It was as a client of the great Joe Morgan that I first met Michael Browne. Amusingly, I was in the midst of showing
Joe the details of the Milanese buttonhole on my Camps de Luca jacket. What I loved was Morgan’s openness to
internationalising the language of Savile Row tailoring, and it would not be long after that he started including
these buttonholes not just in the lapel but throughout his garments (something even the Milanese don’t do.) His
primary collaborator in this creative process was Browne, for whom I already had tremendous affection as one of the
most stylish and nicest men in tailoring. To be fair, despite his genteel and self-effacing manner, it is hard not
to notice Browne, for he is one of the most handsome and charismatic individuals I’ve met. But as well, there is the
way he wears clothes — with the effortless bearing that makes you think he was born in a lap-seamed, roped-shoulder,
three-piece suit. You could already see that, while he had learned his craft alongside Joe Morgan, he was beginning
to define a clear, strong and vibrant language of his own, in the same way that Morgan’s clothes paid tribute to but
were unique from Sexton’s and Nutter’s. They were similar to Morgan’s in exhibiting a couture-level obsession with
perfection of detail. But Browne wore his clothes in a very different way, which was informed by a young, urban
relevance representative of his generation.
“I could see this huge resurgence in the interest in bespoke tailoring,” Browne said. “But at the same time men
wanted to wear their clothes in a different way. One of the first things I began experimenting with was what I call
a ‘body coat’. This is really a fusion between a top coat and jacket. It’s a long, lightweight coat that combines
the swagger of the top coat with the closer fit of a bespoke jacket. I started making them because so many of my
clients wanted them. A lot of younger guys will wear jeans and trainers or boots and light knitwear. They don’t want
to wear a jacket and an overcoat. They don’t want to be bothered to check their coat.” As an aside, I explained to
Browne that no self-respecting New Yorker would ever check their coat, out of a combination of impatience and fear
of having it stolen. Browne laughed and continued: “Exactly, they want one star piece to their ensemble. They can
wear their body coat directly to the dinner table or keep it on at an art gallery opening or a party. It has inner
pockets for their phone and wallet, just like a jacket, and it’s made with a lighter construction and fabric so that
it’s comfortable indoors. You always look both relaxed but dressed.” The point he was making with his typical
humility was that with this coat on, no matter where you are, you just look fucking cool.
And now for an oblique sartorial non sequitur. Around 1870, a trim, young, Pennsylvania-educated dentist set out for
the American south-west in the hope of curing his tuberculosis, an ailment that had afflicted him since the age of
15. There he became a professional gambler and gunfighter of some repute. He struck up a friendship with a lawman
named Wyatt Earp and saved his life on several occasions. In 1879 he participated, along with Earp, in the 30-second
gunfight at the O.K. Corral that has become a seminal part of western lore. The sobriquet he was bestowed was that
of ‘Doc Holliday’, and he was immortalised more than a century later with an Academy Award-level performance by Val
Kilmer in the highly entertaining escapist fare that is Tombstone. I bring this up only because the
signature garment the Earp brothers and Holliday are dressed in throughout the film, as they dispatch gun-toting
villains, is the western gunfighter’s frock coat, a dandified adaptation of the military frock coat. Often worn with
a waistcoat and a tie, this iconic garment bears an evocative similarity to Michael Browne’s cashmere body coat. So
much so that I would imagine myself with twin Walker Colts strapped to my thigh like the Outlaw Josey Wales each
time I donned it. This seemed to amuse Browne considerably during our fittings, by which point I had re-dubbed his
svelte, lithe body garment the ‘Sartorial Gunfighter Coat’.
The coat features a notch lapel with the high gorge placement Browne is fond of, and of course a Milanese buttonhole.
It is accompanied by a silk tone-on-tone boutonnière that has become Browne’s signature. The shoulders are roped
while the sleeves are neat and slim. The body of the coat is fitted with a high waist and an artfully flared skirt.
I opted for three buttons and slightly more closed front quarters, though Browne traditionally makes it with two
buttons and more open front quarters. Pockets are without flaps, to add to the neatness, and the coat ends below the
The finishing is, as you would imagine, sublime and God-like. Having owned it for the better part of a year, I find
it the perfect garment for urban environments like New York, where you are constantly on the move and need to be
comfortable but still want to look dressed. It’s perfect when running down the stairs to catch a subway or jumping
in and out of cabs, yet it lets you merge seamlessly into the most erudite milieus. It provides a fantastic heroic
swagger yet has all the pragmatic ability to retain your valuables, and it still works for the most part indoors,
save for the most overheated antechambers. It is best paired with knitwear and works equally well with braced-up
dress trousers and dress shoes or jeans and boots, in particular of the Urban Commando variety as made for us by
Norman Vilalta and Gaziano & Girling.
Since his early years on Savile Row, Browne has decamped to Berkeley Square, where he crafts his signature
couture-level garments for a loyal following. If experiencing clothing made at the highest level imaginable is your
thing, Browne’s your huckleberry.
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