BESPOKE TRAVELLING SHIRTS
HARVIE & HUDSON
For those of us who try to dress properly, life is full of hurdles. One of them can be summed up thus: how can I ensure that I have a beautifully presented shirt to wear each day when I am travelling? The answer to this important question is not as straightforward as some might suppose. “Use hotel laundries,” I can hear many a reader murmur. But I have learnt over many years that sometimes the standard of these facilities can be woefully low, and it is not difficult for a bad laundry to ruin a good shirt. Therefore I make it a rule on my travels to wash my own shirts. Consequently, I always ask for an iron and an ironing board to be placed in my room. But some hotels – particularly in Italy – refuse to supply these items, usually claiming that ‘fire regulations’ necessitate their refusal. How, in these circumstances, can one avoid the risks of hotel laundries and yet still appear in a smart shirt? I believe I have finally found the answer.
First, I went along to number 77 Jermyn Street, to my favourite shirt maker, to have some very particular shirts made for me. Thomas Harvie and George Hudson founded their company in 1949. Their first premises were in Duke Street. Later they moved into Jermyn Street, where the firm now run by their descendants, Richard Harvie and Andrew Hudson, currently occupies numbers 77 and 97 – as well as a shop at 55 Knightsbridge. Nowadays much is done via the website (www.harvieandhudson.com), whereupon you can create and order your own shirts, by choosing the pattern, the style of both the collar and the cuff and the length of the sleeves. (This is a remarkable facility, particularly for those who find it difficult to get up to town or who reside overseas.) But for the true bespoke, you need personal attention, so that your own measurements, style and preferences can be translated into the paper pattern – unique to you - which will be used to make your shirts. It is this pattern, after all, which is the essence of bespoke. The ever affable Richard Harvie dealt with my order.
My first requirement was for a cotton cloth with a bold check pattern. The check was essential, because plain and striped patterns show every tiny crease. Check is remarkably ‘kind’ in this respect: it hides surface imperfections with remarkable efficiency. The bright colours of the patterns I chose – which I hope the photographs display – were entirely down to my taste. The style followed my usual path: separate, semi-cutaway collars, separate “surgeon’s” cuffs, sleeves long enough to ensure that (with my jacket on) I would always ‘show cuff’ and plenty of fullness in the body for comfort. Only in one respect would they be different from my other bespoke shirts. As I like my cufflinks – some of which are particularly beautiful – to be at least partially visible when I am suited, I asked for the holes in the double-cuffs to be brought nearer than normal to the crease. (It has taken me many years to realise that I should request this particular detail. It must be an invariable rule henceforth.)
As I hope you can see in the pictures, the two shirts (four is the minimum order for bespoke shirts, if you are a new customer) are a joy. The fit is exactly as it should be, the workmanship is admirable and the ‘look’ is delightful. They are the perfect bespoke travelling shirts.
Now I will disclose the way in which such beautiful shirts can be maintained by a gentleman on his travels. This is my advice to you, dear reader – after you have obtained your shirts with a check pattern – should you find yourself in an hotel which refuses to supply you with an iron and an ironing board. The photographs illustrate the procedure.
- Wash the shirt in the bathroom with one of the commercial ‘travel wash’ detergents. (I buy mine from Boots, the chemists.) Rinse the shirt thoroughly and squeeze out as much water as possible.
- Place a bath towel on the floor of the bathroom and spread the shirt on the towel. Cover the shirt with another towel, thus making a ‘shirt sandwich’. With bare feet, walk all over the top towel. This should leave the shirt damp, but not dripping.
- Hang the shirt on a wire coat hanger. (I recommend that you include one or two such hangers in your luggage. The wooden hangers supplied by hotels are not suitable, as they are likely to stain damp shirts.)
- Fasten the top button of the shirt with your spare collar stud.
- Applying modest pressure, pull down the front edges of the shirt and gently ‘stretch’ the two cuffs, to obtain as smooth a surface as possible.
- Hang the shirt in place where it can be left to dry. Clip to the bottom of the front of the shirt an upturned wooden coat hanger of the sort used for trousers. On its hook put another wooden coat hanger, to provide extra weight.
- Leave overnight, or until dry.
Of course, the resulting shirt will not be quite as good as a properly ironed shirt. But you will be surprised at how good a check shirt will look after this treatment. I am certainly happy to wear it with complete confidence, in the certainty that no observer will be prompted to wonder why I am wearing an un-ironed shirt.
Thus has another sartorial hurdle been overcome – thanks to Harvie & Hudson and thanks to my innate genius.
HARVIE & HUDSON
96/97 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6JE, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 839 3578
55 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RA, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 235 2651
Fax: +44 (0)207 839 7020
Bespoke shirts: from £245, including VAT (minimum first order: 4)
Trips are made to the United States. Ask for details.