If you consider yourself a man of style, then you've no doubt heard a thing or two about the ever famous Savile Row of London. Over the years, the name has become synonymous with such time honored concepts as quality, style, originality, and standards... but how much does the average man about town really know about this high-end fashion Mecca and what makes it so important?
Let's take a closer look at what makes this central London street such a significant place to be for those that are into high-end, impeccably made bespoke clothing. We'll discuss the history of Savile Row, get to know some of the most prestigious names that have been associated with the shops found there, and examine the influence it's had on men's fashion in general.
What Is Savile Row and What Is It Known For?
Savile Row itself is actually a very famous street located in the central London district of Westminster. The street itself is small and strip-like, sprawling casually from north to south. It's known for its fantastic array of high-end bespoke tailor shops and it was originally named for the very famous Lady Dorothy Savile. She was the spouse of the 3rd Duke of Burlington. Savile Row itself was created during the 1730's and was a part of the vast Burlington Estate.
However, while tailoring is the name of the game there, it's important to realize that the shops of Savile Row aren't just any tailoring outlets. Quality and sky's-the-limit standards are the order of the day there, so the targeted customer is remarkably well-to-do. He's a man of means and impeccable taste – someone that is truly capable of appreciating the beauty and value of an authentic bespoke masterpiece.
Today, the tailor shops of Savile Row are strategically interspersed with other fine shops, as well as trendy eateries offering peckish shoppers a culinary experience that is just as fashionable as the clothes they can buy next door. It's considered a must-see location for discriminating locals and tourists alike.
A World-Famous Clientele
Savile Row is more than just a prestigious place for London's modern locals and visitors to score an artfully created new wardrobe. It's been the go-to destination for fashion-conscious men for centuries. The following are just a few of the most notable.
The late, great Winston Churchill frequented many of the Row's top designers on a regular basis, including his very favorite, Henry Poole & Co. In fact, it was this particular tailor that was responsible for Churchill's now iconic pin-striped suits, as well as other staples. To this day, Henry Poole & Co. still gets ongoing requests from high-end customers for custom-made suits just like the ones Churchill made so famous.
Everyone is familiar with Mr. Chaplin's legendary portrayals of the "little tramp" on the silver screen, baggy suits and all. However, in his off-screen life, Chaplin was just as well known for being a well-dressed, dapper man of impeccable taste, so naturally he was a Savile Row customer as well. He is well known for wearing classic designs from the likes of Gieves & Hawkes in some of Old Hollywood's most famous photographs of him.
Savile Row was catering to the likes of the powerful and important right from the get-go. This decorated 18th century British officer was responsible for leading Great Britain to numerous victories during the Napoleonic wars. He also wore gorgeous uniforms made by well-known tailors in the Row. In fact, he was killed wearing one of them at the Battle of Trafalgar.
If you're thinking that it was only the British that sought out the tailors of Savile Row for the finest bespoke clothing options under the sun, you're wrong. All of Europe's ruling class – including French emperor Napoleon III – wanted in on the action early on. Napoleon ordered a fortune's worth of beautiful clothing from the shops of Savile Row. At one point, it's said that he owed thousands to many of the most prestigious tailors on the Row.
Of course, these are just a few of the many famous folks that have visited the Row in search of the best custom-tailored clothing money can buy. Others have included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Jude Law and the Beatles to touch on just a few noteworthy names.
The 21st Century Incarnation of the Row
The very first tailors that originally contributed to the rise of Savile Row over the course of the 18th century are no longer with us. However, the tradition and standard they worked so hard to establish is alive and well in the current line-up at the Row.
Each of these tailors and many like them are members of the prestigious Savile Row Bespoke Association, an organization put in place to protect the integrity of fine bespoke tailoring as characterized by this distinctive, one-of-a-kind area. The Savile Row Bespoke Association is also dedicated to helping to develop bespoke tailoring as an art, as well as maintaining conditions that make it possible for tailors on the Row to keep on doing their very best work.
For instance, in 2005, there was quite a bit of collective worrying as to whether or not modern tailoring was beginning to fall behind the times. There was also some concern as to the swiftly rising rents in the area. It was issues like these that originally inspired the formation of the organization and keep it going today. Marketing strategy, event planning, and various methods of protecting the tailoring industry on the whole are other areas overseen and considered by the association on an ongoing basis.
What Is Bespoke Tailoring All About?
If you're a fan of high-end, impeccably executed tailoring but haven't yet tried bespoke clothing on for size, it's time you were made aware of what it brings to the table and why it's considered the gold standard when it comes to menswear. While ready-to-wear clothing is certainly capable of being high quality, it's generally all about clothing that is manufactured at some other location and then shipped to the retail outlet where it is to be sold.
