worked in both a high-street store and a high-end menswear store, and I can tell you from experience that there are very competent (and incompetent) employees to be found in both kinds of stores. To assume that a store doesn’t employ knowledgeable and motivated people because the store isn’t the size of a broom cabinet and wasn’t featured in Monocle Magazine often enough, that’s the very definition of judging a book by its cover.
And as far as the potential closing of these stores is concerned, there are a whole lot more jobs connected to high-street stores versus stores like Trunk, who only employ a handful of people. And these „good stores“ aren’t irreplaceable too: Trunk mostly sells the same stuff as Dantendorfer in my home town of Vienna, or Frans Boone, or a thousand other stores offering Boglioli jackets and Zanone knitwear. If one of them closed down, you’d hardly notice, unless you were one of the seven people employed there.
I’m sorry if it came across like that Andreas. In my experience – and I still go into quite a few of those stores – the quality of staff is that bad. But I’m sure it’s not like that everywhere. And it’s not the fault of the staff either – the business just doesn’t invest anything in them.
It’s a little needless to jump to something like judging my character, and obviously that the size of the store or where it is featured are not the point. Quality retail doesn’t have to be small, it just tends to be.
If a lot of high-street stores closed it would certainly be terrible for many people and the employees. But that’s always only one factor.
And yes, there are great stores elsewhere too, but their locality is part of the point. You can’t develop the same relationship with a store if it’s in a different country.
“…the business just doesn’t invest anything in them.”
I was going to make this point, it’s a damning indictment of some of these chains’ business model that the staff are taught so little (often nothing) about the stock. Even more so that they are often visibly demotivated and ill-managed (Andreas is right of course, this isn’t always the case but all too often it is). If staff are treated like they’re disposable to the company, why should they invest any more than the absolute minimum of time and effort.
It needn’t be that way either, I once worked briefly behind the bar in a newly refurbished Yates’s owned pub where all staff were given a week’s training in not just customer service and health & safety but how to pull a proper pint of ale (long before the craft beer trend), wine tasting, mixing cocktails, how to serve food.
Even when I worked in Clarks as a Saturday job during sixth form (UK equivalent of senior year) I had a decent working knowledge of the stock: leather Vs rubber soles, which items could be ordered in different colours and sizes, which were reparable etc: because our manageress took the time and effort to make sure we were well-briefed.
Given that clothing retail staff tend to be pretty young and that (stereotyping perhaps) fashion is predominantly a young person’s game, it feels like a missed opportunity to motivate and enthuse their staff.
More companies need to take the Timpson model (key cutters and shoe repairers) where working behind the counter is seen as the entry to a life-long career with the company, not just a poorly paid and insecure stop-gap.
As one of those (hopefully not too) hip staff from Winkreative, I think it’s important to note that it’s not just the menswear shops that benefit from visiting shops like Trunk in person; it’s the shops around them as well. Chiltern Street in particular has great specialist shops selling everything from magazines to sitars. These shops, in turn, bring customers from outside the menswear world to places like Trunk, Hamilton & Hare and Anglo Italian.
Lots of London’s best menswear shops are in pockets of the city with other interesting independents – add Savile Row and Lambs Conduit Street to the list. So by visiting, you’re supporting this approach to retail in other sectors too.
Another interesting article. I do agree in the main, about your views on the stores such as Trunk (and Drakes) and yes, where we can try to support them. I do however disagree in regard to the bigger chain stores, in as much as they provide vitally needed employment. Also in my experience the customer experience varies a lot across all types of menswear stores. I would suggest your view on them is an over generalisation. I have seen a degree of condescension on occasion ( a look through trust pilot is interesting ) in some higher end / independent stores and by contrast good customer service in chain stores. In fact in some ways the latter provide a place for younger people to learn the basics and if they like the clothing business. In the US in particular they are a good source of more senior empowerment as well. Also generally the ‘status’ so to speak of all clothing shop workers is held in higher regard in the US than Europe.
I do after all shop in person to buy and feel / experience clothes, rather than have a coffee, for which I will go to a coffee shop (where again the customer experience varies greatly! ) and for me it’s not an elite pursuit. Not for moment suggesting that it is for you, but for some I think it could be.
