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

Site: www.whitcombandshaftesbury.com

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. 

 

Style Breakdown

  • 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

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Paul

One very nice suit.Cut,style and fit look excellent.If I needed another suit which I do’nt,I would definitely head towards W&S.

Emerging Genius

I don’t see a particularly rosy future for suits. This comment comes from someone who enjoyed wearing them.

Robin

Wearing a suit to the office is the easiest way to dress .
Pick a suit and a shirt and you’re away .
No mixing and matching trousers , shirts, jackets etc .
But you only learn and practise this with age.

HOWEVER , how do you wear a suit to the office and make it look like you’re doing so effortlessly ? Thats the key .
Personally, I’ve found the answer to that to be a soft tailored, structureless shouldered, Boglioli suit with no tie .

Furthermore , with most office workers only required to be in the office 1 or 2 times a week in the future I would predict going to the office will be that ‘sense of occasion’ warranting more effort in what clothes are worn .

Peter Hall

I have a huge bias towards this colour, as I was in the RAF for 30 years! The weave of the cloth gives a greater depth and texture. It’s a wonderful cut. From what I recall, RAF wool cloth was a blue with grey weave, but this,I presume, is white and it looks very modern and smart.
I looked at the suit a few times and couldn’t work out what was unusual, but you are correct about the gorge line. I would happily wear this.

Once again,Simon, you are demonstrating how modern tailoring can evolve . Thank you.

Anonymous

I like your tie-knot; is it half- Windsor?

Liam

It is really useful to flick between this post and the A&S linen jacket to note the subtle differences so thanks for the post. The trousers look quite slim, are they flat fronted or single pleat? I’m also interested to know your preference on pleats at the moment?

zo

Simon please help my confusion re pricing and suit featured here. You say price at the time of writing (Apr 2021) is £1,900. That sounds like the off-shore price, no? And the suit featured in the photographs was made for you in 2015 and is the on-shore one which is presumably more expensive…is that right?

David

“the drape cut historically practised at Kilgour French & Stanbury” – I’m sorry, but KF&S were not proponents of the drape cut (a la A&S) – if anything, they were much closer to Huntsman.

Peter

I worked at kilgore for 10 years during the late 70s-80s and everything was orientated towards a straight cut with a draped forepart – even the canvas structure was different to accommodate that particular style.

RT

This is a lovely suit. Airforce blue flannel was one of the options for my last suit from W&S – I’m not sure if the cloth we were looking at was the same as yours, but it was, at least, quite similar. I went for a charcoal flannel on the end, but airforce blue remains on the list. I have a nice lighter weight airforce blue suit, MtM from James Michelsberg that is great in Spring and Summer.
My experience of W&S has been consistently excellent, with suits, a jacket, numerous pairs of trousers and an overcoat (possibly my favourite item of clothing, ever) all to exactly the same standard, whether cut by John or Sian. I’ve always found the team to be incredibly friendly and helpful, and that quality of both product and service, along with outstanding value for money, has meant that they have become the automatic first choice for me, for bespoke clothing. As soon as I’m able to travel again, I’ll be looking at their softer tailoring options.

Carl

I love this and have used the same cloth in an odd sportcoat that I later complemented with trousers in the same cloth. So I have patch pockets on the jacket. I think it was the first item made in Saman Amels Napoli line. (Dag or Saman may correct me).

Jtkuga

Simon,

First off I love the suit. Although it isn’t one I would buy as it doesn’t appear appropriate for my office, and at least at this point all of my suits have to be office appropriate. I love the fit and cut, and I have always liked Air Force blue, although as you point out it isn’t the easiest color to wear. Whitcomb and Shaftesbury is definitely a tailor I would be interested in although I don’t believe they travel to Dallas (or anywhere in the U.S.?) Which brings me to my question, I believe in the past you had a calendar that showed when tailors were traveling to certain cities. I can’t find that now. Is it because of Covid and tailors aren’t really travelling at the moment? Do you plan to bring it back?

My experience with my local bespoke tailor was overall good, but I would prefer a different cut or house style, and they fight me too much on jacket length (They want it shorter than I would like it) so I would like to try other tailors. I know WW Chan travels to Dallas, although they aren’t at the moment. I was hoping to get a good idea of which tailors travel to Dallas (or Houston) so I could decide which I want to try next…

Hugh

They also travel to Chicago and Washington DC. I’m not sure about other US cities

Graham Morgan

Would that jacket be flexible enough to wear as a separate; maybe with grey or brown flannel trousers?

