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Menswear for Your Holiday and Beyond: The Bespoke Legacy of Saville Row

This year, before embarking on your luxury estate holiday, you might want to take a minute to take stock of what is hanging in your wardrobe. Even if you prefer a casual environment while you are off on your luxury holiday retreat, there will still likely be dinner to dress for, a few parties to attend, and perhaps even the odd night out on the town that will require you to wear something smart. Enter Saville Row, the legendary street in central London’s Mayfair district that is world-renowned for its bespoke menswear tailoring.

Over the many years that artisan tailors have been operating on Saville Row, custom tailoring gradually became known as “bespoke”. The term is said to have been derived from the fabric selection process that custom tailoring clients must go through when choosing their preferred suiting fabric. The urban legend states that in the early years, once a fabric had been selected by a customer, it was considered spoken-for, and hence the term “bespoke” was born. Today, the term bespoke is generally used to refer to a suit that is cut and made completely by hand, having been assembled either painstakingly by hand or by sewing machine.

Tailors first started to set up shop on Saville Row in the late 18th century, altering the street-facing aspect of the houses of Saville Row to accommodate large store front windows, giving the street a quaint yet commercial look that lives on to this day. The aim of these renovations was not only to display the tailor’s wares, but also to allow for more natural light to filter through illuminating the workspaces of the tailors as they hand cut and stitched together garments. In 1950, there were as many as 40 individual bespoke tailoring businesses in operation on Saville Road. Sadly, as with so many other things that have changed with the times, that number dwindled to a mere 19 just prior to 2006. As is often the complaint of small businesses, the tailors of Saville Row were greatly affected by the commercial development of the surrounding areas; mass-market high-end retailers provided luxury goods at competitive prices that had a wider appeal and broader accessibility, something that at one time would have been thought of as impossible in the high-end clothing industry. The tailors were at risk of seeming old-fashioned in the wake of this new designer-heavy retail influx. In response, The Saville Row Bespoke Association was formed. The aim of the Saville Row Bespoke Association was to recognise and preserve bespoke tailoring as the art form that we now recognise it to be, as well as to preserve the heritage of the physical street qualities of Saville road. By all appearances, it seems to be working. Saville row tailors have not only serviced some of Britain’s most famous historical figures like Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill, and Prince Charles, they have also worked their way into the modern fashion enthusiast’s conscience. More modern approaches to tailoring can now be found amongst the traditional old guard of Saville Road, and more contemporary fabrics and cuts can be found right alongside the staples of British tradition such as hunting tweeds and morning coats. The appeal of Saville Row is now at such a high that even American childhood stars-turned-celebrity designers Mary Kate and Ashley Olson have deferentially named their high-end ready to wear label The Row, and London Mayor Boris Johnson was spotted making the rounds at Saville Row during the London men’s collections this year.

Although prices for a gentleman’s bespoke suit are variable and dependent on the chosen fabric, suits are generally priced starting at about £3000.00. While it can certainly be a big undertaking to open your wardrobe and discover that each and every item of clothing in there is looking a little old and tired, it is not necessary to spend a small fortune replacing each and every suit in your wardrobe systematically. In fact, a high-quality bespoke suit is such a fantastic workhorse of a garment you most likely will be able to get away with just a few really well-made pieces, instead of a closet full of mediocrity. Listed below are three of the most indispensable bespoke suits that can grace a man’s wardrobe for a luxury estate holiday and beyond.

The Single Breasted Navy Suit

A single-breasted navy suit in a quality wool blend is really and truly one of the most versatile items a man can have in his wardrobe. Navy looks good on just about everybody, and wool is as breathable, comfortable, and nearly indestructible a fabric as they come. Ask your tailor to show you fabrics that have a “super number” (the grading system for wool) above 150 for a lighter weight wool suit, and between 100-150 for a quality suit that will be appropriate for a cooler climate.

The Light Coloured Summer Suit

Decidedly less formal than wool, a light coloured suit can be made from either high-grade cotton or linen, and is a staple for travelling to warmer climates, as well as for wearing to certain daytime events at the height of the British Summer. This is a more informal option than a wool suit, and this should be taken into consideration before you dress for an event.

The Tuxedo

Every man needs a tuxedo, pure and simple, and when going on an extended holiday to a luxury estate, there will definitely be an opportunity or two to wear a tuxedo. The tuxedo is an item of clothing that, if well made and of classic design, a man can wear literally for the rest of his days. It is best to stick to classic silhouettes and fabrics; no skinny trousers, no wide lapels, no strange embroidery no the sleeves or outlandish textures. With a tuxedo, there is also lapel choice to think about. The shawl lapel is quite a popular formal choice, and is often found on both tuxedos and dinner jackets. The peaked lapel is perhaps the most classic, and the notched lapel is the least classic. There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and as with any bespoke suit that you have made, an experienced tailor can assist you in choosing the collar or fit that best suits your lifestyle and physique.