All shops independent and chain are in essence transactional, and if they don’t turn a profit then they will close, unless they have a patron with deep pockets and I have no issues with that. . My view is that it’s a shame when any shops close ( even Debenhams) mainly because of the impact on employees and disproportionate impact on women and younger people in particular.
So yes let’s support the type of shop you are talking about, but at the same time not look down on the rest.
Also agree this is not the place to discuss lockdown and Brexit for that matter!
Thanks Stephen, good points all and well put.
I don’t mean to look down on those chain stores. It’s probably mostly a frustration that the staff simply aren’t trained well enough, or given enough product information about what they’re selling. I’m also not sure it’s an elite/mass thing – if anything the staff at the expensive designer shops can be the worst of the lot: uninformed and arrogant.
Excellent point on the training and product information. From my time in business (corporate), training, coaching and mentoring are integral to overall success and sadly often overlooked or ‘box ticked’. I would see the flatter/smaller structures of smaller independent shops make staff development more accessible. I think there are lessons to be learned in both spheres for both.
Totally agree on your last point I went into Gucci on Bond Street to try in some horsebits a couple of years ago and the service was unbelievably rude.
Hear, hear. I was sad to read that the Vintage Showroom shop was closing down although whenever I visited I got the impression it was more of an historical clothing repository for fashion students/ designers/ buyers than an actual shop. Sad. I did sell them a few vintage pieces so didn’t feel so bad when I never bought anything!
It will be interesting how much business is taken away by the plethora of new internet business who offer(or claim to) a similar product to high end retailers. Everyday, my Facebook and Instagram feed is bombarded with ‘handmade’ shoes or ‘finest merino’ . The power of advertising.
Luckily,here in Rotterdam/Den Haag there are still enough retailers of the traditional retailers (and tailors)to make a shopping trip worthwhile.
Can you provide some examples? The Netherlands has never been featured in PS (to my knowledge) and apart from Frans Boone, I don’t know any other “Trunk-style” shops in NL.
I am also a resident of The Hague area. Your suggestions would be much appreciated.
P.F., other than Frans Boone, which is a class of their own, I would right away also recommend Shoes and Shirts in Maastricht, and of course The Hand in Amsterdam for shoes. But would also be interested in other recommendations. I have seen some nice “real” stores here and there, but many of them are either a little old-timey, or seem to cater mostly to the Dutch taste of mid-blue suits with tan double monks.
Ha – I’m also in R’dam. Wondering who you have in mind – Frans Boone probably?
Maastricht has several good men’s shops. Excellent for shoes.
Ettemadis in Den Haag has a good selection of cloth and offer bespoke.
House of Dapper in Rdam https://houseofdapper.nl/look/
Well last Monday people were queuing to get into our local branch of Primark and coming away with bulging shopping bags. Low quality, mass produced fast fashion items that will mostly end up as landfill in a year or two. Dire, but in a way encouraging, …why?Because Primark don’t trade online and their customers have missed them. Whatever people spend on a shirt they still like to pick it up, feel it, try it on, they enjoy the shopping experience. Online shopping is obviously here to stay, but there’s still room for bricks and mortar stores who provide the customers with what they want be it cheap or expensive, niche or mainstream.
A lot of shops will have to rethink their location, rethink how many branches they have, etc. When the lockdowns first happened, people left the city to live with relatives in the countryside, with the expectation that they would eventually move back in. But as the lockdowns continued, more and more people sold their apartments and moved out permanently. I’m not sure what the situation is like in England, but in America, real estate prices in the suburbs are skyrocketing while prices in the city are dropping. This has obvious consequences for stores in terms of foot traffic.
I’m not sure to what extent “flagship” shops like the ones you feature in this article rely on custom from locals as opposed to tourists or people who are traveling. But the shops I used to frequent in DC relied to a great extent on the people who worked in DC. And to the extent that people are no longer living (or working) in the city, that’s a permanent loss of foot traffic that won’t easily be replaced.