Also known as "off the rack" clothing, ready-to-wear menswear is created with the "everyman" in mind. This means that the clothing involved is going to represent an approximate fit for the great majority of customers. In order to achieve an exact fit, the clothing will need to undergo additional tailor work to ensure it fits the owner the way that it should. Bespoke clothing, on the other hand, is custom made specifically for the customer in question. When you enter a fine tailor shop like the shops of Savile Row, you can expect extensive measurements to be painstakingly taken by seasoned experts. Those measurements will then be used to create custom, one-of-a-kind patterns designed with you and you alone in mind. When it comes to bespoke clothing, you will also have the final say in the cut of the clothing, the fabric, the colours, the patterns, and every other nuance to boot.
The Benefits of Going Bespoke
While some men may be able to get away with wearing cookie cutter, off the rack clothing, that simply won't do for the real movers and shakers of the world. To really make an impression, you need to go with bespoke, made-to-measure options from tailors that elevate apparel making to an art, just like the tailors of Savile Row do. Let's take a closer look at the benefits of doing so.
When you limit yourself to clothing that can be purchased off the rack, you're essentially limiting yourself to clothing that was made with the masses in mind. That said, you're only going to have access to the most popular colours and patterns – the options the store knows it will be able to sell in the largest possible numbers.
This can make it tough to really develop a signature look that's uniquely yours. Going bespoke opens your world up to include thousands of colours, fabrics, patterns, and styles. The only limit on the looks you can create are dictated by your creativity!
Just as a well-fitting suit or dress shirt can make the most striking impression, a suit that doesn't fit well can have the opposite effect. Choosing bespoke clothing from reputable tailor shops ensures that the fit of your clothing will be spot on in a way off the rack clothing can never be, even after additional tailoring. Even a good fit is no match whatsoever for a perfect fit!
If you happen to wear a size that isn't as common, you especially stand to benefit from choosing a good bespoke tailor shop. Tall men, husky men, and men of short stature all find that bespoke is better when it comes to getting the sleek, professional, high class look every man is after. If you fall into a traditionally hard to fit category, consider enlisting the services of a bespoke tailor that specializes in your body type. It's likely to pay off in a very big way.
On Savile Row, tailoring isn't just a profession. It's an art form in and of itself. Modern bespoke tailoring practices combine all the best the menswear world has to offer – the very best materials, access to the latest equipment and technological developments, timeless experience, and a limitless array of stunning options. This adds up to clothing that lasts many times longer than its ready-to-wear cousins and is absolutely one of a kind in every possible way.
Furthermore, when you choose to purchase a suit from a Savile Row tailor, you're signing up for so much more than some truly excellent quality clothes. You're also entering a new level as far as social value goes. A man in a Savile Row suit is considered a force to be reckoned with. If you're aiming for the top, then you'll want to make sure you go with nothing less.
At the end of the day, there's nothing that beats a perfectly tailored wardrobe. Top businessmen, world leaders, and important people from all walks of life wouldn't even consider the alternatives and with good reason.
The Enduring Legacy of Savile Row
Although the magic and prestige that surrounds a genuine Savile Row bespoke suit has never truly been out of the picture, it could definitely be said that we're seeing a real resurgence in demand. Over the past couple of years, a number of additional high profile celebrities have joined the ranks of the giants touched on above, underlining the desirability of genuine Savile Row menswear. These include Tom Cruise, Sean Connery, Michael Caine, and Brian Ferry.
Plus, the average person these days is becoming incredibly discriminating when it comes to the goods they purchase. People are more educated than ever before when it comes to the possibilities available to them. They're also more willing to invest money in truly high-quality items and this certainly includes luxury items like bespoke suits. Mass-produced, cookie cutter options are out these days as well. Unique, one of a kind pieces are the order of the day, even for consumers that exist outside of society's upper crust. Modern day people are getting used to custom options designed just for them thanks to modern personal technology. Their preferences in clothing are beginning to follow along the same path.
These days, the great majority of Savile Row's top tailors even make visits to not only the rest of Europe, but the United States as well. This means that if an interested customers can't personally make it to Savile Row, then it's perfectly possible to arrange for Savile Row to come to them.
It's a brave new world we're living in indeed and the way of the future is steeped in rich artistry, attention to detail, and time-honored tradition. The best of both worlds coming together in a beautiful, elegant way and Savile Row is expected to be a part of that legacy on a continuing basis for a long time to come.