Carl

This is one of the few times I disagree with you Simon. I think it works well as a separate with gray trousers. At least with neapolitan tailoring and patch pockets.

Anonymous

Simon
Maybe one for Monday as a surprise post but would love something on Royal Style given the sad news on The Duke of Edinburgh

Jtkuga

I agree good idea.

Peter

Seconded! Would really enjoy that. In his prime in the and 60s and 70s particularly the D of E was really very stylish, maybe aided by that classic aristocratic sense that he didn’t care in the least what he was wearing and just happened to have chucked on a beautiful Savile Row suit. I believe Terry Haste was his tailor? Would love to know more.

Nick

seconded.

MF

This is a great idea. Such an elegantly dressed chap. RIP.

AJ C-B

Sort of a minimal requirement when literally your only job is representation and you’re permanently surrounded by people making sure you look great, right?

How about a style walk off with Prince Bernhard, the other ultra-vain royal?

David

Personally I think the A&S cut just has a lot more style.
Their wider lapel and larger shoulder make for a louche look.
This is one of those suits were I think there’s nothing wrong with it but there’s nothing right with it either and given your theory about the future of suits (special occasions) – I think discerning dressers are going to want more.

LAStyleGuy

Louche, schmouche. I have a wardrobe of A&S suits and odd jackets and trousers, and love them. But I still think today’s suit, even with its narrower lapels, is light years beyond “nothing right.”

H

Do you think it would be safe to significantly widen the lapel or would it throw off the balance of the rest of the suit? Perhaps more like your Thom Sweeney or Gieves & Hawkes.

I use Graham Browne for my business suits, and I’ve been tempted by upgrading to W&S for while – but always end up being put off by how the skinny lapels are. There’s something about it that just looks off to me from a style point of view.

Stephan

Lovely fabric, Simon!
A question: you mention the lapels can easily be altered – how so? Can this be done on finished suits? I’d always assumed the lapels are not .alterable’ except a tiny bit with ironing. Would love to hear more on this. Thanks!

Ravi

Hi Simon,

You mentioned in the comments above that a flannel jacket wouldn’t quite work as a separate, but do you think these RAF blue flannel trousers could work as a separate, perhaps with navy knitwear or a white shirt and an oatmeal/tobacco jacket?

Many thanks!

Vaibhav

Simon, any chance that one can wear the RAF colour (especially in flannel) on a standalone trouser? Maybe use it as a halfway between suit trousers and denim by pairing it with earthy-tones or even bright coloured sweaters?

Colin

Hi Simon……interesting I didn’t realise John McCabe overlapped with Carlo Brandelli at Kilgour. I assume Brandelli’s slightly more fashion forward slant in the RTW line was completely separate from the bespoke side? I had a few of the RTW items but not bespoke.

Ritchie Charlton

The RTW and the bespoke at Kilgour French & Stanbury weren’t seperate entities really, not quite!

Carlo and I started in June ’98 – Carlo was a consultant at first, working two days per week. I took over the cutting of the RTW and the technical side of it’s production from this point, starting with the original suit block that had been cut by John McCabe in 1996. This was tweaked and revised several times over the next ten years for No 8 Savile Row.

Once the company rebranded in 2003, Carlo went full time, became Creative Director and we expanded the range significantly. By this time, I had built a significant book of bespoke clients and ran the US trunk Show along with Campbell Carey-now at Huntsman. By 2006 I had to stop travelling for various reasons, not least because the RTW had turned into a monster! In 2008 we opened No 5 Savile Row with the clothes having more of a fashion edge and the RTW had by that time become a full time job for me. The blocks in No5 were quite a different fit compared to No8, shorter and neater, even though No 8 had become short and neat :-).

If you imagine building a range of clothes like a family tree, that everything is a development from something else; John’s block from ’96 was the seminal article and although it bore little resemblance to the raincoats, blousons, leather stuff and other more ‘out there’ things we did, genetically it was in there somewhere.