Thanks, yes, sorry a little overlap with my reply to your other comment.
This is certainly happening in London as well. I think it backs up my point that the shops that will continue to exist will be destination ones – places you want to visit, go out of your way to visit, rather than walk past and pick something up. Fortunately many of the shops I mention are like that, and less dependent on locals.
Speaking of Chiltern Street – I was noticed last week what must be a new store called “Sabah”, making what purport to be traditional handmade Turkish slippers which can be resoled with wear. Have you taken a look at these?
They look an interesting alternative to an Espadrille, and I feel they would go well with the sort of “casual chic” you might find from Ardret or Stoffa, but I haven’t actually had a chance to go in and check them out in person yet!
Interesting, no I haven’t looked at them.
If they’re anything like the Indian ones I featured here, they are nice, but not the most comfortable
Some further research shows they have been there since 2019 – amazing how lockdown has made me notice things I must’ve passed 100s of times.
These are what I’m speaking about – what I’m attracted is to that they can replace the rubber sole for £40 a go, and how they (at least appear) to improve with age.
Thank you. First reaction is the Sabah looks a little frumpy, with the round shape and big stitching. Not sure it would be a good replacement for an espadrille. But heavily caveated by the fact I haven’t seen them in person.
Another benefit of physical retail in fact. I wouldn’t buy these online, given that uncertainty. But I may well stop in and see them if I’m near to the store.
Is complacency creeping back in despite the more deadly and infection South African variant of Covid spreading quickly in parts of London? Those in the group photos outside Trunk and Clutch Cafe are not wearing masks and they are not social distancing! It’s still much safer to shop locally or on online.
As I said Kenny, I don’t think this is the place for a Covid discussion if that’s ok
Haha, good point. Not sure when those photos were taken but if they were on reopening its hardly a good example of a responsible retailer. I really feel for these small business having to endure Covid and the uncertainty that it has brought but it doesn’t excuse not following the guidance or providing a safe environment for customers. Simon, could you confirm if these pictures were taken on the 12th of April? I think its an important point if you are actively encouraging people to visit these places? It would be irresponsible not to address this point.
Yes they were.
Whilst I agree with Simon, this isn’t really the place for a discussion on Covid, I think there is an exception here.
If the staff in these shops are not wearing masks (A&E were so doing the right thing) or social distancing, then that does need to be highlighted and doesn’t appear very customer friendly to me. After all the pandemic’s economic impact has had and is having a pronounced impact on retail and younger employment, so I would think there’s would be a vested interest. Simon you may be doing them a service by politely mentioning to them.
By contrast chain stores such as Uniqlo are taking all the correct measures as are many other shops.
I for one would not shop somewhere that is clearly ignoring sensible and easy to abide by guidelines.
To be clear Stephen, the staff in all the shops are wearing masks inside, and maintaining social distancing.
Well Simon, I’m sorry for my first (I think?) comment on your admirable site to be striking a dissenting note, but I’d like to respond to several contributions here by stating that nothing would repel me more from these shops than staff wearing masks and social distancing.
No worries Ed. Dissent always welcome when politely put.
To be clear, you’d rather than even when inside the shop, the staff neither wear masks nor observe social distancing, despite that being the government recommendation?
This is an old comment, but something I did wonder about at the time when these government rules/guidance came out. I noticed in my area, where there are a great many small, independent retail businesses and a few big ones e.g. Tesco etc. Some of the small family run businesses were either forced to close entirely or severely restricted and also heavily policed. I have been told by numerous owners, accounts of harassment and over zealous enforcement (I have also seen council enforcement officers patrolling and entering small stores), while big stores were seemed to be left alone. My local Tesco was chock full of people during the lockdown’s. I remember the day clearly that masks were introduced. Customers in Tesco, on that very day, leant over/across me as if the masks they were wearing were them super shields.
I have spoken to many small business owners over this entire time and the number of them that have been under severe pressure and suffering anxiety is incredible. I know that is still the case even this week for some who are very anxious and worried of the prospect of further restriction/measures this winter (also the measures being taken currently in other countries e.g. Austria, Canada, Australia, numerous former Communist European countries, and of course, China where the idea for ‘lockdowns’ originated, I believe).
