A story in suits: My history with Anderson & Sheppard
I had my first suit made at Anderson & Sheppard 12 years ago, in 2010.
As I begin a series looking at the making of a new A&S jacket, I thought it would be interesting, even fun, to look back at that first suit and the ones that followed it - what I should and shouldn’t have, why, why I did at the time, and what lessons they might hold.
I had that first suit made when I was helping to launch A&S’s in-house blog, The Notebook.
This was based on the thoughts and experiences of a new set of apprentices - cutters and makers, of coats and trousers - so every couple of weeks I would go into the shop and interview them, ghost writing each into a post.
Some of those apprentices are still at A&S, but most - Oliver, Ollie, James and the rest - have left. Oliver is now at Gieves & Hawkes; James has his own tailor shop in Berlin.
I don’t know where Karl is, who worked front of house, but his style was an inspiration. The second A&S suit I had made was a double-breasted royal-blue flannel, entirely because Karl looked good in one.
I think tailors still underestimate the importance of this direct inspiration, particularly in an age when men wear fewer suits and see fewer people in them. Instagram is all that’s left, and that's often dominated by inexperienced customers.
The first suit, however, was not that. It was my dream suit - one inspired by years of accumulating Ralph Lauren ads, old shots of Cary Grant and the rest, and books like Dressing The Man.
It was a grey three piece, in a Prince-of-Wales flannel.
This, for me, was the epitome of sartorial elegance. Sharp, traditional, not flashy but still striking.
It was beautifully cut by John Hitchcock - since retired - and made by apprentice Sunna (also featured on The Notebook) and Derek. That’s me wearing it above alongside both of them, on the day in 2010 they turned Savile Row into a sheep field.
It looks great, and it was great. But I made that first, so tempting mistake of not thinking enough about when and where I would wear it.
The suit was great in my head; but I don’t live in my head.
A checked grey suit wasn’t professional enough to wear in my day job, even though I tried. The jacket was better on its own, but flannel is never quite right as a jacket.
The waistcoat, in particular, was a complete waste. It made the suit even more dandy, and never worked on its own either.
Of course, now that fashion is my full-time job, I do get more opportunities to wear the suit, and cutter Danny Hall recently did an expert job of altering it, including increasing the shoulder width. But lessons remain, I think, for anyone commissioning a suit for the first time.
Unfortunately I didn’t learn my lesson with my second suit, which was the royal-blue flannel (above).
It, too, is beautiful, and it’s great to wear at a particular event, such as the New York Symposium I hosted with Scott Schuman, Jay Fielden and others. But it’s too bold for day-to-day wear even as a fashion writer - at least for me.
What this second suit did do was make me realise how much I loved the cut of a double-breasted A&S, and from that point onwards, most of my jackets would be DBs.
In fact my favourite piece of tailoring of all time is probably the corduroy double-breasted I later had made, on which I’ll do a specific article as the next piece in this series.
But we’re not there yet. I was slowly learning my lessons, and the next suit, about a year later, was far more useful - a mid-grey flannel.
This was what I should have started with. Still an absolute classic, but so much more wearable.
Even if no one in my office, or any lawyer or banker contact I had lunch with, wore flannel, it was still a plain grey suit, and more serious as a result. You could even wear it with an interesting shoe (I made similar mistakes there) and not startle with the combined effect.
The suit was damaged beyond repair a few years ago - back when I did nothing about moth prevention - which was very sad. But it had had a lot of wear, even requiring a second pair of trousers. And I replaced it soon after with a similar flannel from Panico.
There was a DB charcoal suit next (above), which was equally practical, and then a linen jacket (below). The latter taught the more subtle, but no less important lesson, to not try and make a tailor into something they’re not.
My single-breasted jackets had previously been ‘three-roll-two’: a three-button jacket where the lapel line is positioned such that it rolls open to a spot between the third and second button.
I had seen this on Neapolitan jackets, and liked the easy-going effect. But it was never quite right with A&S - nothing wrong with it, just not the same, not what I wanted.
My next jacket, therefore, I made as a two-button: a blue linen single breasted, with cream gabardine trousers.
The colour was strong, but I knew it wasn’t going to be for work. And the cut was beautiful, with those wider A&S shoulders complimented by the long lapel line down to the buttoning point.
It’s the jacket I chose to analyse in our Style Breakdown series, and in the subsequent book Bespoke Style, when looking at A&S. And it’s the cut I’m going for again with my new jacket.
It might be the most flattering single-breasted style I’ve had.
Next was the tan corduroy.
I’ll write about this separately, as I said, but it was ordered specifically with the idea of breaking it up - both cord trousers and a cord jacket with flannels would be fine in the office.
There was usually between six months and a year between each of these orders. You’d think I would have learnt my lessons quicker, but there really weren’t many good blogs around (A Suitable Wardrobe was the only one) and even Style Forum was smaller.
I really think I would have made fewer mistakes if there had been more information, and particularly transparent, honest writing about experiences ordering bespoke. The boom of Instagram has meant there’s a sea of imagery, but it often falls down in this regard.
After the cord there was a checked DB (below) and a light-grey flannel (further below). The former was and remains very wearable. I love it. The latter was not and is only slightly more now - but, and this is the important thing, it was made with self-awareness, with real ideas about when and where it would be worn. Mostly book signings and Pitti, as it turns out.
Last week I had a nice consultancy appointment with a reader who was going to have his first bespoke suit made - probably at Anderson & Sheppard.
He was considering a double-breasted grey flannel, as this was his sartorial ideal - his three-piece Prince of Wales.
I agreed with him on how beautiful it would be, only adding my hard-won lesson that he should think carefully about when and where he was going to wear it.
The difference between him and me was that he already knew all this. He’d been making MTM for a while, made his own mistakes, and knew that the DB flannel would be something special for special occasions, to be enjoyed for its own sake.
But it did help that when he told me all this, I strongly agreed. Sometimes all it takes is someone to confirm something you already know.
Here’s hoping some of the lessons in this wandering and winding history with A&S have done the same for others.
Did you already have your light grey flannel DB suit from Edward Sexton when you commissionned your last suit from A&S ?
