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While fashion moves ceaselessly forward, style is eternal, which is why the past is such a rich source of inspiration in menswear. For some,

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however, it’s more than an inspiration – they actually re-create it.

The first thing to admire here is the honesty; it’s rare for designers to be so open about their ‘inspiration’. The second is the aesthetic – in the past patterns were bolder and more interesting but, because of the fabrics used, weren’t as loud as you might imagine.

The second point is important to Michael Alden, who re-creates fabrics from the past for members of his web forum The London Lounge. A current commission, from the Fox Brothers flannel mill in Somerset, is called Eden in Paris. It’s inspired by an illustration he found of a pre-Suez Anthony Eden striding across the Place de la Concorde in Paris in a checked grey flannel suit. Alden says, “The suit’s light hue and jaunty style are remarkably modern.” The blue and white window pane over check would be too much on shiny worsted cloth, but the fuzziness of flannel means it almost disappears, and is only really apparent in daylight.

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While Alden gets his ideas from old photographs and illustrations, Savile Row tailors only need to look in their old order books to find great patterns to recreate. Davies & Son were tailors to the Duke of Windsor late in his life and their navy blue worsted cloth with a dark blue Prince of Wales (the PoW who gave the pattern its name was the Duke’s father) over check is an exact recreation of a pattern the Duke ordered in 1963. As with most cloth recreations the re-issue is lighter weight than the original, which means it lacks the full depth of older fabric, but given the Duke’s status as a style icon the possibility of having a little of his fashion sense is very tempting.

Meanwhile Henry Poole has recreated the chalk stripe flannel it used for a suit for Winston Churchill in 1936. Like Alden’s flannel this is from Fox Brothers (the West Country is famous for the material) and the bold pattern is rendered appealingly subtle by the fabric’s fuzziness. Poole has dropped the cloth’s weight from 16oz to 11oz, necessitating a change from true flannel to worsted flannel for reasons of durability, but it’s far softer than the original. Following the success of the Churchill flannel Poole is now working on a recreation of the original glen urquhart check (albeit in a worsted cloth rather than a tweed), a process made easier because the current Earl of Seafield, who’s ancestor invented the glen urqhart check (which was popularised by Edward VII when he was the Prince of Wales), is a Henry Poole client. We’ll report back once when we see it next month.

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