I hope you don’t take this as an attack on you, but your comment on governments recommendations is at best naïve. Governments often get things wrong and often do things that ARE wrong. I believe we need to be ever vigilant of government overreach and abuse of power. My business, and the businesses around me are very much essential to our health and prosperity and to be told our businesses were not essential was one of the first mis-steps/abuses (depending on your viewpoint) that this and other governments around the world took. Many Eastern Europeans (older ones) have made comments to me about how similar it feels as to when they were living under communism.
I apologise for making this comment, as I didn’t really want to bring my thoughts on this to your website and I have no problem if you choose not to publish it, but I do think it’s relevant to the survival of shops. I won’t bring up the topic again here, but I have decided to speak up and will continue to do so elsewhere. Much of the ‘Science’ isn’t science, this has become clear.
I do hope that one day there will be a thorough investigation of the ‘pandemic’ and the measures taken and the Media’s role by a journalist(s) of integrity who exposes the lies. For any budding journo’s out there, start with the videos from China of supposedly infected people dropping dead in the street – did we have one confirmed case of that happening here or any other country in the world? Those videos (clearly fakes) were used to (and did) terrify people around the world. Social distancing and masks certainly seemed to suit big retailers and warehouse type operators…hmmm. I’d love to know exactly who dreamt up these rules and regulations and why (for customer confidence?). I don’t think it would have suited these big operators to have their customers queue outside at a hatch.
Thank you Con.
I don’t mind the comment, but this really isn’t the best place for discussions of the effectiveness or not of government policies on Covid. The chances of having a useful discussion of it are very small. Particularly when most of what you’ve said here is essentially just speculation.
Agree, not the place. Disagree that most of what I’ve said is speculation, some of it sure.
By the way, when I said that your comment was at ‘best naiive’ I didn’t mean to imply anything about you. It was a turn of phrase and a bit clumsy.
No worries Con.
We should not take up any discussion about Covid policies again, but if you make comments along these lines on any other subject, I suggest keeping them specific, with particular information and references. It’s the lack of the latter, and sweeping nature of the former, that undermines debate on many subjects, on both sides. No one benefits from it.
I’m afraid if one lives outside London the number of good menswear shops and tailor’s proberbly drops exponentially. At least,in my experience. I have to shop online at Luca Faloni,Edward Green,A&S etc.Although I live in a fairly afluent area virtually all the menswear outlets have disappeared because their merchandise reflected the 1980s not the present day.
I second that. I live a couple of hundred miles from London, so shops like Trunk, Drakes, A&S, Luca Faloni, William Crabtree and Private White, along with the tailors I use, have always been destinations to visit when I’m in London on business, not least because there is so little locally; certainly nothing to compare to those shops. That used to be fine as I was usually there a couple of times a month. It’s now well over a year since I was able to visit. I’ve continued to make online purchases from most of these shops, during lockdown and their online retail facilities have been invaluable. I haven’t been tempted to buy from other online retailers, not because they didn’t have anything I found attractive, but because my experience in shopping in person at these stores informed my online purchasing. It gave me confidence in the quality of the products and the fit. I did not have that kind of confidence with other online retailers. I think, too, that visiting the shops has enabled me to build up a relationship with them, to a degree, in a way that just wouldn’t happen in larger, high street retailers. I suppose all that adds up to a kind of brand loyalty, perhaps.
When (if!) I’m finally able to travel with a degree of normality again, it’s likely that my visits to london will be fewer, but when I do, I’ll be making a point of visiting those retailers with whom I feel that I’ve built some sort of relationship. Given that those visits may be less frequent than they have been in the past, their online retail facilities will continue to be important to me, and the future of my personal menswear shopping looks like being a greater mix of in-store and online shopping, but still from the same shops from which I’ve been buying for the last few years. I suspect that may not be too different for other people who do not live in London or other major urban centres. If so, then there may be implications for the kind of smaller retailers that I and other PS readers buy from, in that they may need to think about how a different balance between in-store and online retail affects their business models.