What was your incentive for having both made, when one could have been enough, particularly considering you were aware they wouldn’t be worn a lot ?
No I didn’t, though that Sexton DB is not a light grey, it’s a mid-grey. More similar to the SB Anderson & Sheppard I described here.
The motivation there was just as much to try something from Edward though.
Fair enough. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the shape of A&S DB jackets : the shape of the lapel, the small overlap, I’m not sure what it is but I much prefer your other DB jackets, by Edward Sexton or Italian makers.
Everyone has different preferences and style. I think it’s the drape in the A&S DB that gets me – it gives the wearer a larger upper body without the more obvious things like bigger lapels or padded shoulders.
I agree absolutely on preferences and style.
Maybe cultural references play a role: as a Brit, I imagine you have seen Prince Charles in A&S DBs since you were a kid; my first encounter with a DB was Hugo Jacomet in Cifonnelli… not the same style, both equally valuable (in my very humble opinion).
To be honest, I never saw HRH in a DB until I was into clothes, or certainly didn’t notice it. But yes, certainly different references
Wonderful article as always.
When can we expect a restock for the overshirt?
Thanks Henry. They should be here in a couple of weeks. There’s a waiting list you can join through the product page, and there’ll be an announcement on social media too.
while all of these suits are beautiful, allow me the question why you did not start with a grey, navy and charcoal single-breast suit in worsted-wool without pattern. I find that these are best suited (in addition to a black one…. but we have discussed our different approaches to black) for nearly all occasions where one wears a suit (meaning the only ones I seem to wear). For more relaxed events (e.g. smart business events), I find that a separate jacket and woolen trousers are better than a “relaxed” suit.
I do talk about that in the article Markus?
(The image of a dream suit, the inspiration of others, not thinking about where it would be worn, etc etc)
Oh, sorry. In case, you would start again with tailored suits would you do something like I mentioned (except for the DB, which looks great on you, as you seem to be tall, but in my opinion often does not fit shorter persons).
Yes I would, I’d follow the guidance in our ‘If you only harms five suits’ article
I think this post has a photo of you in the grey flannel suit at the bottom
Yes! I can always rely on readers to have a better memory of PS than I do.
Thank you H, I will include that now.
Thank you for sharing your experiences – some really useful lessons there. And it’s helpful to see so many examples of the A&S style in one place as well.
It’s really frustrating, isn’t it. Bespoke is expensive enough even if you make a really good choices and end up with exactly what you had imagined. But there are so many ways to go wrong – wrong style, wrong cloth, wrong weight, wrong pattern. A style you like on someone else will look different on you. And cloth, colour, weight, pattern can be very hard to visualise when you only have small swatches to go on. But … the vision of the perfect garment keeps us coming back.
I tell myself to try and enjoy the ride – be happy with something good even if it’s not perfect, learn from my mistakes but don’t beat myself up over them, enjoy the great fit and the craft that have gone into a garment even if other things are not what I hoped.
You’re right Andrew. I would add though that I made mistakes with buying ready-made tailoring as well!
I think the keys with bespoke are to try and use a cloth you’ve already seen made up (at the tailor, on a friend, on a blog) and not get carried away with the fact you have so many choices. That doesn’t mean you should pick more unusual things, but nearly everyone does, at least to start with.
Its true many first timers get carried away with choice, sometimes its as much to show others that the suit is bespoke I think. My first bespoke suit was perfect because a friend worked in the tailors shop and simply refused to agree to any of my wishes that she thought were ‘not required’ and I ended up with a useable well cut blue suit which I still own and wear today. One of my friends however, on his first trip to Hong Kong was keen to show me his new bespoke ‘franken-shirt…. button down collar, fly front covering the buttons, double cuffs and breast pocket with flap. He could not understand my amusement mixed with horror because in his mind he ticked all the boxes for bespoke.
A guiding hand can be an asset in the early days. If memory serves, she stopped me from gauntlet cuffs and a ‘too bright/flashy’ lining but I was in truth already heading for a blue three piece… it may still be my favourite suit when I want to dress very ‘British’
That sounds like good advice on the cloth. Thanks
As strange as it sounds, during my dabbling with online mtm, or where refunds/returns is hard, ive learned some lessons, one of them being, id allways order more unusual stuff first. For one simple reason. Firstly, second piece will allways be better, and secondly, even if it turns out just a bit better than rtw, or doesnt really work, it stings less, because it will be worn less.
Andrew’s comment is a good one, and i’m sure resonates with many of us. This point – that perfection is almost impossible to achieve, even in bespoke – is not something i was expecting for my two (and so far only) bespoke commissions, and led to disappointment on my part when various issues became noticeable (nothing major, just minor imperfections). It’s also why i think Simon’s comment in a previous article, about sticking with just one or two tailors, is extremely sound advice. I’m sure we will all continue to chase the perfect suit/jacket, but accepting that we may not achieve it will only enhance our enjoyment of what we have. Great comment Andrew!
Karl set out on his own, I did three pieces with him, but he got stuffed by some American clients refusing to pay, for spurious reasons, so he stopped tailoring.
Lovely guy, and very stylish.
I have a navy Smith woollens suit he did for me, I can’t recall if it’s Golden Bake, which I no longer need – in fact it was never worn, if anyone is interested.
What a shame. Thanks
Last time I saw Karl he was with ‘English Cut’.
A tailoring and mtm venture .
Lovely chap with great style.
Think we need to put a shoutout and find where he is .
I’m curious about why you find the light grey DB not particularly wearable.
It seems almost the platonic ideal of a colour and fabric flexible to either work or casual wear?
It’s too pale a grey to be smart enough for work really. It’s more a celebratory grey, worn to a day wedding or similar event. You need a mid-grey or darker for a professional environment.
But at the same time it’s not that casual, being English, flannel and DB.
The trousers in light grey flannel do seem to be very usable separately though!
Any ideas on how you would style the light grey jacket separately?
True, the trousers are very useful.
I wouldn’t wear the jacket separately, as mentioned elsewhere, being flannel.
