Warp & Weft

“To be truly elegant one should not be noticed”: George Bryan (Beau) Brummell

 George Bryan (Beau) Brummell–engraving from miniature portrait

George Bryan (Beau) Brummell–engraving from miniature portrait

 Beau Brummell created the blueprint for modern menswear

Beau Brummell created the blueprint for modern menswear

The women on my father's side of the family were either tailoresses, or leather workers. They had a sharp eye for detail, and appreciated a well-dressed man. My great-grandmother, Alice Boxall, believed that a man always looked his best in a simple, midnight-blue suit, and a crisp, white shirt. Essentially this understated style was created by Beau Brumell in the late 1700s, and his philosophy of men's fashion has been with us ever since. He was exceptionally fond of starched, white shirt linen.

 Piccadilly Arcade

Piccadilly Arcade

I usually approach Jermyn St via Piccadilly Arcade, at the end of which is Beau’s statue. I give him a nod and bid him good morning, head across the road to have a nose in Hilditch and Key’s window, as I’m fond of their shirts, but decide instead that I’m going to proceed to Turnbull and Asser, on the corner of Jermyn St and Bury St.

 Statue of Beau Brummell by Irena Sedlecká

Statue of Beau Brummell by Irena Sedlecká

 "Morning Beau"

"Morning Beau"

Turnbull & Asser is a fine Edwardian shop; just standing in it feels like you’ve time-travelled to a bygone age of gentlemanly elegance. The shop was built in 1903, and the interior has floor-to-ceiling mahogany shelving, displaying their beautiful shirts, ties, pyjamas, pocket squares, socks, and just about everything a gentleman needs, in a myriad of colours.

 T&A corner of Bury St and Jermyn St 

T&A corner of Bury St and Jermyn St 

 Mr Fish fitting Sean Connery for Dr No. 

Mr Fish fitting Sean Connery for Dr No. 

You become aware that you are standing in history; you’re standing where Sean Connery stood for his 'Dr No' fitting by Mr Fish. It’s believed that F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was a customer himself, based the shirt scene in The Great Gatsby on his experience of Turnbull & Asser. The names of sartorial gentleman from the last 130 years: Chaplin, Picasso, The Beatles, Sinatra, Winston Churchill, to name a few, have all been clients. Prince Charles granted them his first warrant in 1980. Almost every men's fashion book in The Obsessive library references Turnbull & Asser. They continue to be a significant and relevant brand in menswear. This is quite an achievement.

 007 in T&A's classic white shirt with two button turn-back 'cocktail' cuffs

007 in T&A's classic white shirt with two button turn-back 'cocktail' cuffs

 The Obsessive opts for Classic

The Obsessive opts for Classic

 T&A's distinctive cutaway collar with T&A knitted silk tie

T&A's distinctive cutaway collar with T&A knitted silk tie

I’m usually a 16" collar, but need to check, so I descend the wooden staircase to the fitting area. I’m greeted courteously by an immaculate gentleman who, on one glance, suggests a 16½ collar. It fits perfectly. He proceeds to take me through all the different types of shirts: the weave of the cotton, the mother of pearl buttons that are cross-locked stitched with waxed thread; he goes into just the right amount of detail not to confuse, but enthuse you. I opt for their signature 'Classic' plain white, double-cuffed shirt, with the distinctive T&A cutaway collar. The shirts are all proudly made in England, in their Gloucestershire workrooms.

 T&A midnight blue knitted silk tie

T&A midnight blue knitted silk tie

As I step out of the shop into the bustle of Jermyn St, immaculate well dressed men are scuttling to lunch. Much the same way I imagine Beau and his dandies did all those years ago.