I agree with this point. Not all retailers have made an effective transition to online shopping. Drakes is an example, i have had a number of issues when purchasing with them online with faulty items and sizing that is completely inconsistent. Their size 36 blazers are now giant meaning there is no offering for someone like me who is a fairly regular shape and has no problem with RTW fitting. Shops are still necessary in many instances.
We are looking forward to the day when we will be able to visit some of our favorite stores and people in person. We are currently hoping to travel to London in July. We shall see. But the list of stores to visit (or revisit, I suppose) is a lengthy one!
What do I want when I visit a shop ?
Space and time to be able to look and understand a product.
Don’t hover around and try to pressurise but do answer questions I may have.
Aside from that please be happy to make small talk but please, Please , PLEASE don’t push a sale.
There is nothing worse then a salesperson trying to make a sale or disappointed that you never purchased anything after trying a garment on (something I’m reliably informed is common in German shop culture).
Totally agree. Use it or lose it. Another part of the shop experience is to discover an item you wouldn’t normally consider buying.
What is the denim jacket you are wearing? And what type of denim jacket do you recommend to wear with medium rise trousers? As I see that many of denim jackets are short and require a high waist trouser.
I didn’t found any article about denim jackets so guess it could be useful an article an them.
Yes I don’t really wear them much, and even this one (a lovely vintage Lee) is short and would perhaps be better with higher trousers.
You can see more of the jacket here.
For longer denim jackets, just avoid the more vintage-led places, like Real McCoys etc. Eg try The Workers Club – you can see me wearing one of theirs here.
Actually, sorry there isn’t much on that last post. Best to look at the TWC website
Regarding TWC denim jacket ,how is the fit? Does it run small? What size did you get? Is it suitable for medium rise trousers and the darker denim do you find it versatile?
I’m afraid I can’t remember Michael and I don’t own it any more. But yes, the darker denim would be versatile
I support completely Simon’s sentiment.
That said, the future will be completely determined by a return to normality.
Shops like A&S are based on customer intimacy and you can’t drink a cup of tea through a surgical mask.
If the vaccine holds and we have a true return to normality, all will be well.
If we continue to be a mask wearing, home working (those that have jobs) society, the story will be over.
I was in Soho today and it was as dead as a door knocker.
Sad but true. God help us.
Great article Simon. I was in Cording’s of Piccadilly (at the moment Jermyn Street) just the other day for a Navy lambswool jumper, lightweight tan corduroy (currently getting tapered) and three pairs of over the calf socks and still came out just under the price of a pair of selvedge denim. It would be a travesty to lose such shops.
A little concerning to me was that both Cordings and Drakes which i visited that day seemed to be low on stock and i hope that these shortages will not become a legacy of this pandemics impact on trade.
Fully agree Simon. As a menswear enthusiast living in London I find shopping to be an immeasurably pleasurable experience and the excellent independent shops need supporting . My wife bemoans heading into Oxford Street but I’ve developed a lovely route; Train from Crystal Palace into Victoria; walk up through St James Park to Piccadilly; quick salute to Beau Brummel on Jermyn Street, scoot through the arcade and new Bond Street to Saville Row and Clifford Street before a long walk to Chiltern Street in Marylebone. Naturally the odd pint or coffee on route to keep up the spirits! Big shout out to the guys at Anglo Italian in particular who even though I’ve only bought a few things from there (and certainly don’t spend anywhere near what I expect a lot of their customers will spend), always greet me by name when I nip in. Have no idea how they know but it makes a big difference!
My route too Jasper! Though from Denmark Hill, not Crystal Palace, and sometimes I get a Boris Bike from Victoria. On a lovely day like today, though, St James Park is an absolute jewel.
I truly believe I walk into different shops to you, they have the same name outside and in the same location but I don’t recognise the experience, particularly of the staff, at all… whilst I agree the experience with the staff in designer brands is typically poor my experience in the shops mentioned here is typically worse. Both in my experience can be very snobbish if they don’t feel you belong.
