Combining a snug armhole (or ‘scye’ as it’s called in the trade) with a larger sleevehead, expertly hand-sewn in
place, Anderson & Sheppard’s signature house style allowed Astaire to maintain a sleek, serene shoulder line
even while gesturing wildly or leaping across the stage.
The great menswear commentator G. Bruce Boyer recently recalled, in conversation with Pedro Mendes for his
‘Unbuttoned’ podcast, discussing Astaire’s unique demands with Anderson & Sheppard’s revered cutter of the
midcentury era, Colin Harvey (whom Boyer called “absolutely the most elegant man I’d ever seen in my life”). During
an early visit to the tailor in the 1960s, Boyer said, Harvey described the delightfully unique nature of Anderson
& Sheppard’s regular fittings with Fred Astaire.
Harvey, said Boyer, “told me this wonderful story that when Astaire came in for a try-on, he would put the garment
on, the suit, and he would dance up and down the hall to make sure it fit the way he wanted it to when he danced,
that it wasn’t pulling him in the crotch and that the neck stayed where it was supposed to be, and that kind of
Boyer recalled, “I said, ‘That’s wonderful, you got a free performance!’ (Harvey) said, ‘Oh it was wonderful —
(Astaire) would pirouette up and down and leap back and forth.’ He said, ‘(Astaire) was very particular about
things, if he felt that the coat wasn’t sitting firmly on the neck, he’d say, ‘No, no, this one’s no good. You have
to make it fit on the neck.’”
Though not nearly as prolific a customer as his countryman (sadly, journalism and teaching don’t pay quite as well as
Hollywood stardom), Boyer also became a regular Anderson & Sheppard client, won over for much the same reasons
as Astaire. A&S, Boyer said, “did a very soft suit … They didn’t use a lot of heavy padding, they didn’t use a
lot of heavy interlinings, it had an easy kind of familiarity to it. It looked in a way as if it were almost broken
in already, when you first got it. I loved that … because my idea was always that clothing should be comfortable, it
should reflect you.”
Astaire once explained, “I often take a brand-new suit or hat and throw it up against the wall a few times to get
that stiff, square newness out of it.” One gets the sense that with his soft, supple Anderson & Sheppard
tailoring, this breaking-in process was probably more a matter of habit than necessity.