The Death of the Row

Savile Row
It is a truth universally acknowledged that things change. You will change, so will I. Our habits, tastes and our actions will be altered by our experiences and the opinions of others.

[one_half padding=”0 20px 20px 20px”]Apply this to Fashion and there you have the key to the fountain of eternal understanding, in a world where a plethora of pastel coloured shirts are juxtaposed with camouflage headbands, neon footwear and luggage made out of recycled sack-cloth that looks like it belongs in a skip. Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach once said that ‘So soon as a fashion is Universal, it is out of date’. A comment with such clarity as this is a rarity in our world of blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Google + (I’m out of breath), but it is nevertheless another universal truth, and essential to the understanding of fashionable trends.

Tailoring: man’s carnal fashion desire, the source of our happiness and our ruin, is of course no exception. I tell you true that if you really wanted to you could find thousands of ‘professional’ opinions regarding the cut of the ‘one true suit’. Ordained as if from on high, all these are convinced that carved in the stone of this earth by a power from another world, there is an answer to Bespoke Tailoring, that it can never change, that it is untouchable.

This is a lie.

Now, I ask you to come with me. Whether you are reading this at home on your phone, your iPad or your laptop: whatever. Close your eyes and drift listlessly with me to the pearly gates of menswear Heaven.

It’s late Autumn, you’ve turned the collar of your overcoat up to keep out that twilight chill as you shake free some crisp, orange leaves from the soles of your comfortingly cozy shoes. We are on the corner of Savile Row and Burlington Gardens. To your right, Gieves & Hawkes emits a warm orange light through the windows of it’s effortlessly classic shop front. A double-breasted, navy chalk-stripe jacket, with a strong peak lapel, white poplin shirt and gold tie stand proud and robust in the centre of the frontispiece. Perfection. You have found the answer. Look no further, do not pass go, do not collect £200, stay right where you are.

But, just up the road, in a totally different vein of bold colours, gaudy but mesmerizing pinstripes and slimmer, lighter, more modern fits stand Richard James and Ozwald Boateng. The new kids on the block have all the fun, or so it’s rumoured: at Room Ten the perfectly white walls (with red and blue halogen lamps, minimalist in decoration and ornamentation) conceal tailors that are on the rise. With our cult of C list “celebrities” oscillating and gyrating across the pages of a myriad of painfully accessible publications, desperate to make a stir (think Made in Chelsea’s finest: Jamie Laing and Spencer Matthews), young bucks who are good with a needle and thread have as much place on The Row as anybody. Has the appreciation for tailoring heritage waned?[/one_half][one_half_last padding=”0 20px 20px 20px”]Never. Are our bastions of integrity, style and taste being destroyed by the veritable juggernaut of youthful vigour and renaissance that seems to be gripping the world of suiting? Take a trip to H. Huntsman & Sons. What they will tell you is that business has never been better.

I had an argument with a man the other day who believed, unequivocally, that Savile Row and everything it stands for was disappearing with increasing speed into a gigantic sinkhole of unattainable luxury and absurd prices. His reasons for this were admirable. He cited ASOS, and what he termed as their ‘ludicrously’ cheap bastardisation of classical heritage, and then Topman, and their frankly bizarre suit jackets that fit so small they make you look like you’ve stolen a prep school kids blazer, thrown it on, and hoped nobody would notice that the jacket doesn’t come past your waist line. He has a point, he really does. If we aren’t careful there will be an even greater invasion of crass, misguided interpretations of ‘modern’ suiting available at prices lower that are conceivably lower and lower and lower.

My answer was very simple, although I borrowed the wisdom of one Coco Chanel to lend a little bit of (much needed) gravitas to my response. “Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity”. I, for one, consider this to mean that whilst Topman and ASOS aren’t necessarily ‘vulgar’, they are simply a passing trend. Every man (unless he is a monk, in which case his life is more plentiful than mine) enjoys the taste of luxury. We have goals, we dream, we aspire, it is part of our human nature. Savile Row is a goal, it is a dream and it is an aspiration.

Now, if you can prove to me that Life is defunct of goals and dreams and aspirations then I will freely concede, with all the sincerity that a defeated idealist can muster, that Bespoke Tailoring is a redundant and dead aspect of the culture of menswear. I can say this, because I know that I will never live to see that day. Every time I stand on the corner of Savile Row and Burlington Gardens, I get that same sensation: wide eyes, sweaty palms, a grin that I can barely conceal. My dreams will never die, nor will those of the men with whom I share an eternal bond of good taste, and an appreciation of stylistic heritage. I want that chalk-stripe, double-breasted jacket in the window of Gieves & Hawkes, I dream of an overcoat from H. Huntsman & Sons, and I aspire to a fitting at Room Ten.

The new boys will play nicely with the old hands, and The Row will never die.

Art by Cameron Knight [/one_half_last]

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Nicholas M H Constantine

Nicholas is a second year student enrolled at the prestigious University of St. Andrews. He studies English Literature & Philosophy and has a soft spot for anything Double Breasted or Double Monked - He works as a freelance journalist, contactable at his published email address