Rafe Versus Waist: Rafe Spall On His First Bespoke With Kent & Haste

Rafe Spall’s wardrobe varies with his ever-changing acting life. So when he set his heart on a suit for all seasons, there was only one master tailor we could recommend...

Rafe Versus Waist: Rafe Spall On His First Bespoke With Kent & Haste

Timing is everything. A marriage proposal, a punchline, a cover drive all require its mastery. Two of the above I’m not bad at. My timing with tailoring, on the other hand, needs work. Given my profession as a hoary theatrical, I’ve got three different wardrobes, role-dependent. I’d class them as follows: Starving, Cruiserweight and Leisurely. 

The Leisurely wardrobe is for when my characters keep their bosoms under wraps. It’s when I’ll be playing the funny best friend of the lead or an epicurean ruddy lord. The clothes in this wardrobe might not be the most elegant, but it means I’m enjoying life. And crisps. Two of my favourite things. 

The Cruiserweight wardrobe is really where I should be — in decent condition, mostly laying off the Monster Munch. That’s for when the roles require some jawline but still titties trussed — you know, a haunted detective or something. 

The Starving wardrobe (by far the worst of times, but sadly the best of clothes) means top off, zero crisps and zero fun. It was in this mode, making a film about a 12th-century crusader, that I went for my first fitting with Terry

Terry Haste and Rafe Spall with the finished suit.
The first fitting is about looking for balance, understanding where the jacket and trousers will need letting out or taking in.

Only those in the know call him Terry. Why use his surname when you can feel good about yourself using only his Christian name? Like casually dropping that you’re meeting Leonardo for brunch. “Gosh, I love that dinner jacket, may I ask who made it?” A man who replies simply “Terry” really knows his stuff. Surnames are for dilettantes, losers. 

So off I marched, sylph-like, up Sackville Street in central London on a sunny late-September morning. I was met there by one of my favourite people, the Editor-in-Chief of this publication, Tom Chamberlin. Tom, one of the most stylish men to stomp the ‘Terry- firma’, is a Terry evangelical. I felt as though he were welcoming me to church. His regard was beatific, almost like he was saying, “Have you heard the good news?” as I crossed the threshold. 

The trousers would have four pleats and a buttoned fly. Of course they would — what am I? An animal? 

The rooms felt keen and concentrated, hushed. What a perfect time to get a suit made — starving and completely wobble-free. This will be me now, 31-inch waist forever. I made a note to myself: bag up the other two wardrobes. It’s Starving from here on out. Terry brought out the fabrics books while Suyamba, the brilliant cutter made famous by Kirby Allison, measured me. 

Suyamba noticed that the suit I was wearing was made by another famous Savile Row tailor, which prompted her to ask her boss if he would like to put gloves on, so as not to come out in a nasty rash. All good chat. Terry guided me through the fabrics with elan, only occasionally pausing to insult Tom. I wanted something fit for various purpose: everyday wear, dinners, general gallivanting. We settled on a beautiful Holland and Sherry 9oz bottle-green worsted wool. It was perfect for the double-breaster I had in mind. The trousers would have a thick band, four pleats and a buttoned fly. Of course they would — what am I? An animal? 

In the second fitting, shown here, Terry scans for final adjustments. You can see him removing the collar to rope the shoulders down by letting fabric out at the seam. 

I felt good standing there in those rooms. Starving, mind, but good. Much like a first-rate dining room, there should be theatre in getting a suit made. It’s an event, and should be treated as such. 

I could tell Terry was impressed with the good shape I was in. He didn’t say so, or refer to it in any way, but I could tell. The next day I flew to South Tyrol, to unleash my honed breasts on camera (what a way to pay the mortgage), and once that indignity was over I set about making up for lost crisps. I deserved it, goddamnit. Cut to a few months later: the leaves had turned, and so, regrettably, had my wardrobe. By now I was rummaging about in the Cruiserweight cupboard. Still, I was sure Terry would have allowed for this. The man’s a genius. He could tell I was planning on swelling up. Even though I specifically told him the contrary. You don’t lose your second name for nothing.

“Erm, yes, I think we will need to re-measure you,” he said. The pleats are wide open on the trousers and your chest is pulling up the arms of the jacket.” 

“How odd,” I said to Tom as we promenaded through Berkeley Square, me slightly sheepish. 

“The thing is,” Tom said, “you have an extraordinarily long torso and quite short legs.” 

“Yes, that must be it,” I said, knowing full well that the pleats were wide open because of crisps. 

The next fitting was in February, a time when we are all, famously, in first-rate condition. By this point I’d lain awake in bed with visions of Terry referring to my ‘prominent saddle’ as he suggests elasticating my slacks. I could only hope for a miracle as I squeezed through the door of Sackville Street. Tom, this time, was around the corner at Cecconi’s, smoking a Montecristo with a charming movie star (no doubt steadying the ashtray as it slid off the table due to my footsteps a few hundred feet away). 

“Have you lost weight?” Terry asked as he pinned my jacket closed. God bless you, Tel (that’s probably what I’ll call him from now on). He knew; he had cut my cloth accordingly. 

“I’m gonna drop the shoulders down a touch, I think, it’s holding the jacket up,” he said as he tore capriciously at the lapels, which magically altered the length of the jacket by an inch. “There, see?” 

Yes, Tel. Yes, I did. This was craft and skill of the highest order. Rarefied air.