In terms of odd jacket fabric, I’ve seen a lot of places suggest flannel blazers (in fact I saw something suggesting it as the original fabric, but that’s beside the point). I do see your point, and with grey flannel trousers being standard it’d be a pain to combine texturally anyway, but what would you recommend for a smart winter blazer fabric, besides maybe that smart navy tweed from a previous article?
It was indeed, you’re right Aaron. Bear in mind though that ‘flannel’ isn’t necessarily a definite or narrow term. It’s just the treatment on the surface of the cloth. Old flannel blazers looked rather different from modern ones, for example, using much coarser wool.
For a smart winter blazer I’d look to cashmere or to tweed – but also, to all of the ‘jacketings’ in the jacketing bunches from good mills. These may be wool, but not quite tweed. They be a more open weave, but still have a bit of a flannel finish. They may even be mixes of fibres.
A lot of fabrics can’t easily be defined, because these terms refer sometimes to a fibre, sometimes to a process, sometimes to a broad bunch of things (tweed). However, it’s generally true that most things called flannel today aren’t as good for jacketings as other wools.
How do you feel about worsted for a classic navy blazer? Here in the US I think worsted for a true navy blazer is a fairly common exception to using only jacketing material for a normal sportcoat. With metal buttons it winds up pretty clear that you are not wearing a suit coat by itself. Unclear to me if that is a US convention.
It depends what that worsted wool is turned into G – hopsack is also a worsted rather than a woollen.
The key point is that it should not look like the jacket of a suit, and the smoother and finer the material is, the more likely that is, no matter what the buttons
Hi Simon, that royal blue suit would be the ideal uniform should you ever harbour aspirations to run for office in France.
This is an absolute gem! This spot also feels the right place to share my experience and express my sincere gratitude to PS.
I started reading PS around 2013 when I was an impoverished phd student. In fact I would sometimes go – as my savings would permit – to A&S haberdashery and buy some beautiful pieces of garments. That shop has remained my go to place to this day.
Later on when I started working, I ventured in the more bespoke direction, first just trousers and shirts. Then the big leap – my first bespoke DB by Cifonelli, which was probably a very bold move. However, two things helped me stay grounded and go for a very versatile navy colour. One was the advice on PS that said that with the first suit one should go conservative and a garment that would be versatile. I also told this to Lorenzo, who helped me stay in that direction. Even though it’s very tempting to go for a flashy cut or cloth or colour.
A few years later my second commission was a Liverano, SB, mid-grey, slightly on the darker side. Again the main reasons I went for this was twofold. Simon’s invaluable pointer to go for more conservative at the beginning of a sartorial journey. Second was Renzo, a very friendly and very helpful front of the house member of staff, who since left Liverano, who also gave a lot of invaluable guidance.
I’ve found that even though I don’t need to wear a suit in my office these days, these two suits are incredibly versatile, not showy, but people do notice that the cut is immaculate – that alone pretty much sets the suit apart.
I plan my next commission to be a sports jacket, in fact with A&S – again with similar considerations in mind.
All in all, I wanted to say a huge thank you Simon for all these posts, I find them quite educational and invaluable. Keep up the good work!
My absolute pleasure Istvan, it means a lot to know the pieces are so valuable to you
When you mention the blue linen jacket, what do you mean when you say that you learned not to make the tailor something they’re not?
I mean that I shouldn’t have tried to get a Neapolitan 3-roll-2 look from an English tailor. I should have just gone for a 2 button, as I did with that blue jacket
Ok, thanks Simon.
Good afternoon everybody,
I understand your needs for some suits “fitting” your professional environment. For me, there is not such a need, so i always make the same enjoyable mistake, ordering my suits mostly by heart. Made to order suit means entertainment, day whenever i have the chance, night mostly. That means lower efficiency in the “cost – benefit” ratio, but it comes second when the purpose is only pleasure. I do not remember who the tailor is, but for me your most charming jacket is the black 6×1 velvet.. i think it is a work of art.
Here, in Athens – Greece, we have some interesting old fashioned tailors, in “low” places you could even imagine!
Thanks for the wonderful article and for the pleasant company you keep in our daily routine.
Thank you Dimitris, great viewpoint.
That velvet was by Cifonelli
Your ‘mistakes’ may have been annoying or even painfully expensive to you Simon but they’ve been invaluable to us readers. Not just because we could make the same mistakes but also because they’ve helped to drill down the key idea that one should take the time to think how a how a garment will be worn as well as to resist unusual style options, at least initially.
Really useful and interesting article, Simon. Your blog is essentially the only (last?), properly written sartorial online publication and I, for one, appreciate the personal take (as in: one’s mileage may vary).
It’s too bad you didn’t get to wear that grey PoW 3-piece more: it looks very nice.
that light grey double breasted in so beautiful. You should wear it more. I remember it appeared in the first post I read about permanent style about the GG saint james, I browsed the archive and became hooked
That’s lovely to hear, thanks Fernando. Comments like that do make me want to get it out!
I too once fell for the marketing and fetishized certain clothing items, chasing after some look for its own sake. Now I regard clothing as a tool for creating a certain impression in the people around me. That shift in attitude has been much more significant than everything I’ve learned about fabrics, proportions, etc. over the years.
I don’t understand the point about flannels being poor jackets. I think any mid-grey jacket is hard to wear as a separate because of limited trouser color choice (gray being the typical odd trouser color and my general preference for trousers to be darker than jackets, esp. in heavier fabrics), but see nothing wrong with, say, a navy flannel up top and a gray flannel at the bottom. Later in the article cord trousers are suggested with flannel jackets: also a sensible pairing.
It might be a relatively minor difference Ben, but materials designed to be suits or trousers are usually more densely woven, and jacketings softer and more open. That’s not universally the case, but it’s why flannels usually don’t look right as jackets – something more open or with more texture usually looks better. Certainly that’s what I found with that glen check jacket.
I find grey jackets generally can be very versatile though – with navy, dark brown, dark olive, tan/beige and cream trousers. My grey herringbone tweed is the most useful I have.
