There’s a rather annoying breed of Mayfair tailors on the rise.
Men who know how to cut a mean suit that will function equally well for work and play; men who realise that we want to look smart and fit for purpose, but equally want to be able to have some fun; quite a lot of fun, actually.
So they’ve spent considerable time working on some tack-sharp tailoring that will look just as good on the trading floor in the City as it will picking yourself off the floor of the smoking deck at the Groucho Club.
What they’ve designed, that sets them apart from their contemporaries, is tailoring that has a modern fit, in fabrics with more than a hint of the 21st century, mixed up with pieces that work equally well – let’s call them sportswear – in and out of the office.
So far, they don’t sound too bad; in fact, they sound quite accommodating. But here’s the rub: not only are they very good at what they do, they are all risibly good-looking, incredibly cultured and crushingly charming.
The gentlemen leading this unsettling movement are Thom Whiddett and Luke Sweeney at Thom Sweeney – bespoke tailors in Mayfair who have just launched an enticing ready-to-wear range.
Rejoining them is Carlo Brandelli who, after a near five-year hiatus, has returned to Kilgour on Savile Row to once again weave his indelible magic on a tailoring brand first founded in 1882 that, under his stewardship in the mid-Noughties, also became known for its playful yet disciplined casualwear.
Over the years, I have had suits made, and bought ready-to-wear pieces, by both these brands. And each time I’ve left their premises carrying suits that make me look taller, slimmer, fitter and younger.
When I’ve put their suits on and headed out, I’ve received many more compliments than when I’ve stepped out in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. And yet despite their skills, and their ability to miraculously transform me from Louis Walsh to Dermot O’Leary with a piece of well-cut cloth, I’m always a tad dissatisfied… Because, without fail, since they’re much better looking than me, they always look better in their lines than I do. And that’s just plain annoying.
Perhaps I’m better off with a fusty, old hump-backed tailor with half-moon specs; someone who looks more like Mr Geppetto the woodcutter in Pinocchio than David Beckham.
The question is, should a tailor look dapper and dashing – the perfect ad for his own clothes – or should it be you, the customer, who hogs the handsome limelight when standing in the fitting room?
At least most hairdressers have the courtesy to ensure that you, the client, always have a much better haircut – or at least more hair – than they do. Some argue that hairdressers spend too much time in front of mirrors holding Elnett hairspray cans to be able to judge their own haircuts objectively – Nicky Clarke and his absurd Lion King mane springs to mind.
Others insist it’s pure politics: the customer is always right, better looking, and with more hair, and so hairdressers purposely choose for themselves a deeply unflattering cut that will only truly be appreciated in trendy London nightclubs like Dalston Superstore.
I feel that the Whiddetts, Sweeneys and Brandellis of this world should adopt the same stance.
Reading through the small print on my new contract for Christie’s – I’m soon to start working for the auction house – I noticed a clause stating male employees are required to wear a suit, shirt and tie.
I haven’t had a formal office dress code for decades, if ever: for example, in my role as editor-in chief at Mr Porter, I was required to look smart and stylish and, obviously, sport the brands stocked – but that could be anything from a blazer and chinos to jeans and a sweater.
Now, I’m going to have to rethink my wardrobe; particularly looking at ways to wear a suit that will work for Christie’s during the day, and yet in the evening not look as if I’m trying to persuade my friends to take out a new mortgage while supping cocktails in Soho House (which, incidentally, discourages its members from wearing suits and ties).
Of course, at this time of year you can wear a crew-neck sweater under a suit and over a shirt and tie and just remove the tie when you leave work.
Maybe I can get away with a polo-neck sweater under a suit instead of a shirt; and there’s a number of suits this season – some especially natty check ones – that look bar- as well as office-friendly.
In the summer, however, it gets tricky: a T-shirt under a suit can look a bit Miami Vice; a suit teamed with an undone shirt, tie removed, looks a bit Nick Clegg.
Typically, the brands I’m going to have to turn to for help – helmed by men adept at solving this conundrum – are Thom Sweeney and Kilgour. I just hope they’ve aged horribly since I saw them last.