David is an example of a reader that has been into clothes for a long time, and now looks back on it from the perspective of a professional and father, fitting that interest into a life that has changed dramatically.
A resident of south-east London, he’s been a reader for around 10 years, and in that time moved through high-street tailoring and English bespoke, done a Neapolitan pilgrimage, spent time with a few real West End characters, and seen trends come round and round.
But there’s a sense that over that journey he’s gradually settled into what he enjoys, what suits him and what feels like good value.
Outfit 1: Smart
- Suit: Chalkstripe DB with four buttons and patch pockets, Solito
- Shirt: White poplin, Luca Avitabile
- Tie: Knitted brown wool, Budd
- Shoes: Black calf Piccadilly loafer, Edward Green
- Watch: Rolex Air-King
Thanks for taking the time to do this David. Have you always been interested in clothes?
Yes I think so. I have a memory of asking my mother for a red turtleneck sweater and a pair of green Levi’s for Christmas when I was pretty young. In my mind it was a great Christmas outfit, but I think I just looked like an oversized elf!
In my twenties I lived in Shoreditch and shopped vintage around Brick Lane – Rokit and others. Most of them sold clothes they’d adjusted or added details to themselves as well. I wore some very strange jumpers back then, as my friends will attest.
You were already working in finance at that point, correct? So did you enjoy wearing suits during the week?
Yes I liked that side as well. I remember doing work experience with a neighbour when I was 16 who was an insurance broker. He had this colleague who wore striped shirts and braces with skulls-and-crossbones. I loved that.
When I was working myself later I shopped at Lewins (back when it was good), at Thomas Pink, at Ede & Ravenscroft. The latter were probably the best – they had this very enthusiastic, but very polite sales manager, and they sold two pairs of trousers with every suit. I’m not sure if they still do that.
How did the transition to Solito and the rest happen?
Through blogs essentially, yours and later ones like Die Workwear. They were what opened my eyes to craft and the enjoyment of having things made. I also had two suits made with Dougie Hayward on Mount Street, before he died, which are precious.
In recent years though I have to say I’ve bought less at that level. Once you have a wardrobe of say 10 suits for work you really don’t need any, and with casual things that aren’t made for you there’s less point.
I find I’m particular about buying a shetland that’s £150 rather than £250, for example, if they’re both made in the same place and there aren’t any other real differences.
- Jacket: Dark blue and grey check by Solito
- Shirt: Blue poplin from Frank Foster
- Trousers: Grey cashmere/wool Manny from Rubinacci
- Shoes: Brown-suede tasseled loafers, Anglo Italian
How do people dress in your office today? Is it more suits like the first outfit, or jackets and trousers like this one?
It’s primarily suits with no ties, which obviously has its downsides. But it means you focus on other things – shoes and socks, or a striped shirt. I still wear ties but they’re a rarity. Also it’s only four days a week, so that’s one less day in tailoring.
I never knew Frank Foster, what was he like?
Oh he was amazing, it’s such an Aladdin’s Cave down there. You’d spend time looking through his cloth archive while he told stories, always involving one celebrity or another.
He loved to talk about Cary Grant sitting in the studio in his underwear, waiting for them to adjust a pair of trousers. Frank used to say it was women’s underwear too, though I’m not sure that part was true!
I know you said you went to Naples at one point. Would you recommend something like that to readers?
It’s obviously a lovely part of the world, and there are many other things you can do while you’re there. But I think it’s most worth going if you have a fitting you need – some point to the journey. It would be less satisfying if you were just touring around seeing places.
Having said that, the best part of it for me was seeing Talarico’s little shop. It was like, ‘Oh, so it’s just you two – and you’re making them right there. That’s the bench.’ You see these things online or in a book and they become almost mystical. It’s lovely to just see them first hand.
Has your style changed at all since those early days of wearing bespoke?
I certainly wear less English tailoring, but I think it’s mostly a queston of settling into a style, knowing what works for me and appreciating the details – handwork on my Solito coat, the way shoes have aged.
Even on the casual side, I’ve seen trends come around again – there are so many pieces I wished I’d held onto, like Gucci loafers, striped T&A shirts – but I also feel I’ve settled more into what suits me and how I live day to day.
- Jacket: Vintage waxed-cotton Solway, Barbour
- Shirt: Slowear
- Knit: Principe Firenze
- Jeans: Drake’s
- Shoes: LHS loafer, Alden
OK, let’s get to the more casual side. This is fairly typical for what you’d wear at the weekend, in the park or the playground?
Apart from the loafers, yes. I think over the years I’ve come to realise that my look is more Ralph Lauren than that more Italian leisurewear look, more frayed classics.
I like aspects of workwear, like a well-made chore jacket or the kind of jacket alternative you’ve discussed. A chore in particular feels quite timeless – you don’t look at it and think it feels very seventies or nineties.
But I struggle a little with military clothing. It feels like I’ve seen that trend come around a few times.
Do you buy much vintage?
Actually this Barbour was the first time in ages I’d bought vintage. I always find Barbours way too long or, on someone my height, a good two inches too short. I’d learnt that only a Solway would work, but they didn’t sell them.
So I eventually tracked one down in the right size on eBay and spent a feverish hour bidding. The result was great – it goes over a proper-length jacket, wears in nicely, and means I’ve re-used something that was otherwise just sitting in someone’s attic.
It was the thing that made me realise vintage wasn’t that hard and was very rewarding. I’ve bought a few other things since, though I find browsing vintage shops difficult unless there’s one thing you’re after.
When I was younger I owned so many great Ralph clothes that I just threw away, so I’ve been trying to find those again.
It sounds like Ralph Lauren has aged with you, and come in and out of your life, or lifestyle.
Yes I think that’s right, and over time you appreciate the consistency. When I was younger I would save up money from working in a supermarket, and go to Selfridge’s to decide which Ralph Lauren shirt I could buy that quarter. They lasted really well, in terms of quality and style, and I wish I’d kept more.
Even with price inflation in the past few years, you can still get a Polo suit for £500 or £600, and that feels right if you’re a professional and can afford it. It’s a good suit.