That’s a very personal take. Flannel is plenty soft and textured to work as a jacket in my opinion. And I prefer colors like navy and olive to be in the jacket than in the trouser. Brown works sometimes, but not with that glen check pattern. Again, I don’t think it’s the flannelness of that jacket that’s the problem.
Thanks Ben. To be honest I don’t think it’s that personal, as I know plenty that share it, both those whose style I respect and mills that produce it. But I understand how others might disagree and be happy with flannel worn like that.
I really like a light/mid-grey jacket with charcoal trousers and black shoes for a monochrome look. Simon, you did something like this in your Colhays mock neck article and it looked great. The greys have to have enough contrast between them, of course.
Out of interest, Simon, when you say your grey herringbone tweed is the most useful you have, are you referring to your Anthology jacket?
After a poor experience with Anglo-Italian a while ago – inspired by your Anthology jacket – I ended up deciding not to spend the money with them and took my business elsewhere. To a regional tailor for half the price. Despite knowing I was neglecting PS’s advice of choosing a tailor principally for style first, I found the £700 for fully canvassed etc too appealing and took a punt on it. The result was not dissimilar to your A&S three-roll-two jacket, but naturally far lesser in quality. A bit of a Frankenstein jacket, that is boxy but with a weirdly floppy lapel and an open front. It makes me laugh just thinking about it – haven’t worn it once.
Anyway, got an appointment with Buzz and co at The Anthology, Taipei this june. Going to get it done right – interested to know if this is the jacket you refer to, when talking about your herringbone tweed. Looks like it’d be both very stylish and a real workhorse item of clothing.
Also getting the entirety of Permanent Style tattooed onto my body like the guy from Memento, for future reference..
Yes, the Anthology one.
Pictures of the tattoos please.
This style of article really does interest me, learning from mistakes and looking beyond what can be found on Instagram. Simon, would you say that A&S is your original bespoke tailor, before Permanent Style?
I am battling my own desire to go for something special for my next piece, I have one bespoke charcoal herringbone grey suit, that was made with my wedding in mind, that could be used beyond for work – which was successful. For the next one, I know I should go with a blue – I will get the most use from it, but maybe a double-breasted with some peak lapels to add some style. But there is that part of me to not go blue – and go for a brown or green.
Well, I was already writing PS when I started using A&S, so I’m not sure that’s true. I had also tried cheaper options beforehand – in Hong Kong, and quick City tailors in London.
On your next suit, I really think you should go with what you think you will use the most. I, at least, find that so much more satisfying than an enjoyable thing I only rarely wear.
Thanks Simon, I still wear suits for work though as with the UK, things are heading more casual in the Falklands. I guess I should go with what I really want and enjoy and try to rain in the urge to do something fantastic, but mostly unusable – other than at specific events.
Did the cheaper options consist of more formal pieces? Or did you try out different styles? Also do you still have them?
They were more formal pieces yes – have a search for ‘Graham Browne’ for example. No, I have since sold them or given them away.
Simon – It’s interesting that you still have a favourable impression of that first Hitchcock-cut grey three-piece. You probably know that it’s been dealt with very harshly on various style blogs, as an exemplar of when bespoke gets it wrong – an unstylish, shapeless, ill-fitting sack of sorts. Would you not concede that your most recent acquisitions from A&S have been a marked improvement in terms of fit?
I didn’t know that Philip, I rarely read other blogs to be honest. Derek’s is pretty much the only one.
The problem with other blogs often is that they can be fairly uninformed, and comment on things they haven’t seen in person. When it comes to the fit of bespoke that’s a particular mistake.
In fact, it’s quite revealing that some might think there was an improvement in fit with later A&S commissions, given they were all exactly the same style, same cutter, same fit.
My first bespoke piece was a double breasted chalkstripe in a heavy dugdale after seeing colin firth in kingsman. I’ve only managed to wear that suit once to a friends wedding and it has sat in the cupboard since. Since then i have stuck to rtw from decent makers- ring jacket and dead stock d’avenza that appears from time to time and then get it altered. I guess the benefit of some rtw is that they never produce anything too out there but i guess thats also the drawback that you lose the uniqueness
I would love to see a histogram of bespoke sales right before and after that movie’s release. Firth looked great in that db. The kid not so much. The problem with dressing after a film, of course, is that everyone immediately identifies you as dressing after a film.
Interesting article, it goes to show that’s it not easy commissioning bespoke pieces orMTM for that matter and there are often regrets. So… how much have you spent with A&S over these 10 years?
Fortunately Jamie, some of it was covered by my work for them on The Notebook, which made it easier.
If you haven’t seen it, by the way, there’s a page here on what I pay for, get in kind etc.
Such a good article – the honesty and openness is the reason you get the views you do. Brilliant.
That’s a nice wardrobe in itself Simon and interestingly shows subtle changes in your taste over the last 10 years. I would add that I have never had a bad tailoring experience with A&S – I cannot speak highly enough about the team and the quality of their work. I would recommend A&S to anyone considering having something made on the Row for the first time – you will not be disappointed (particularly if you avoid Simon’s penchant for ‘dandyish’ fabric)!
From my perspective, the first grey suit and the DB cord are the BEST! I can literally see through both the great makers behind them!
Still when it comes to their suitability to work environment, I don’t understand why the latter would be fine, whereas the first one wouldn’t.
Good point John. I think it’s primarily that the first is a suit, and the latter a jacket. A suit would be worn – in my old office – to see contacts and clients, and this check would be rather racey for that situation. The cord jacket, on the other hand, could be worn around the office easily, but wouldn’t be worn out to meetings.
Very informative and useful article – thank you. I made a few mistakes too along the way. On the other hand shaping one’s style is a complex process of self-reflection and, like in all other aspects of life, making mistakes helps one to find the right trajectory.
I now realise that I should have had fewer pieces made initially and worn the initial jackets more often to gain a deeper understanding of what worked and did not work for me. I now reflect a lot more carefully about what I need and the subtle changes of styles to the garments. I have come to conclude that “less is more” and I gravitated towards extreme simplicity of cut/ features and understated patterns – this style makes me feel more comfortable and confident wearing the garments in this increasingly informal (if not sloppy) world.