I am glad they are reopened as whilst I dislike the stores I like the products and I realise that many won’t survive on web sales alone – though in part is the state of their websites is to blame. There has been some benefits of lockdown though, some have improved their website (C&J shoes finally introducing e-commerce in 2021) plus more have improved their dispatch times and P&P charges.
There are areas that are nice to walk around and sit with a coffee on a bench in the sun and that experience has been worsened with many closed shops and restaurants etc still displaying signs about Xmas sales/parties etc from when London entered tier 4 but I’ll finish my drink and then avoid the menswear shops but maybe go to one of the delis; they are knowledgable of their products, have interesting things and seem to think I belong.
I’m sure that Simon does receive special treatment from these stores, given what a post from him can mean for their sales.
Best experience I have had is at Anglo Italian. Not only helpful on what I wanted to buy, but also happy for me to try things on when they knew I wasn’t going to buy them. Gave me excellent travel advice for getting from Naples to the Amalfi coast too.
Worst experience has been with an instagram model that PWVC employs in their London store. Had two experiences with him where I tried something on and did not buy it and he was clearly pi**ed off about it. My wife and I left with a very poor opinion, and he clearly should not be in a customer-facing a role. I love PWVC’s clothes though, and my opinion will not be tarnished by one bad member of staff.
Perfectly written and felt!
In January I rebooked my London trip to this July, after cancelling last year. I’m very much looking forward to Duke’s Hotel, St. James and Mayfair again. Simon’s making me a suit at Poole, shoes at Lobb and shirts from Darren at Budd; good for me and them. Plus my other many favorites in the area and two clubs to possibly join. Really good to be getting back.
Vancouver, Washington USA
Hello Simon, excellent article as ever. Regarding menswear retail shops London is certainly an oasis in a desert. Here in Germany we suffer already from the issues you are describing. Apart from shops like Michael Jondral in Hanover there is virtually nothing left what compares to the shops in London. Therefore I have to travel or to buy online. So I am happy to get any informations about the menswear shops you mentioned here like A & S or Dick‘s in Edinburgh. Their online shops are nearly as good as the real thing. But customs procedures, arising costs and prolongued delivery times due to Brexit are sometimes becoming a nuisance.
Thank you Daniel. Yes, I hear Germany just stopped accepting all packages for a week at one point, because they were so overwhelmed with the volume of customs processing required. It sounds like it’s working more smoothly now though.
I fully agree with Daniel’s comment, before COVID I often used the opportunity to visit many of the stores mentioned here on business trips to London. Once COVID hit in 2020, I also decided to support my favorite stores with online purchases. To my surprise, for half of my online purchases an additional 35% of tax and duties was charged upon delivery, and this was not really clear from the website price or order confirmation. It is obviously caused by new Brexit regulations, and apparently smaller shops seem to struggle getting the UK-EU formalities right. I just hope it will be fixed soon because at least for me it tarnishes the great experience in store.
Yes, a lot of the smaller places have struggled. To be fair, in my own experience, customs operations in EU countries have also really struggled to process things correctly – with Germany having the worst time of it. They simply closed to all incoming parcels at one point!
Fingers crossed it seems like it’s being slowly worked out now.
The Netherlands is five working days from the uk. The only difficult period was the first couple of weeks in the new year. I haven’t seen any increase in postal charges, part from Fortnum and Mason tea!
I have had to battle this way before Covid-19, once I moved to the Falkland Islands (which only clothing store is stuck in the supermarket, for men at least) I only get a short amount of time in the UK to do my shopping. Online is the only way here so most of the time I wait until I am home to do the major shopping.
I am still very new to classic menswear, and I did start, as you mentioned Simon, in House of Fraser looking for a business suit. From there I have moved on and now look for the local shops, shopping vintage, looking at bespoke suit, reading new books, articles, and following very interesting people in this community.
Until international travel opens up again I cannot travel home, but you can bet that once it does I will be traveling to locations like you have mentioned to do my part to help. Also I do enjoy just browsing around and learning from people who actually know what they are talking about – the think I made a mistake of doing at House of Fraser.
Interesting post as always.
Point is that yes people should support men’s stores but I think it’s about priorities right now.
