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Bespoke London: outfitters for the perfect gentleman
Gentlemen of Britain are nothing if not creatures of habit. Some say it’s plain old routine, others a respect for honoured tradition – but we like to think they’re simply hankering after the days when chivalry was the norm and suits were made to measure. Whatever the reason, when it comes to outfitters it’s well known that the British gent is a stickler for quality, heritage and respectability, and when they find a brand they like, they’ll be loyal customers for life.
When faced with Oxford Street’s gleaming shop windows, London might seem an unlikely city to harbour such traditional, time-honoured facets of the past – but in fact, the city nourishes and protects these jewels of established craftsmanship. We’ve put together our pick of the most remarkable and revered: the outfitters that the gentlemen of Britain have been – and likely will be — visiting for hundreds of years”.
James Smith & Sons Umbrellas Ltd, London
The weather in London is notoriously unpredictable and it’s almost certain that, at any time of the year, visitors will be treated to a shower of rain or three. Given that the need for an umbrella has always been a constant in the capital, it’s perhaps unsurprising that James Smith & Sons Umbrellas Ltd has remained a destination shop since 1830. This world famous emporium is the oldest umbrella shop in Europe and has supplied the likes of Gladstone, Bonar Law and Lord Curzon in its time. Indeed, since its inception, this family run and owned business in New Oxford Street, known as ‘the home of the London umbrella’, has remained largely unchanged, in both the crafting of its products and the interior of its historic Victorian premises.
John Lobb Ltd, London
Forget trying on endless pairs of shoes until you find a style you like that fits: John Lobb Ltd creates each shoe or boot by hand, painstakingly fashioned over many months by a number of specialised craftsmen who will start the process by measuring each of the customer’s feet down to the size of their little toe and the shape of their heel. Gaining a reputation for quality and elegance in the Edwardian era, John Lobb Ltd has since clothed the feet of everyone from George Bernard Shaw to Frank Sinatra, Harold MacMillan to Lord Olivier, and today the firm has not one, but two royal warrants – one from the Duke of Edinburgh and one from the Prince of Wales.
Turnbull & Asser, London
Ever since 1885 Turnbull & Asser have been making flawless, timeless and British-made shirts. Over the years, gentlemen such as Sir Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Prince Charles have walked through their doors at 71-72 Jermyn Street. Indeed, when the Queen chose to allow the Prince of Wales to confer warrants, it was Turnbull & Asser and their distinctive shirts that he signed first. As well as the royal seal of approval, the clothier has also dressed James Bond – both Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan have worn their shirts on screen.
Using only the finest hairsheep and deerskin leathers, as well as linings made of cashmere and Milanese silk, Dents really is the last word when it comes to glove making in the UK. Established in 1777, their reputation for attention to detail and fine craftsmanship has never wavered. Dents were even responsible for making the Coronation Glove for both Queen Elizabeth II and King George VI.
Prestigious doesn’t really begin to cover it when it comes to Globe-Trotter luggage. Established in 1897, these uniquely constructed suitcases are not only handmade using a special vulcanised fibreboard, but the instantly recognisable Globe-Trotter corners take five days to create using an antique Victorian Press. As testament to the craftsmanship employed, Globe-Trotter luggage was chosen by Queen Elizabeth II for use on her honeymoon in 1947 (and has been ever since) and Sir Edmund Hillary ascended to first base camp with Globe-Trotter during his conquest of Everest in 1953.
Written by Victoria Godden