Simon, lovely article and a great journey with A&S so far. Slightly off point but I noticed you described yourself as a “fashion writer “ …perhaps you have been using that description for a long time and I missed it but I personally never associate you with the word fashion. Keep up the wonderful work !
Yes, I use that term only in the most general sense – as other people write about the law, history, politics etc. At that level, what I write about is fashion. That’s how most people would refer to it, and differentiating between that and style is fairly pointless.
I would absolutely consider the term fashion writer to be accurate. There seems to be a tendency amongst PS readers to consider themselves above the term ‘fashion’ but it is very much a fashion site.
The most important lesson I taught myself while reading PS for over a year now and rebuilding my wardrobe is that a bespoke suit will probably not even be within my first five bespoke commissions. Sport coats and now maybe even overcoats have become more important for me. I would not have guessed this two years ago.
Out of all the suits I’ve seen you wear, the A&S double breasted has looked the best on you, to my eye.
based on my fairly long experience with bespoke, I think your comment on not asking a tailor to be something it is not is probably the most valuable advice in this overall very helpful article.
The most valuable lesson I have learned in 20 years of MTM and bespoke tailoring is the need to align your vision of how you want to dress with the tailor you choose. In my opinion, the best way to make sure of that match is to look at the tailor’s long-term clients dress, because those clients keep the tailor in business and tailors get good at making what they order.
The result of asking a tailor to diverge too far from their house style (like 3-roll-2 from A&S, or an English tailor making a soft Neapolitan shoulder) is not likely to be very good because they just don’t have the experience to do it well, leading to a higher risk of an unhappy client and a garment that rarely or never gets worn.
This is worse in my mind than not starting with the basics. If a client is satisfied with the first few suits, even if they aren’t the most useful in his wardrobe, he is still ends up with something he loves and is more likely to go back to that tailor and fill in the basics later on. Those fun suits can always come out for special occasions. This seems to have been your experience during your journey with A&S.
This may be an oddly far-reaching tangent, but being subtle and restrained with a first bespoke commission may help make the resulting garment a bit more likely to be used frequently once given away or sold. I shudder to think of very unusual pieces being ignored at second-hand stores because of their quirkiness, especially because it might doom them to becoming landfill in the long run. (Unless I’m missing ways they can still be reused or recycled even then?)
Not necessarily a primary consideration when commissioning, but a welcome one even if only down the line.
Interesting angle Joseph.
At the very least, being wool, they would decompose when eventually disposed of.
The perceived wisdom has always been that a first commission should be something not to adventurous. Something versatile, wearable and low risk. I followed this rule and have to say that i regret it. For many shelling out on bespoke or MTM is something that one cannot do all the time. It requires a process of saving up and the next commission could be years away. My advise therefor is to go with something fun, something that excites you, something enjoyable. Don’t worry to much about it and don’t feel you have to be conservative. That is certainly my regret.
Thanks Jim. I often think that advice should be expanded to include something about motivations – what you’re buying the suit for, and why. Do you know what I mean?
If someone is slowly investing in a quality business wardrobe, starting safe makes sense. But if they want something special for special events, it might be better to be fun. Even if there’s a risk people might comment that they’re wearing ‘that’ suit again.
Your articles (especially this one) are very handy, if only to stop people making the same “mistakes” that you have. That is however, my problem with bespoke. A bespoke suit is a fantastically expensive piece of kit and most of us select our cloth from a 6 inch by 4 inch sample. I’m not sure how many tailors keep cloth in stock so you can get a better impression of the shade or pattern before committing £5k+. I’ve got a couple of suits that, with hindsight, I wish I had chosen a shade darker or a peak lapel instead of a notched one. They are very expensive lessons to learn. If one had infinite money and infinite time then the fit and style would inevitably be better (I remember Dominic at Edward Sexton saying my third suit will fit better than my first !!!) but most people may only ever plump for one and only for a special occasion so their experience could be well…..disappointing !!!
True Chris. As mentioned above in the comments, I do think most people should use cloths they have seen made up on others, and tailors should do a better job of making up some samples every season to propose to customers. Nearly all things I have commissioned in recent years have come because I’ve seen them in one of these two ways.
In defence of bespoke, I should also add that I make mistakes when buying RTW too – I would have bought a Prince of Wales or a royal blue flannel in RTW if I wasn’t buying bespoke. And also, while bespoke garments can improve over a customer’s time with a tailor, the first should still be a lot better than RTW.
Thought-provoking as ever, Simon. Some thoughts it provoked in me:
Bespoke has the advantage that you can choose precisely what you want, but you are buying something in advance, which means things can go wrong in some ways. It may take me a long time to find a ready-made suit that I like in terms of fit, fabric, quality, and that also fits me very well, but if I do once I have tried it on I can put my money down and walk out with it. Provided my weight doesn’t change much, I have the product I wanted, and will always have it. But you’ve never tried on a bespoke suit as it hasn’t been made yet. That can mean an expensive error, and so starting again is double the cost.
This website is called ‘Permanent Style’, but can such a thing exist in as narrow a term as a suit? The quality of fabric, cutting, attention to detail, I can see. But what about the actual look of these suits? Will they permanently be in style? Of course it will be subjective, but I’m not quite talking about taste. The checked DB isn’t to my taste and looks a bit 80s – but that’s not what I mean, as that is simply my taste (plus the influence of time to a degree). I mean more the last image, of the light grey flannel suit. I don’t mean how often it is wearable. And it’s a beautiful suit. I can’t imagine that material will ever look unstylish. I can’t imagine that shirt or tie will ever look unstylish. But the bagginess of the sleeves? That I can imagine could look unstylish one day. The seat of most of these jackets is rather long. If I wore my grandfather’s suits, even if they were made by a wonderful tailor, would they still look stylish today? How does one factor this in to the life of a bespoke suit?
These aren’t meant as criticism, by the way. Just questions that the piece prompted in my mind. I sometime look at the trousers especially in your pieces and wonder how long they will be wearable in terms of ‘permanent style’, because they have an almost Oxford bags look to them – the turn-up, the way they fall on your shoes. Perhaps it’s just me, though!