Many hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs in the last year and after furlough ends in September many more are likely to become unemployed, I hope I am wrong.
Hi Simon, Just this morning I was down Chiltern Street & witnessing the first sign of life at a number of shops, and some renovation which is a hopeful sign for the future of this lovely retail street ( I bought my wedding suit there in the early days in 85 ). As it happened I went on to Anderson & Shepard too & definitely endorse the calm, friendly expert advice on their clothes. A pleasure to frequent.
As someone interested in both tailoring and a landlord, I recommend reading the Westminster Council report, ‘Bespoke Tailoring in London’s West End’, which might help better understand the problem.
Briefly, tailors came under a particular ‘user class’ until the ’80s. Before this, they were regarded as a form of ‘light industry’ because of their work. The rents for this sort of space were lower; however, when some tailors moved more in retailing and outsourcing their work off the premises, the rents increased as they now began to fall under the retail umbrella. The report is from 2006 but will help a non-specialist understand better the issue is a little bit more complex than laying the blame at the landlord’s feet.
Thank you Richard. Is there more detail in there also on the current protections they enjoy, along with galleries in Mayfair for example, and doctors around Harley Street? I believe that was updated more recently
A great, and necessary, post.
I’ll add another name for those who are on, or visit, the US West Coast: Standard & Strange in Oakland. A PHENOMENAL workwear-oriented store with fantastic people.
Simon, I think I’ve mentioned it to you before – but be sure to visit the next time you’re out that way!
Doing a circle of shopping on Saturday after a haircut.
Tube to Oxford Circus, pop into Spiritland the headphone shop on New Burlington Street first, round the corner and Connolly, A&S Haberdashery, and then Adret (never been), round the corner from there to Drake’s to try their jeans on and anything else that might look lovely, then a long walk up through Mayfair to Private White – if I’m lucky the barbers beneath it might have a spare slot.
Then across Oxford Street, up through St Christopher’s Place, and to Anglo Italian then across Marylebone High Street to Chiltern Street and Trunk and a coffee. If I have the energy I’ll then walk all the way back across Marylebone into Fitzrovia and Clutch Cafe.
If I time it right I might have an early evening meal somewhere (outdoors of course.)
I”m sure there’s a faster way to do all that but I have sorely missed that experience for many of the reasons Simon writes about.
It’s a circle I’ve done before and sometimes I don’t find anything I like – I hope I do on Saturday.
Just writing this made me think, Simon – perhaps you could do an article for London visitors – a walking guide taking in the best menswear shops London has to offer in a day’s walk, or something like that.
There is a list of my favourites in the book I did, The Sartorial Travel Guide, and many of the chapters are available on PS too. See the guide here
The only problem with these guides is you need to rewrite them every year or two
Could not agree more. … Living a wee bit too far to be able to pop into these shops in person my visits are few and far between but each visit is like visiting old friends, even when we have often never met. The online experience, the calls and mails though are always a simple pleasure and again often result in multiple exchanges talking, as you say, about selvedge and sweatshirts. I know we cant list all shops that do but we probably all know them. Early last year I was in London with a S African business colleague and he often repeats his story of his amazement at being in London with me and how all the shops seem to know me as an old good friend (Particularly Crockett and Jones in Burlington Arcade, Drakes and Nigel Cabourn. My SA mate does not get the same service in the place he buys his Crocs and Farmers shirts so to him it was the ‘Twilight zone’ to walk into shops and have staff know my name and offer me tea/coffee.
It makes ALL the difference to shop in these shops and absolutely we must do all we can to support them and ensure they remain.
Great piece. Agree with every word.
As an aside, have you seen https://aurelien-online.com/? Their clothes/ shoes – made in Italy and at a low price point – bear a striking resemblance to another brand – made in Italy and NOT at a low price point.
Yes I have. To be honest, I feel an odd sense of distaste at obvious rip-offs like that. Perhaps it would be different if this were the absolute most I could afford. But at the very least it feels a little dishonest. What do you feel about it?
