Whitcomb & Shaftesbury have achieved great popularity in recent years because of their pricing.
They offer one service where the majority of the suit is made in their Indian workshop, and as a result can offer a Savile Row suit for just under £2000.
However, if that was all they offered, the popularity would not have lasted long. What has maintained the demand is the quality of the work and the cutting, which is in the mould of the drape cut historically practised at Kilgour French & Stanbury.
That quality and cut has built up the one thing every tailor needs to be sustainable: repeat clients.
House: Whitcomb & Shaftesbury
Address: 11 St George St, London
Cutter: John McCabe
Price of suit (at time of writing): £4740 including VAT (onshore service – offshore £2280)
This RAF-blue flannel suit was cut for me by John McCabe in 2015.
At the time I had two suits made: both cut by John but one made up in the Indian workshop, the other on Savile Row, these being the two options Whitcomb offers.
Owner Suresh Ramakrishnan offered to do this in order to compare the two. And of course the result, as Suresh knew it would be, was that they were equally good.
In fact, the Indian-made one had some little flourishes that few Row-trained tailors would want to do, such as the lap seam running all the way up the centre of the back.
Here I have chosen to show the Row-made suit, just because the Indian-made one has had more coverage in the past. In terms of fit and cut, they are identical.
John McCabe worked at Kilgour French & Stanbury from 1993 to 2010, and the cut offered by Whitcomb today is broadly the same.
It is a version of the so-called drape cut, which is named for the excess cloth it puts into the chest and back of the suit, both to flatter the wearer and to make it more comfortable.
This excess shouldn’t really be visible as extra folds or baggage, as it isn’t here. Instead, your chest just looks larger and you feel better wearing it.
The flattering effect is enhanced by a relatively wide shoulder and nipped-in waist. And it also usually has a fairly natural shoulder line – in other words not much padding.
The best-known exponent of the drape is Anderson & Sheppard, and tailors that used to work there (such as Steven Hitchcock).
There are differences, however. First, the drape points are slightly more exaggerated with Anderson & Sheppard.
Comparing this suit and my linen A&S jacket, you can see that the shoulder is slightly narrower (6¼ inches rather than 7), the drape is slightly less noticeable, and the sleeve isn’t as full and ‘messy’ at the top.
And second, the other, non-drape aspects of the Whitcomb & Shaftesbury suit are understated.
The opening of the foreparts at the bottom of the jacket, for example, is quite restrained. Even though this is a one-button suit, it doesn’t feel like the jacket is opening immediately from that point. It takes a while for the line to curve down, round and out.
The lapel is also fairly narrow, at 3 inches. Of course, the width of the lapel is something that can be quite easily altered depending on the customer. It is one of the things the tailor is most flexible about.
But as with all suits in this series, I merely asked Whitcomb to cut the style they would prefer, and it is instructive to see what they did.
The line of the lapel, with its gentle curve outwards from the waist button, is typically English.
But the gorge line (where the collar and lapel meet) is perhaps more downwards sloping than most tailors, and this rather changes the appearance of the lapel, making its point a rather shallower angle, directed downwards.
The closest style to this among the other tailors featured in this series is probably Kathryn Sargent.
If I were to have another suit made with Whitcomb, I think this is one of the few things I would change. A wider lapel (closer to 4 inches) with a flatter gorge line.
Again, the comparison with A&S is apt, as that lapel is wider and flatter. Just perhaps a little high on the body.
Elsewhere, the only things to note on the Whitcomb & Shaftesbury suit are the length (which is bang-on average at 32 inches) and the relatively low buttoning point (19 inches).
With the latter, it’s worth bearing in mind that this is a one-button suit, rather than two-button. Often the tailor will place the single button a touch lower than if it had another button beneath it.
I should also mention that Sian Walton now does the majority of the cutting at Whitcomb, having ably worked under John. She has made me several things and has proved to be just as good.
I love airforce-blue flannel, because it’s a way to wear a stronger shade of blue without verging into the electric blues of many modern suits.
However, it’s still not the easiest colour to wear in an elegant way, and I therefore usually wear it with a blue shirt or blue-striped shirt and a navy tie.
The striped shirt here in cotton/linen is from 100 Hands, while the navy tie and white-linen handkerchief are from Anderson & Sheppard.
The shoes are my Walcots from Edward Green.
- Shoulder width: 6¼ inches
- Shoulder padding: Moderate
- Sleevehead: Raised
- Sleeve: Slightly narrow, straight
- Cuff: 11½ inches
- Lapel: 3 inches, slight belly
- Gorge height: 3½ inches
- Drape: Generous
- Outbreast pocket height: 9¾ inches
- Buttoning point: Low, 19 inches
- Waist suppression: Moderate, emphasised by drape
- Quarters: Straight, from second button
- Length: 32 inches
- Back seam: Moderate suppression
- Vent height: 10½ inches
- Trouser width at knee: 20 inches
- Trouser width at cuff: 16½ inches
Photography: Jamie Ferguson