You’re right, there is no such thing as ‘permanent’ style, only I think the aim of more enduring style. That means generally going for moderation. The Row cutters will say that during the time lapels went from five inches to one, they went from four to three, for example.
A suit will eventually go out of fashion (and perhaps come back in) but if you aim for moderation then it will last a lot longer. For example, I have recently had quite a few of my trousers taken out, to give them a wider leg. I am starting to prefer this, but also it is (contra to your point) the way fashion is going. We’ve had 15 years of skinny suits and they’re dying. Turn-ups can of course also be taken off, and legs lengthened too.
A suit is never going to last a lifetime, despite what people say, if it is actively worn. And the trends we’re talking about last anywhere from 10 to 20 years (or used to, there’s an argument the role of trends is reducing as social media splinters things). If a suit like this can do good service for 20 years, then that is good going, certainly compared to how most people today actually consume clothes.
Hope that answers your question, kind of
It does, thank you!
I appreciate your comment was directed at Simon but hope you don’t mind me sharing some thoughts of my own.
I think Permanent Style is about achieving a style that does not follow fashions but is timeless enough that it will look stylish and elegant no matter what fashion trends do. I would say most of Simon’s tailoring does that. If you were to wear any of the suits pictured in this article in the 70s, 80s, 90s or 2000s they would not look fashionable but they would not be so far outside of what was commonly worn in those decades to look anachronistic. I would therefore say that they are timeless and achieve the goal set out in the blog’s name.
I think they key is to commission suits that suit your personal style but keep the details within moderation. You can have wide lapels without going to the extreme of the 70s, or a closer fitting suit without going to the extreme of the shrunken looking suits Daniel Craig wore in in his last three James Bond films.
Simon, have you ever shown your entire collection of clothes in a post. In my mind I imagine a whole room full of rails of suits/ jackets in suitbags and cupboards full of shoes/ knitwear.
To some extent, yes, see post here
Bear in mind I regularly give clothes away – basically anything I’ve found I don’t wear.
Wonderful article Simon, the blue linen single breasted for me. Would you be kind enough to share your moth prevention tips?
Sure Ben – they’re in an article here
Would it be fair to say, then, Simon that A & S remain your tailor of choice on The Row?
Not necessarily Russ. I guess I might be most likely to go there for something new, but the style is quite distinct from a Dege or Poole, or a Sexton or Michael Browne. I would go to one of them for something different, depending on what I wanted it for – eg a more dramatic evening piece, for example.
For whatever reason, I was always seduced by the idea of being an Anderson & Sheppard man. So I got my first bespoke suit there in 2019 (single breasted, three season, navy – a hit) swiftly followed by a double breasted overcoat in 2020 (navy wool, went for house fabric despite strong temptation of Golden Bale – the right decision).
Ever since, I’ve restricted my potential commissions from A&S to a very narrow range of formal classics. And I’m firmly ruling out some items from them for good. Am I being too close-minded?
Use case: pub, everyday, rural, family
Tailor: I’m going Neapolitan or I can never wear it with jeans.
Use case: Um, flouncing about in a private club with a red Smedley underneath? Summer parties? Entrepreneurial business meetings? Maybe someone talk me out of it?
Tailor: Neapolitan again, or it just won’t have the necessary insouciance.
User case: halfway between tweed jacket and Solaro suit
Tailor: Neapolitan once more to keep it as casual as possible.
The only further pieces that feel like a slam dunk for A&S are lux navy blazer (like your one from Steven Hitchcock, who obviously shares some DNA with A&S); and grey flannel suit (this will be my one and only DB suit).
Am I missing any other pieces that fall into the A&S sweet spot? And I’d love to hear why your DB cord jacket was such a hit… I’d have imagined that corduroy fails to do justice to the house’s legendary drape.
I’m with you on all of these. I’d only say that the Solaro would be nice in a lighter weight but sharp tailor, perhaps Milanese.
The DB cord was great – you’re right it doesn’t really drape as in flow that well, but there’s still nice room in the chest. It is a bit smarter than most cords though, and doesn’t fit your use case probably.
One thing I would note, I have two suits by A&S and I think the style has changed from when you had your commissions made. Specifically, my suits are a lot less “drapy”/more slim then some of the other English “soft” tailoring I have from Steven Hitchcock and Steed tailors (the latter of which you should try, btw, as they are excellent). Still awesome, but I think different than what they historically were known for.
Thanks Dan. Actually I’m not sure it has, as the new jacket I’m having made looks exactly the same as the first one I had made here by John, 12 years ago.
Steven is though different in some ways now, particularly around the way he makes the sleeve and the size of the back neck
It would be interesting during the course of the proposed season to highlight the ways the cut of your jacket differs from the traditional A&S cut and why you make those choices. For instance, the shoulder width and drape of your jackets seem smaller than the usual style (my own A&S jackets included), as seen in Phanton Thread and on their Instagram.
Thanks Sean. To be honest I don’t think either is different from the traditional cut, and I didn’t ask John or now Danny to deviate in either way.
Perhaps it’s just down to body type? I have a fairly small chest so most of what you see might be drape!
This really resonates, especially regarding the dandy touches that take a few orders to get out of the system when we have built up ideas for our first custom garments in our mind
Thank you for this very thoughtful and insightful post. Would you expand on the reasoning behind your comments about the 3-roll-2 vs. 2 button style, in which you state you prefer the latter and the former is more appealing in the Neapolitan style?
I am an A&S and Steed customer and find their 3-roll-2s very appealing. One reason for this, I feel, is the relatively closed quarters that are somewhat squared at the bottom–I have several 3-roll-2 pieces from WW Chan that appeal to me for the same reason. The 3-button provides symmetry when buttoning the middle button (one button undone on top and bottom), and the 3-button works well with the squared quarters because there is a functional logic–one could button all three buttons if one wanted, even if one never does button all three buttons. Open quarters only allow for the buttoning of the middle button, or the top and middle button in case of a three buttoned jacket–not that one would likely ever do that.
