Dugdale Brothers is a traditional English cloth merchant with a very particular charm to it. It’s an old name (120 years old this year no less), and it’s an attractively unassuming one. Cloth and tailoring connoisseurs reading this will doubtless be au fait with the house, but like The Rake, will most likely associate it primarily with good, honest, hardy Huddersfield worsteds than with all-singing all-dancing Super-200s flannels or bizarre featherweight jelly-coated six-ply mohair tonics. This is far from a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s precisely what makes Dugdale Bros & Co. special.
Unlike the milling and mercantile giants of the industry, with their expansive ranges and at times quizzical collections of fancy fabrics with every weight, weave, colour and handle under the sun, Dugdale Bros has stayed true to its roots, producing a carefully curated range of well-finished and eminently practical cloths, which feel authentic, hardy and which wear effortlessly throughout long periods of use. There are a good few secret recipes that go into the house’s fabrics to achieve this, but what the chaps at Dugdale Towers don’t mind my telling you is that they weave a lot of cloths to very particular specifications with Taylor & Lodge, the last centrally located Huddersfield woollen mill. Likewise, they finish all their cloth with another local firm, W. T. Johnston & Sons - arguably the most advance finishers on the planet. Indeed, some of the processes in the Johnston’s bank of technical wizardry are entirely exclusive to Dugdale’s, lending their worsteds their trademark full-bodied handle.
As the last and longest standing merchant in central Huddersfield (the city that gave the world fine worsted suitings), it seems only fitting that a 120 year milestone should be celebrated in earnest. For one evening only then last week, the cloth warehouse in Dugdale Towers was transformed into an utterly charming dining room, with places laid along two of the firm’s antique thirty foot cutting benches, in which gathered some twenty of Dugdale Brothers’ closest supporters and trading partners. It was a delightfully heartening thing to see, with an air of considered modesty about it – not too showy, not too brash – just a deserved acknowledgement of what Dugdale’s has achieved over the course of its existence thus far. Simon Glendenning, the company’s MD said a few words on the importance of “restoring the pride behind what Dugdale Brothers does,” whilst Rob Charnock, the present owner of the company toasted the firm’s foundation in 1896, the year that gave us the discovery of radio activity, Henry Ford’s Quadricycle and the premiere of Puccini’s La Bohème.
As it happens, the first suit I had made was in good, solid navy serge from the Dugdale Bros English & Town Classics bunch. Alas it doesn’t fit me any more, but it was worn thrice a week for going on four years and it still hangs in my closet today. Moreover, it feels as solid as the day I first wore it out of the tailors. It’s incredibly refreshing cloth and it somehow draws one back to the tailoring of the golden era of formal menswear – it feels authentic and robust, yet eminently wearable. It is thoroughly refreshing then to see that Dugdale’s position in the industry (if this celebratory dinner is anything to go by) is as robust as the cloths the house sells and this is set to continue comfortably, one hopes, for another 120 years yet.