Peter Z

Dear readers,
RAF blue is an amazing colour and relatively easy to wear (of course not as easy as navy or mid gray). It’s hard to find a nice flannel in this colour. Recently Fox had a 18oz RAF blue flannel. Perhaps it’s worth it to write an email to see if there’s availability. If enough of us want it, they will make it. I personally knew how rare it would be and stocked up on 10m (just in case). I realized that I have 5-6 suit lengths of RAF blue ( not all made up) and I love it. It’s not out of place in a formal office as well especially on a sunny day (due to the gray in it). Hope this post creates more love for RAF blue and more merchants stock good qualities in it!

Tim

Hello Simon, really enjoyed the article. I think this colour quite hard to pair but I really like the overall outfit!

If I remember well, you were quite saddened by the lapels on this suit (quite downward facing), so you know if more options are now available?

Thanks in advance,
All the best

Tim

Simon, sorry this is such an unrelated question, but I’m following the guidance on the contact page — my question is about Belgian slippers and black tie (or that frustrating term for wedding attire, “black tie optional”).

This year I’ll finally be investing in a black tie suit from Saman Amel. My question is: Are black velvet or black suede Belgians appropriate attire for black tie weddings that seem to be generally forgiving of attire (“black tie optional”) and that are often outdoors? Or would it be out of place, call attention, or be impractical?

I’ve seen some (Andreas Weinas comes to mind) playing with Belgians in black velvet, even black suede, and a tuxedo. It’s a look I quite like. I’m also attracted to the potential for versatility there with more casual clothing as you might see Stòffa styled, but I’m unsure of when and where black tie and Belgians are appropriate and how far to take it. Black tie or black tie “optional” are generally the most formal events I attend. Most are at least partly outdoors, likely more so nowadays.

I would certainly wear black suede slippers well beyond black tie settings, so I’m secretly hoping to learn that they can work nowadays in some formal settings, even if they’re a bit unconventional. But I sense that the Belgian / black tie look is perhaps reserved for gathering with close friends and family (and indoors) rather than bigger formal gatherings such as weddings with a larger guest list.

Am I overthinking this? Should I just stick to patent oxfords and get on with it?

Matt Condon

Do you have a preference between 2 and 4 layered full canvas suits?

Jack

Hi Simon,
On an unrelated note, I have been looking for a basic baseball cap recently without any branding or embroidery on the front and have been having a hard time finding one. Are there any that you can recommend?

Chris

Hey Simon,

I am currently having a suit made by W&S . My second.
The first suit I made with them was a great process and brilliantly made- but was my first ever bespoke commission and not really knowing what to ask for meant I ended up with something highly conservative and a bit dated.

I wonder if you could perhaps give some ideas of how to get the best from them in terms of a slightly more stylish piece this time around.

I am conscious that every maker has their own specialities and style and breaking too far from them is not always going to end well.

If you were to go to them again for a soft , stylish, contemporary suit – what would you be asking for and paying attention to knowing their house style as you do?

Hugh

I took a photo of Simon’s suit to a W&S fitting, and I drew on it how I wanted the buttoning point lowered and the lapel moderately widened. I was going for a fairly sharp look, so it was just a change in proportion rather than style

John

Hi Simon,
This is a lovely suit! The color is appealing to me too. However, I just wonder what your options are, when it comes to shoes’ colors, black and mid brown as featured in this post aside.
John

A lovely color!

Q.

What I particularly like on this suit as you present it in the photos, Simon, is that the gorge and shirt collar form a parabola. Together with the lightly curved revers and the assymetric curvatures of the tie this is very pleasing to the eye.

As I’m rather below average in height (5’8) I usually opt for a higher gorge, but seeing it here in its subtle glory I might venture to try it on a next suit.

Steven Nellemann

PS,

Would you recall the cloth maker? RAF blue is a tricky color. It can look magnificently understated, as it does in the photos, or look completely over the top almost electric— which is fine too, but limits the settings for wearing it.

Peter Z.

Dear members,
Right now the merchant fox has a RAF blue hopsack 16-17 oz which is perfect for a blazer. They also have Navy and Midnight Navy. Perfect blazer cloth.
Get it while you still can.
(I am in no way affiliated with Fox except that I am a huge fan of their heavy cloth)
Best,
Peter

Stefan

Hi Simon,
May I ask you, have you ever done an article about your favourite tailor?
After all these suits from different houses, which one stands out? When I read about Prince Philip last couple of weeks, and especially about his tailor, I got a warm feeling when I read about people who always have had the same tailor for many years. I don’t know what it is, perhaps I am just a typical man… What would your tailor be if you had to choose only one?