No problem Doug.
I think perhaps it’s worth trying to illustrate at some point with images of the two jackets. It’s hard to describe. But for me, the Neapolitan roll always seems more natural, whereas the A&S version looks a little forced.
It also feels like that’s more in keeping with the open, more rounded fronts on Neapolitan jackets, and in particular the straight lapels, which always look like they are naturally rolling open – unlike the English lapels with their slight belly.
I can certainly see the functional logic of the three buttons with the more squared front. The fact it’s not that functional has never really bothered me, and even though the bottom button could be done up on an English jacket, it always looks awkward when you do so on, I think. So it’s not really functional.
I actually also find that the top button can more easily be buttoned on a Neapolitan jacket when you put the collar up, which is the only time I would do so – against the rain or cold. Again I think that’s because of the straight lapels.
I hope that helps explain it a little bit – I’ve never thought about it in so much depth myself!
I am confused by the commissioning a three – roll – two coat, being presented as divergent from A&S’s house style.
As far as I am aware, this style of jacket was ‘invented’ by A&S as their coats are cut with the canvas on a bias. This causes the lapel and front quarters of the coat to ‘roll’ outwards with prolonged use.
Of course, this is merely a symptom of the cutting style used rather than a deliberate style choice that one would commission nowadays with the intention of the top most button remaining hidden at all times.
Thomas Mahon, having previously worked at A&S and currently cutting at Redmayne, made an interesting video explaining the mechanics behind, and the history of, the three roll two coat.
The three roll two is not divergent from A&S style, but the Neapolitan version of it is, and in my experience the A&S version looks rather different, never rolling open in the same way. Despite the bias canvas, it always looks a bit stiffer and less natural, to me.
It was, basically, not what I was after.
I hope that makes sense
😂 but Simon, bespoke means to bespeak your requirements.. that way you end up with an individual look that reflects your character, to ask a tailor to make you something normcore is merely “made to fit” Savile row has been ruined by clients too frightened to (be) speak up!
Ha! Yeah Nick, you should definitely speak up and get what you want. Some people – like me – just get a little carried away and don’t really get what they want (or need)
I really like this piece and it touches on the twin subjects of “what’s worth it in bespoke” (i.e. what led you there?) and “the mistakes I’ve made”.
Personally, the best piece I’ve had made was the one I thought least about. I was in Dubai and had some shirts and a jacket made (very cheaply, I have to say). Giddy with excitement and sun they were a bit too “fancy” in the end. But the “yeah, and a pair of plain chinos please” was the right choice, and I still wear those 10 years later. They are classic, but just perfect – and most importantly, remained so.
Perhaps it’s not just inevitable but also necessary that a first commission is naive or romantic or excessive in some way.
It would be a bit odd (and maybe unrealistic) if what first truly excited you and drew you to tailoring was an office-appropriate and highly rational mid grey suit. Rather like an 8 year old kid with a deep desire to become an accountant.
Mine was a lovely flannel suit in airforce blue. It’s not very practical to it’s beautiful. And I wouldn’t change it.
(It’s also how I found your blog – I googled ‘airforce blue suit’ once I’d received to see how others wore the colour, and PS popped up…)
Yeah, you might be right JH. I still think you can get very excited about the beautiful fit and craftsmanship, and a lot of the enjoyment comes from what you then wear it with – a lot of guys focus too much on the suit as an object on its own. But it should be something exciting, whatever that is for you
Hi Simon, what do you do for moth prevention these days? BTW I’m getting excited – Sydney is now in autumn and I’ll soon have a chance to wear my PS Donegal coat. Also I don’t quite agree with you about flannel sports coats, my favourite winter-weight jacket is a blue-grey flannel from Huddersfield, it works really well with jeans, chinos and odd trousers alike.
I wrote about moth prevention here Josh.
I won’t pass any kind of judgment on the jacket without seeing it, but I do struggle to see it working with jeans and chinos in particular. Harder even than with smarter trousers.
No shoulder padding, patch pockets, Neapolitan style. If you’re very lucky I’ll send you a photo this (Sydney) winter.
Not sure if I’ve ever seen that charcoal DB before, but then I’ve only been reading a few years. Have to agree there really is something that just seems special about the A&S double breasted cut, even in photos. And damn, I understand why you couldn’t resist that royal blue. Not sure if I could ever afford to go to them but frankly with some rather long plans to switch careers I’ve no clue what I’d wear anything smarter than a neopolitan jacket for other than special occasions anyway.
I think this image deserves an article of its own, and it’d be a fantastic one: Savile-Row-Field-Day-with-Derek-and-Sunna.jpg
We often see pictures of you in suits alone, or next to others in suits. But here you are next to a gentleman who is dressed quite casual, perhaps like most others you may encounter on a day out. In this setting, the way you came to feel comfortable dressed in more formal attire is a fascinating story, in my opinion.
I would say that the mental image of having on a nice jacket and trousers while standing in a group of people who are wearing a typical jeans/tee combo is what discourages many who would otherwise dress smarter from actually doing so.
Thanks Ahmed. I think the point is an interesting one, but actually the photo is a little misleading. The event was on Savile Row and lots of people were wearing tailoring, so compared to most I didn’t really stand out
Excellent article! I can relate to some of your early mistakes, I made some of the same ones. One question on your light gray DB- have you considered changing out the buttons to a color that might give it a more formal tone in order to increase the usability? The buttons you chose look great, but they were the first thing that stood out to me as making the suit look more casual than it might otherwise have.
Good point, they do stand out don’t they? I’m not sure if it would make a difference – it’s still a large block of light colour but it’s worth a try
Another interesting post. I noted where you mentioned the cutters who have since moved on since your first visit to A&S. It would be interesting to know more about the cutters who have moved on in tailoring from some of the other Savile Row tailoring houses, including “Off Savile Row” eg. Sackville Street, Clifford Street etc to other parts of London. I’m specifically not including the regions here. Craig Featherstone (ex. Poole) & David Ward (ex Huntsman), if I’m correct here. Also the guy (ex Chittleborough & Morgan) that made that very expensive, but exquisite coat that you featured in a previous Article. Do I include Steven Hitchcock also? The point that I’m trying to make is that there are possibly other talented cutters /tailors in around London who operate with a small number of clients by “word of mouth” – niche clientele, if I may.
