It is tempting to use some kind of horticultural pun when discussing Budd. To do so would be a bit misleading, because unlike a fledgling spruce or blossoming fruit flower, Budd’s might has permeated the sartorial landscape like the roots of a mighty oak, firmly grasping England’s soil.
In 1910, when the Ottoman empire was still administering territories in Europe, the Titanic was very much afloat, and stainless steel had yet to be invented (or crosswords, if you can believe there was ever a time without them), Budd opened their store in Piccadilly Arcade in London, the same location you can find them in today. All the trappings of an archetypal British establishment are still there: rickety staircases about the width of this magazine, painted columns in the doorway, barely a lick of paint since the war, and a deferential proprietor behind the counter, Andrew Rowley, who is something of a Jermyn Street icon.
On the shop floor are shelves stacked high with shirts of all colour and creed. Upstairs, there is a cutting room with artisans working in close quarters, a nifty allegory for the tight margins of error involved in bespoke shirting. By any conventional logic, small shops like this shouldn’t command such esteem within the wider consumer market, but that has always been the beauty of British luxury. Brand Britain and gentlemanly turnout are synonymous, and within a decade of opening Budd had already reached cult status across the pond when George Gershwin referenced them in his ditty The Best of Everything, writing, My car of choice is a Rolls-Royce. I go to Stetson for my hats and Budd for my cravats. This was the equivalent of Jay-Z referencing Audemars Piguet — Get no blood on my Audemar — in Mr. Nice Watch, only with a more germane target audience.
On the assumption that you, dear reader, don’t need me to teach you how to suck eggs when it comes to a brand as august as Budd, I will cut to the chase as to why they’re playing a part in this issue. Believe it or not, it has something to do with shirting. At TheRake.com there is a terrific representation of the breadth of Budd’s offering if you don’t have the time and good sense to visit their shop, but the bespoke team there wanted to flex their muscles and do something unusual. They were to create a pair of unconventional shirts that, while veering away from the style of the classic poplin shirt, couldn’t be more relevant to the needs of modern men.