Report

Savile Row, Mecca of British Masculine Elegance

Savile Row gets its name from Lady Dorothy Savile, the Countess of Burlington, who died in 1758. It’s a small street located in Mayfair, behind the Royal Academy of Arts, made famous worldwide for its men’s tailor shops.


"The Golden Mile of Tailoring" Savile Row and its surrounding adjacent streets (St George Street, Old Burlington Street, Sackville Street) is a veritable Mecca of British masculine elegance. Its hallmarks of structured style, fitted jackets and natural shoulders are an ideal perfectly embodied by the Sean Connery version of James Bond. 

The Row comprises a selection of approximately twenty shops. Amongst the oldest, Henry Poole, founded in 1806 and established on the Row in 1846; Huntsman and Sons, established in 1849, Hardy Amies in 1946; Gieve & Hawkes, founded in 1786 and established on the Row in 1974, and many others, such as Chester Barie, Dege & Skinner, Ede & Ravenscroft, Chittleborough & Morgan Davies and Son, Kilgour, Norton and Sons. In the late 60s, the arrival of Nutters of Savile Row helped to rejuvenate the traditional atmosphere, and the modernisation then continued in the 90s with the arrival of Richard James, Ozwald Boateng and Timothy Everest. In Old Burlington Street, there is Anderson & Sheppard (founded in 1906), who originated the London Cut style, and in Sackville Street there is Meyer & Mortimer. In St Georges Street, you’ll find Byrne & Burge, a young company founded by Joshua and Emmeline in 2007.

Whether the establishments are classic or modern, these bespoke gentlemen’s tailors all share long traditions of expertise. The tailors themselves often work for many of the shops as self-employed artisans. These "golden fingers" are usually seniors who started their apprenticeship at an age of 15 years old. They, in turn, train the younger design graduates over a period of several years. It can take up to 100 hours of work to produce a pure bespoke suit. This term means it is designed and manufactured on-site entirely according to personal specifications and tastes, creating timeless garments that (almost) last forever. You’ll be hard pushed to do better than this!

" Once you’ve tasted the pleasure of pure bespoke it’s very difficult to return to anything less."

Whether they are princes, ministers, businessmen, artists, movie stars or rock stars, the aficionados of Savile Row pure bespoke all share the importance they place on style. The standards set are very high and the (non-exhaustive) list of famous customers dressed by the tailors of the Golden Mile is impressive: Admiral Nelson, Winston Churchill, Prince Charles, Alfred Hitchcock, President Harry Truman, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Laurence Olivier, Mick Jagger, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Pablo Picasso, Jude Law, Tom Ford…

The phenomenal expertise accumulated over more than 200 years in this tiny area of London helps to make this city the world capital of men's fashion, inspiring many contemporary designers such as Alexander McQueen, who trained with both Anderson and Sheppard and Gieves & Hawkes.

"Fashion" is not necessarily the watchword in Savile Row where elegance takes precedence over trends. Here the priority is placed on the timeless elegance of well-structured cuts, fine quality fabrics and impeccable finishing, not to mention the key touch of understatement, a particularly British trademark. So there is no chance of becoming a fashion victim here, but at the same time the tailoring is not about living in the past either. "In the '30s and ‘40s jackets, shirts and trousers were cut for walking, running, dancing and cycling ... with style” says Joshua Byrne of Byrne & Burge. Today men are less active in their suits: sitting, standing or in front of the mirror! So the sections have been changed accordingly as have the fabrics which used to be much more heavy and rigid." The clientele has also changed and they cater for international businessmen, bankers, lawyers, entrepreneurs and artists. "Nowadays our customers come from all over the world,” observes Simon Cundey, managing director of Henry Poole. “And we organize several overseas visits every year. Nearly 40% are American, 30% British; the rest is divided between Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland), Japan, the Middle East and increasingly China." Whilst the clientele is of varied origins, they are all well-to-do: prices for a bespoke suit start at £3,000.

If you’re tempted to splash out, a final word of caution from Joshua Byrne: “Once you’ve tasted the pleasure of pure bespoke it’s very difficult to return to anything less.”