Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The London Reading List No.23

Tuesday is great London books day on The Daily Constitutional. Give us your own recommendations at the usual email address

Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped & Smoothed

By Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson walked into Huntsman of Savile Row as a callow teenager looking for a job. He left nearly 20 years later as one of the bespoke world’s most respected tailors having learned the trade from suit makers of the old school.

Where he learned to write so well is not a matter of record, but the proof of his ability can be found on every page of his autobiographical account of a working life on one of London’s most famous streets.

His insider’s tale opens up Savile Row tailoring to the layman with wit, affection and not a little drama.

His pen portraits of the irascible old tailors who toughened him up as a young apprentice are vivid and memorable. His discreetly gossipy revelations of the foibles of arguably the most demanding clientele in London make the reader feel that the cost of a bespoke suit would be cheap at twice the price.

Three tales are woven into the narrative. There’s Anderson’s own coming of age story, that of a boy from St Albans who dreamt of being a footballer and who almost blundered into his calling on The Row. It is the work of a seemingly very down-to-earth man whose easy charm and self-effacing wit wins the reader from the off.

The history of Savile Row is the next strand, and Anderson’s delight in the famous old street is infectious. The art of the tailor is the third and potentially most difficult strand. But such is Anderson’s love of his craft, combined with his gift to relate a tale, that the technical details of cutting, measuring and making a suit become more fascinating with every page.

In 2001 he set up his own business on The Row. Richard Anderson Ltd was the first new house to be set up on Savile Row in 50 years.

Each Savile Row tailoring house has its own distinctive style. But I doubt if any of them will ever write a book about The Row that is half as good as this one. No London bookshelf is complete without it.


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