BESPOKE COUNTRY SUITS
DAVIES & SON
At a party in Chelsea, a young man – dressed in a style which my innate courtesy obliges me to term ‘informal’ – approached me without introduction. I have yet to accustom myself to this aspect of modern manners, but I will readily confess that, thus far, it has produced no unpleasantness within the bounds of my limited social intercourse. Indeed, as on this occasion, the ensuing conversations have been generally enjoyable. My new acquaintance seemed a most affable fellow, but he suddenly put to me a question which shook my normally robust composure. Looking my suit up and down, he asked, “Which designer do you use?” I blinked. “Designer?” I stuttered. “Good heavens. I do not use a designer. I go to Savile Row.” I must tell you, gentle reader, that I was, indeed, wearing a suit from that important street – made by one of the world’s great tailoring firms, Davies & Son.
Davies & Son was founded in 1803, and has therefore seen a good many developments in manners sartorial. Although I am resolutely opposed to needless innovation, one of the more recent changes in the code of dress for gentlemen certainly meets with my approval. It is now acceptable to wear a country suit in town – at least until the evening and for less formal occasions (for example, lunch with a friend). This pleases me greatly, for the country suit can be such a handsome beast that it seems a pity to confine it to the hunting box and the hall in the shires. Personally, I stray into the fields but seldom. I therefore regard this modest slackening of the town/country rule as an opportunity to widen my wardrobe. And where better to do so than at number 38 Savile Row, the home of Davies & Son?
There I met the excellent owner, Mr Alan Bennett – whom you may observe in the pictures, attending to me at the first fitting. Davies & Son now incorporates several of the most famous Savile Row tailors – including Fallan & Harvey, Johns & Pegg and Wells – so Mr Bennett is a gentleman of considerable importance in the maintenance of the best of British tailoring. He is, it hardly needs to be said, an expert in his business. He is also a man who likes to get things right from the outset, and this is a well-known characteristic of Davies & Son. With my new suit, for example, only two fittings were needed to achieve perfection – although I should say that, of course, my pattern was already in the firm’s archive.
Given that much of my use of the suit would be in the street rather than in the lane, I wanted a material which, while being properly robust, would not be too heavy. It needed to be equally at home in Rutland and in The Ritz. I therefore chose a cloth of lambs’ wool with a weight of 11/12 ounces. Made by Holland & Sherry, it was a blue herringbone, with a brown and gold ‘window pane’ over-check. The jacket would be single-breasted, but with peaked lapels. It would have one button to fasten, thus allowing a view of the single-breasted waistcoat, which would also have peaked lapels. The waistcoat would have a hole for the chain of my pocket watch. The trousers would have turn-ups, a button fly, straight side pockets and no rear hip pocket. (For this last feature I have had no enthusiasm since, as a little boy, I saw a pickpocket relieve my Father of some bank notes from that very pocket.)
There are some features specific to a country suit. It is customary to have three cuff buttons. Here, I fear, I fall down as a model of sartorial propriety. It is perhaps my only eccentricity. I must have four cuff buttons. This might be because I am, at heart, a city boy. But, whatever the deep flaw in my psychological make-up which is the cause, I cannot tolerate fewer than four buttons at my cuff. Mr Bennett, I am pleased to report, was amenable to my strange request. It would therefore be four (working) cuff buttons. But I was eager for the other country details – for example, the side seams of the trousers would be overlapping.
At the first fitting, only two minor changes were needed: the trousers were eased at the waist and the right sleeve was shortened. At the second fitting, we decided to take up the right sleeve by another quarter of an inch, for I am always keen to show the shirt cuff. And that was it – until I suddenly had a thought about my glasses. We all tend to carry items in our inner breast pockets which can push our jackets slightly out of shape. In my case, I carry two cases for spectacles. We should put these in our new jackets so that the tailor can make the necessary adjustments. This I now did, with the result that Mr Bennett decided to ease the waist of the jacket by a quarter of an inch on each side.
Then my beautiful new three-piece country suit was ready. The price was £3,509 (including V.A.T. at 17·5%). I hope you can see from the photographs that it fits in a superb manner. What the pictures cannot convey is the ease and comfort with which I can wear this suit. Technically, it is a wonderful piece of work. But, rightly, at Davies & Son you can take the technicalities – the hand-stitching, the ‘floating’ canvas, the buttons of real horn et al. – for granted. What matters is that you enjoy the garment which has been made specifically for you. And I can say that each occasion on which I wear this suit gives me intense pleasure.
Which designer do I use? No designer – just the finest traditions of Savile Row and the two centuries of craftsmanship at Davies & Son. They are enough for me.
DAVIES & SON
38 Savile Row, London W1S 3QE, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 434 3016 and +44 (0)207 734 1713
Fax +44 (0)207 287 4348
Two piece suits from £2,908 (including V.A.T. at 17·5%)
Three piece suits from £3,414 (including V.A.T. at 17·5%)
Visits are made abroad. Ask for details.