Where and, if possible, who are they?
Would be wonderful to find out more here.
Sure Lindsay, and you’re right there are a few around. Steven Hitchcock is probably too established now to be considered in that category, but the one you’re thinking of is Michael Browne, and Oliver Cross (ex-Benson & Clegg) is a good example, as is Fred Nieddu (ex-Timothy Everest) alongside the others you’ve mentioned.
So basically if you could advise a man starting his professional (office job) career – you would say 2 charcoal 2-piece suites, 2 navy 2-piece suits, a navy blazer and a grey blazer? Four pair odd trousers. All bespoke.
Have you read the guides on this Robert? Have a look at them and their comments:
– Smart suits
Yes, I boiled it down to my interpretation I suppose. Common mistakes made pursuing bespoke suits/jackets seem to point to being too exuberant. When the most important aspect of bespoke is fit. Having two (slightly different) charcoal grey suits and two slight different Navy suits – would save people a lot of money and be extremely useful through the years.
Oh good, and the suggestions did make sense – the only one I might change would be the grey jacket. I might swap it for oatmeal or dark brown, given the likely preponderance of grey trousers elsewhere
Beautiful suits and a nice article to highlight the style and history of A&S. What has been your experience with smoking in the ateliers you’ve visited in the UK and Europe? Is it allowed indoors or not at all? I’ve read that it is not as prevalent as it once was, but as a non-smoker with dreams of my first British or Italian bespoke experience, I’m curious about this.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen smoking indoors actually. There may have been in some Italian ateliers, but I can’t remember it
Is there picture of the jacket referred to here: “My next jacket, therefore, I made as a two-button: a blue linen single breasted, with cream gabardine trousers.”
I think the on pictured is the one you didn’t like as much with the 3/2 button stance, etc.
No, that is the one – it’s two button not three
I met Ollie on a few brief occasions and spoke with him a few years ago. He was a lovely guy and sometimes was carrying basted jackets going back across Regent Street to where he was working. He just wanted a change of scenery. And he was a young guy relative to what and where he was working. But a change was afoot because even though he didn’t choose to continue in the same profession, there were people such as Dag and Saman coming to show in London. This was the change in spirit in tailoring as much as it was for Ollie to have other new experiences.
The best advertisement for A&S was the late owner, Mr ‘Tiny’ Rowland, who was the smartest dressed man in the City.
Perhaps it’s been asked but what made you write ”flannel is never quite right as a jacket”? It’s useful as pants, as you’ve written often so I’m wondering why it’s the contrary when applied to jacketing.
It’s because flannel is usually designed as a closely woven cloth that is good for suits and trousers. Jacketings are usually a bit more open. That doesn’t mean you won’t find a jacketing with a brushed finish that could be called flannel, but in general you’ll be safer avoiding flannel as a sports jacket – see article here for more detail
Ah, thank you Simon for the technical clarification. I thought your A&S royal blue suit in flannel could look good even when worn as an odd jacket so I was considering ordering a navy flannel sports coat as an alternative to one made in cashmere.
I think it could do, it’s borderline. Actually one thing that could be strange with that is that buttons on a DB blazer like that are often one size bigger than on a sports jacket.
But no, I would always steer towards a jacketing wool, rather than a flannel, if you can.
I would like to buy a A&S suit. A strange question perhaps, but it would be appreciated with an honest answer. How is to buy a bespoke suit from A&S for the first time, when you are a rookie and never have bought a bespoke piece before? Is there any kind of snobbery going around when you enter through the doors? I think unfortunately there is a lot of elitism in the business. I am 35, but look younger I suppose, at other sartorial stores with older “gentlemen” inside the doors, I’m not always feeling very welcome and I suppose they don’t think I will buy anything.
I haven’t been in that position Stefan, and maybe other readers can answer, but I think A&S and most other places would be very polite and not snobbish. The only time that might happen is if a customer asks for something they don’t do – like a spalla camicia or something. Also, bear in mind they are something trying to be proper, almost traditional in their communications, and that can come across a little remote
I started my Apprenticeship as a jacket maker with A&S when I was 15, I’m now 75and still do the occasional jkt, back in the 60s you probably would have to have had a couple of recommendations, I remember when Sir Cliff Richard came in to order and asked for flared cuffs all the rage at the time, he was taken to the door and the head cutter at the time one
Charles Bryant said “Carnaby street is over there sir” You would now be made most welcome and possibly offered a glass of sherry, it’s had the stuffiness ironed out by the owner
Anda Roland, I think you’d come out of there with a smile .
Hi Simon, looking back at this article and these A&S commissions are lovely. I particularly like your mid-grey SB and recent orange SB.
I’m considering my first drape cut (a spongy navy jacket). While I’ve gone with structured cuts for my suits, I like the idea of an extended shoulder and a bit more of a rounded/roomy fit for separates.
That said, I know John Hitchcock cut your original pattern here and he has since retired. I’ve seen some recent A&S suits that I don’t like as much as yours. Daniel Craig’s for instance, sadly leave me rather cold (tight in the body and arms). And I’ve seen others online that also underwhelm (boxy rather than drapey, exaggerated open quarters, pulling at the buttoning point, etc). FWIW, the A&S clothes in Phantom Thread are very nice though and more in line with yours.
So my long-winded question is, who would you recommend to cut this style you have above, most similar to John? Steven’s work looks very nice, so I’m considering him, although his shoulder style seems less extended than his father’s and the fit seems to be less rounded as well. Or would you recommend Danny Hall? I haven’t seen that many images of his work, and since there are several cutters at A&S, it’s hard to ascertain who cut what when their bespoke photos do surface.
Thank you, as always!
I think either would be good Tom, and neither would naturally cut like Daniel Craig’s outfits. If I had to choose I’d go with Steven
Cheers, Simon. Thanks for your reply. Steven’s work does look great.