Anderson and Sheppard has cleverly managed to simultaneously maintain its existing
clientele whilst being able to attract a younger generation still seduced by the classic style made famous by Fred
Astaire. Men are more partisan about style at a much younger age nowadays - as their grandfathers once were. Whether
it be City boys or media types, men, generally speaking, are more interested in how they are expected to dress, and
there is a real sense of appreciation for heritage and well-made clothes - particularly with the issue of
sustainability being so newsworthy and an insurgence against mass-produced fast fashion. Gone are the days of
shoehorning into cheap slim-fitting suits - the generation X, Y and millennial gent is better informed, therefore
more restrained in his purchases, preferring quality over quantity thus developing a penchant for the ostentatious.
It’s much easier for the likes of Anderson and Sheppard to attract this type of younger customer, who, as his life
progresses and wealth accumulates, will see the value of investing in bespoke and never look back.
Comfort is a buzzword bandied about liberally in sartorial circles nowadays. Guys
don’t just want to look sharp, they want to feel comfortable in their second skin. The fabulous thing about a
bespoke A&S suit is that it will absolutely deliver on both counts. Before we expand upon the innate nuances of
theEnglish Drape Cut, the whole
process of a bespoke suit or jacket begins witheach new customer signing his
or her name in the measurements book. A set of 27 distinct measurements are then chronicled, by hand as you would
expect: 3 rows of what would otherwise resemble entries in a mathematics compendium. These are the client’s unique
set of statistics: 20 for the jacket, 7 for the trousers.
From the great and the good of the silver screen, to leading dignitaries, fashion
designers and Royalty have all helped put Anderson and Sheppard well and truly on the world stage. The Duke of
Windsor, Prince Charles, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Calvin Klein and Tom Ford to name but a few. But none is more
synonymous with the tailoring house than American film star Fred Astaire who certainly put the A&S suit through
its paces: the garments he commissioned had to allow for enormous freedom of movement — but they also had to stay in
place, no matter how vigorous Astaire’s dance routines were. When Astaire arrived for fittings, he would don the
suits and think nothing of pirouetting up and down the hallway to ensure everything was just to his liking, using
the three-way mirrors to maximum effect to check there was no movement on the neckline. He was a stickler for fit -
if he felt something wasn’t quite right he would demand the tailor immediately rectify. It’s quite remarkable,
watching his films now: Astaire moves with such ease across the dance floor, you tend to forget he’s wearing a suit
But what does it feel like to actually wear one of these masterpieces? I asked Head
Cutter Danny Hall if he’d allow me to try one on for myself, in the interests of research of course. As he guided my
arms into the sleeves of the jacket and over my shoulders, my immediate reaction was, “Am I really wearing
anything?” The jacket was so light on it could easily have been a layer of air.So comfortable, in fact, it felt as unobtrusive as a jogging suit - you could work out in it, fling your arms
about and damn near flip a somersault and the neck would stay in exactly the same position. It’s easy to see how you
could forget yourself in your newfound comfort zone and team a green tweed suit with petrol blue Vans pumps as
Producer Charles Finch is pictured doing in ‘A Style is Born’ - the bountiful coffee table book charting the rise of
the tailoring house edited by the great Graydon Carter.
So how is this effect achieved? Hall is about to give me a masterclass in the art,
but first of all, draws my attention to a pattern he is in the process of cutting - as if to prove a point, for a
Generation Y customer. A&S has an unerring faith in its tailor’s instinct. That’s why the same cutter
responsible for taking the customer’s measurements will cut patterns immediately afterwards so that any
idiosyncrasies of proportion and posture are front of mind. “Look, here’s how we incorporate the drape.” He points
to the 2 sections closest to the armholes: “We cut a full chest with a touch more material in the front and the back
of the jacket.” Hall tells me the company has been doing this since it was established back in 1906, a trait begun
by Mr. Frederick Scholte who trained A&S co-founder Per Anderson. It was quite revolutionary at the time going
against the trend of more rigid and structured military garments that were being made.
“The drape is for comfort and ease of movement”, continues Hall. “The characteristics
defining the drape are a small, high armhole with additional fullness in the sleeves.” He walks me over to some
rolls of fabric, which he unfurls to reveal the two types of canvas the house uses to line its jackets. “As you can
feel, it’s super lightweight. We cut it on the bias with minimal padding. It’s actually only a foundation and
doesn’t control the fabric in any shape or form.”
“What does the drape actually look like once the jacket has been created?” I ask.
Hall calls upon colleague Max Castano-Blacker and we head off into the changing room for closer inspection. As the
accompanying imagery reveals, the drape in its three-dimensional reality is no more than a crease either side of the
chest, and the same on the back of the jacket. “You will notice the fabric billows outwards slightly across the
chest, there, see?” remarks Hall.
The past decades have seen London’s West End flirt with changing fashions and
menswear focus, and even bore witness to several members of the Savile Row community diversify into ready-to-wear
and made-to-measure clothing - something A&S has not been averse to itself - opening a Haberdashery of its own
on nearby Clifford Street in 2012 selling arguably the finest knitwear and accessories on the planet. But as the
company testifies on its website, when it comes to its bespoke offering: “Anderson & Sheppard has always upheld
its house style, bespoke traditions, and focus on continued craftsmanship—all in support of its unwavering mission
to dress men in comfortable, understated elegance.” Long may that continue.
The testimony continues: “Anderson & Sheppard remains the spiritual home of
theEnglish Drapeto this day,
thanks to three key factors. Firstly, the firm’s steadfast commitment to this as their house style, its unerring
faith in its tailor’s instinct, and lastly the increasingly soft, high-performing fabrics the company sources, the
high-twist yarns of which offer an improved silhouette as well as better comfort, durability and crease resistance.”
Whether it’s a shot of poster boy Astaire during the 1951 filmRoyal
Wedding— the memorable scene where he swaps dance partner Ginger Rogers
for a hat stand — or fronting a glossy magazine in a sharply tailored suit, his finesse will undoubtedly continue to
inspire future generations of rakish gents.