Pop Tarts for Ransom, Bespoke Suits

17 Jun

Before arriving in merry old England and, even doing some of my own research on the side on the customs of the country, I did not think American culture would differ very much.

Well, we are not worlds apart. England is one of the few countries of which I figured my culture shock would not be completely overwhelming. This is due to the synch our two cultures have in language, but also in values.

But, there are certainly nuances between the States and here that don’t necessarily “disrupt” my everyday living, but can cause frustration, annoyance, or just intrigue.

I can’t just pop over to the local Wal-Mart and buy a tin of Oreo’s, a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, some John Frieda shampoo and conditioner, and the latest DVD release. There are no “one-stop shops” here. (I did find Oreo’s and my flatmates discovered where they were keeping the Pop Tarts captive — yeah, for a ransom of 10 dollars at Selfridges & Co.!)

Yes, it makes shopping a little more like a treasure hunt, but the stores here have so much more originality and speciality.

In English fashion they still have what they call bespoke tailoring on a famous street for menswear called Savile Row, among other places. “Bespoke” means that the buyer has complete control of the garment being customized for him/her from the fabric selected, to the accessories (down to the very button), and the fit. It’s like going back in time before mass production.

Fred Astaire, 1959, He would even dance around at the tailors to insure a great fit

Fred Astaire was one man who fancied the bespoke suit. As one of my professors pointed out, when Astaire would brandish his arms in his “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” jig, his suit would remain in place due to the small armholes and sloping shoulders of the suit’s cut. Incredible craftsmanship!  You can watch a clip of Astaire in an English Anderson & Sheppard suit here. You’ll notice how snug the suit is round his waist, not seen in suits today which are usually boxy.

Here is a brief, interesting video from the BBC’s British Style Genius. A man by the name of James Sherwood discusses the allure of the English bespoke suit to members of Hollywood’s elite: click here for video

Of course bespoke comes with a handcrafted price tag (Anderson & Sheppard’s two-piece suits start at around £2000, or $3,221), but maybe it is worth it. In these days of fast fashion where the clothing is quickly designed for the masses (with all of our unique body shapes, tastes and personalities), wouldn’t it be nice to have some personhood and individuality back with a one-of-a-kind piece? Bespoke tailoring is designed to fit you versus a shop’s entire demographic. It is a much more humanized way to shop.

Big box stores and chains have not overrun London as they have in many American cities. There are, however, quite a few Starbuck’s Coffees, McDonald’s and Burger King’s creeping up and sinking their teeth in here, but they are U.S. companies, hmm…

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