A few years ago I met a fellow watch enthusiast, who was wearing an interesting shirt. It was a business type, but on his left cuff there was a slight recess cut out in order to show off his watch better. I commented on this and it transpired that he was from India where he owned a garment factory. As such this allowed him to experiment with all sorts of designs and materials – including the watch shirt. The encounter was brief and I kicked myself afterwards for not getting his details as the idea quite appealed. Fast forward to a couple of months ago when I knew that in November I would have a few watch events to attend. My mind kept harking back to my Indian encounter and determined that now may be the time to try and replicate the shirt.
I sometimes use the services of a tailor quite local to me near Manchester. No, don’t get excited – just for alterations really, but he does however make suits, shirts and so on. I spoke to him about possibly making me some shirts but he was going on holiday and felt that as there were only a few weeks to go, there just would not be time. I did immediately think of Frank Rostran In Manchester who, some 20 years ago, did make me some shirts when I was feeling a little flush. He though is now retired (although the business is still going), but my man recommended someone else in Manchester who he felt would surely help. This was Williams & Gill (at Thomas Silk) and I need to speak to David Williams.
A few days later I called David and explained how and why I was contacting him. He seemed intrigued and we made an appointment a day or two later. When I arrived I realised that I had been in the premises before – maybe 5 years or so previously – possibly asking about bespoke prices but I cannot recall. I also think I may have dealt with David’s business partner Jonathon Gill, who sadly passed away last year. OK, lets be clear, this is not quite Jermyn St/Saville Row poshness – so more businesslike and on show. However, dig down and one discovers that they have supplied clothing for the Harry Potter and Titanic films so they do know their stuff! David greeted me warmly and we chatted about my plans. He then made numerous notes and of course measured me up.
Initially, I had intended just to buy a couple of shirts – one in plain pale blue, and the other in a blue gingham check. However, the day before I had investigated my dress shirt and frankly the news was not good. The collar was too tight really. As such I thought I may as well get one made.
I arranged to return a few days later for a fitting. By this time David had knocked up a sample in a creamy material. The overall fit was very good – neck and body. We agreed though that the sleeves could be a mite shorter and the cuff watch recess not quite as round and pronounced. I sketched what I thought would do – the shape being a little more subtle. Also, that whilst the cuffs could not be “double” (as the recess would become a hole), they needed to take cuff-links.
Regarding the dress shirt, we also needed to discuss extra features – a pattern maybe down the front, and also fixing options. Concerning the former we agreed on a fairly common “waffle” panel. On the latter, I had brought my Grandfather’s mother of pearl and gold studs – from around 1920. However, the mother of pearl had dulled and really looked a bit grubby on a white background, so, no longer impressive. Also, once the studs were in, you then had to push through a securing clip bar from the inside and this was very fiddly. I therefore reluctantly had to abandon the idea. I had though – as a contingency plan, brought with me an old dress shirt that did not fit, but had some quite nice black metal buttons. Although cheap and cheerful, we agreed to recycle these.
I was then away for a week and David was sure he could complete by the time I was back. I would then only be home for another few days before I would really need the shirts, and in particular the dress one.
The day arrived and David had four neatly packaged bundles in tissue paper. We opened a corner of each and David assured me no further fitting was required! He had in fact included the cream “sample” gratis which was nice.
As soon as I was home I ripped off the tissue and tried everything on. All was well. I then washed them all just to get rid of any stiffness sometimes present on new material. My subsequent wearings have been successful and many people have admired them – and the watch recess!
My conclusions are that bespoke clothing can clearly be very worthwhile – after all, at least it will fit you perfectly. The only fly in the ointment can be cost. I did make a few enquiries when in London and we are talking from say £200 upwards to £300 and more – depending on the name. One can also encounter some aloofness. One quite well-known establishment (or the young person that I encountered) was very snooty almost to the point of rudeness – if you have to ask the price then you cannot afford us type scenario. Damn cheek – I earn far more than he ever will and will have done more in life too! OK, mind the blood pressure! Getting back to cost, David charges some £150 per shirt and in my case this included the extra dress shirt fiddling, plus of course one shirt was free! Oh, and I did not have to wait ages and David is a really nice chap! OK, the shirts do not have the London label and supposed cachet, but the quality is similar and at a decent price. Anyway, once on, who knows?
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