BESPOKE SUMMER SUITS
For half a century gentlemen who care about their clothes have had cause to be grateful to Mr Geoffrey Golding. For, since he opened his shop at number 220 Hatfield Road in the cathedral city dedicated to St Alban, this talented tailor has been making wonderful clothes for some of the grandest in the land. His tailoring skills have suited (in both senses) those who demand the very best. That is why, above the entrance to the shop, there are the Royal Arms (pictured). They signify that Mr Golding has a royal warrant. The practice of the Sovereign awarding warrants goes right back to the middle of the 12th century, when the most skilled trades people in the country would compete to supply their wares to the royal household. Today there are about 800 warrant holders, and in St Alban’s is one of them – G.D.Golding, Tailors “by appointment to Her Majesty The Queen”.
Geoffrey Golding began his business in St Alban’s in 1963. His father was a tailor, but the young Geoffrey suffered from dyslexia and left school at 15 with little more than a qualification in woodworking. Yet a few moments in his company is enough for anyone to realize why he has been so successful. His levels of energy and enthusiasm are remarkable. He learnt his technical skills by working for other tailors, including some in Savile Row, but this is a man who was always destined to be in charge – which, for Mr Golding, does not mean any shying away from hard work. When the wearing of suits declined in popularity, he went off to Sandhurst to find new customers. Now he estimates that 60% of the officers in the British Army have clothes which have been made by him. (The property on Hatfield Road is much larger than it appears from the outside, and no fewer than 18 people are employed in the workrooms, so that – from the cutting to the collection of the finished garment – the cloth selected by the customer never leaves the premises.)
I suspect that it is impossible to have too many summer suits. No matter how many are in my wardrobe, every year I hear myself muttering, as Spring nears its end and really warn days approach, “I just don’t have anything to wear.” Thus I took myself off to St Alban’s to ask Mr Golding to make me a summer suit. One tip I should give you at this stage: allow plenty of time. Mr Golding is a perfectionist and does not like to see his suits ‘signed off’ until they satisfy his critical eye in every particular. This suit required seven visits to St Alban’s, and was several months in the making. But the travelling and the waiting were forgotten once I took possession of the suit.
I chose a cloth from Harrisons of Edinburgh – from their ‘Frontier’ range – in a colour I can best describe as yellowy-beige. At 10/11 ounces, its weight concerned me, for this seemed rather high for summer wear. But Mr Golding assured me that, because the weave was ‘hop-sack’ and therefore very open, it would be very cool in the wearing. This was an important consideration, because I had decided upon a three-piece suit. I often like to wear a waistcoat, and I do not like to be deterred just because, in the words of the song, the Sun has got his hat on and is coming out to play.
The jacket would be single-breasted, with a single front button (thus allowing the waistcoat to be seen, even with the jacket closed), peaked lapels and four working cuff buttons. (I simply cannot bear the habit of some tailors, who make the four cuff buttons with two working buttonholes and two sham.) It was thought initially that I would have two rear vents (as in the photograph of one of the fittings). But I do not like the emphasis this can give to one’s posterior, so this was changed to a single rear vent. The trousers would be for braces (with the buttons outside at the front and inside at the back – so that the leather of the Royce would not be impressed, should I decide to drive without jacket or waistcoat), with turn-ups, straight side pockets, no rear pockets (which I have found useless, except as magnets for pickpockets) and a button fly. With trousers of such a light colour there is always a slight problem with the ‘see-through’ effect. Mr Golding therefore suggested (and I was happy to agree) that they should be lined both in the front, which is usual, and in the rear, which is unusual.
The waistcoat deserves particular mention. I wanted it to be double-breasted, and such it is. But all tailors know that a double-breasted waistcoat is a fiendishly difficult garment to get exactly right. The problem lies in the fitting of the front, which has a nasty tendency to ‘bulge’ in its upper parts. However, as you can see, Mr Golding has made the waistcoat perfectly – which is another sign of the quality of his tailoring.
The price for this three-piece suit was £1,970. This is much less than one would expect to pay in Savile Row, where such a suit would now be well in excess of £4,000. Mr Golding was keen to impress upon me that – apart from the use of one or two more modern processes in the making – the suit was made just as it would be made in ‘the Row’, with buttons of real horn and all those other little details which are so important to any gentleman who wishes to dress well.
In the wearing the suit is light and comfortable. Its appearance is elegant and, if I may be permitted a modernism, pleasingly ‘sharp’. Its tailoring is first class. That is why I am happy to join in the chorus of congratulation for Mr Golding’s first half century at Hatfield. And it is why I raise my own toast: Ad Multos Annos!