Pretty much the same I think; a weird experience I found given that the LP loafers regardless of thoughts on them are a classic. The quality would I suppose still need to be pretty high to “justify” over £200 on Espadrilles!!
I agree with the sentiment here. But these shops are few and far between and all but non-existent outside major cities like London. If, like me, you live in a rural area far from any big city, these shops might as well be on the moon. Much the same applies to a lot of the bespoke services you cover. It’s easy to dismiss the online experience if you live in London or Paris. But for many of us it’s the only accessible option. If I have a criticism of PS it’s that it is highly focussed on London and a few other world cities. I recommend you spend a year living in Cornwall. It would be genuinely interesting to see how you adapt.
Thanks Simon. That would certainly be fun.
There are many great places around the UK that should be supported. Old Town in Holt, The Workers Club in Surrey, Rag Parade in Sheffield. Plus of course the shops and factories around the manufacturing centres in Northampton, Huddersfield and Hawick. Go see Brian the bespoke tailor at Fox in Wellington, or Charlie the leather worker at Equus in Darlington.
There are lots of places like this, and we’ve covered them all; but in a big country like the UK with one dominating city like London, it’s inevitable that most of the best places will be there. Many people I know travel into London to visit these shops, and indeed more and more these days, given the recent migration out of town. As others have commented above in fact. And online is then an ancillary to that experience.
The new winners in retail will be the ones using their physical stores as extensions of their online experiences, not the other way around. They’re flipping the script. The ones who used the last year to move the customer identity and logistics online allows them to design their physical stores as showrooms, not warehouses.
The best experience I have had in the last couple of years has been at 40colori on Lambs Conduit St (thanks Simon for mentioning them as I’d never have known about them otherwise). The instore experience and also communication via email. The MTM is a godsend and I hope they remain there in business for many years to come.
Next is Studio Nicholson in Shoreditch. Only visited once, didn’t buy anything but spent a fair amount of time trying a coat and discussing sizing and what suited me and what would/wouldn’t go with a number of items i.e. creating a simple capsule from one or two items, what could and couldn’t be altered. I realised non of the clothing is my style except I did like some of the footwear. I was treated with great patience and felt like my needs were really being addressed. Gentle probing questions, thoughtful but not pushy recommendations by a clearly knowledgeable member of staff who seemed to love her job. I don’t known whether this person has received excellent training or not, but I considered it to be an excellent example of good consultative selling and also a great pleasure to deal with. I’ll return for pair of canvas shoes.
Followed by a close third by the Ralph Lauren store (this surprised me, as I didn’t expect it from such a big brand) – this excellent service was spread across multiple visits and a variety of different staff. My only issue is that sizing with some items.
Trunk was very good also, but on one occasion, inconsistent, service below what I’d expect there. Also, need to be more polite on requesting personal details – I understand marketing and customer service and why it’s done, but it needs to be done in a more respectful and sensitive way, in my opinion. Personal details, are personal after all. John Simons great too, but one mark taken away for pushy sale on one occasion. To be fair, I think this can be a difficult one for sales staff to navigate, especially if they haven’t been trained well. There is a solution (and Ralph Lauren employ in their sales process so go there if you want to learn what it is).
Almost forgot about Clutch – have never bought anything (sizing issues) there but the instore service is excellent and this means I’ll always return when in town, and will hopefully be able to buy something there eventually. Another store called Sunnysiders on Rivington St near Old St similar to Clutch in many ways (the service and many Japanese brands).
Vintage showroom too, a joy and a pleasure to visit – sad the shop closed.
I have yet to try out many of the recommendations for tailoring mentioned here but plan to do so.
I’d like to see independent stores survive and thrive, bigger brands too if they deserve to. I really like Ralph Lauren for example, simply for their service alone – I don’t always buy something, but would stop going there if the service became poor.
I imagine that behind the scenes there is alot of discussion in the industry on how to increase sales and gain long-term, repeat customers, or is there? I know what experience I want when I go shopping for clothes – do the retailers?
Can’t believe I forgot about Blackhorse Lane – such a pleasure to deal with. Discovered them before I heard about them here, just stumbled in there not knowing what they were about. Long may they thrive.