The Order of Things: Bespoke or Bespoken

I am hopeless at arranging holidays. But while I may procrastinate about where and when, I absolutely love being poolside with friends and family. This past year, however, I have taken advice and proactively marked in one’s calendar when I have felt that I really needed to take a break and escape the sartorial dungeon – as one of our patrons refers to Brown in Town’s subterranean studio affectionately!  

With Inbox emptied and having conducted at least the first and in some instances final (there is nothing quite like a hole-in-one; a suit that fits first time) fitting of all the wedding suits whose maiden voyage will take place during our sojourn, I can start to think about our holiday. And once I’m at the airport, I can relax; well, as much as one is able when travelling with two clattering saucepan lids and an excitable Saffron Darby, who has held the fought whilst yours truly has worked possibly too many 12 hours days in the run up to this most ill-timed of vacations; August would be our busiest time of year, being, as it is, wedding high season.. you get the picture.

Now, this may sound like a bit of a busman’s holiday, but one of the pleasures which I glean from a vacation comes from putting together a capsule wardrobe which I can put through it’s paces during the trip. More than ever, the capsule must meet an increasingly stringent set of criteria to ensure it is functional as well fashionable. For starters, it must be compact enough to fit into the solitary piece of cabin luggage we are permitted to carry on today’s flights. This means that each piece shortlisted must, above all things, be functional and versatile enough to work well with at least two of the other pieces.

The maiden voyage of any ensemble, whether it be a wedding suit, a DJ or even new business duds, is, in my book, an immeasurable luxury and pleasure. Given that many of the pieces in this holiday’s capsule are Brown in Town pieces, time must be allowed for the creation and making of those pieces. While this satisfies one’s perversion for delayed gratification, in order to have all the items of one’s wardrobe ready I must start planning well in advance given the 8 weeks it can take to make a jacket or coat (in this particular instance a blue and white seersucker from Holland & Sherry, unlined to keep it lightweight and cool and with patch pockets to make it functional), not to mention the blue poplin and white oxford shirts to accompany it.

And it is with the time taken to create a tailored garment in mind, I thought it may be a good opportunity to continue our conversation about what is entailed in the making of one of our garments, whether suits, separates, shirts or overcoats etc. further to our previous article: “The Order of Things”.

Once a customer has decided upon a cloth and suit design, we arrange an appointment with them to be measured. This appointment can take up to an hour and it is while we are recording somebody’s measurements that we are able to identify which type of tailoring process is required.

Of course, a customer can choose how their suit is made, whether fully bespoke, whereby a suit is made in stages and adjustments made throughout the process in order to refine the fit, or a garment which is made-to-measure, where the suit is made in it’s entirety using the measurements taken from the wearer and inclusive of any applicable figurations, then adjusted retrospectively.

Some body shapes, for example those with scoliosis, where the spine has a twist in it and the buttons on the coat do not align with the buttons on the fly of one’s trousers, require a garment to be made and adjusted at various stages to ensure a good fit, while other body shapes do not.

Now, made-to-measure – that is to say a suit which is made-to-measure – has acquired something of a bad reputation over the years and I believe this is as a result of the tourist tailoring trade in Southeast Asia, whose silver tongued salesmen offer to turn a suit around within 24 – 48 hours, or at the very least during the course of your stay.

As with all things, however, you get what you pay for and if you pay a tailor to make you – and quite possibly many others – an entire suit in such a short space of time there is only so much which can be achieved and often the suit is made using off-the-peg methods i.e. if you have a 40″ chest, it would be presumed that your trousers waist would be 34″ – But we all know that the majority of us are no more able to fit perfectly into an off the peg suit than a tailor is able to make a fully tailored suit to perfection in 24 hours; these things take time.

What Brown in Town offer is a tailoring service based on the expectations or requirements of the individual. That is to say, if, having taken their measurements, we believe we are able to make their suit in one hit, or rather using the made-to-measure process, with possibly one or two rudimentary alterations following the first fitting, then we will do so providing the customer is happy for us to.

However, if it is plain that perhaps more than one adjustment will be required to perfect the fit, we recommend a mid-stage fitting which utilises a coat or jacket incorporating the customers measurements and figurations, made in a cotton toile. This affords us the opportunity to asses the fit before their jacket is made in the chosen cloth.

But if the customer’s shape, or indeed chosen design, will require several fittings with minor adjustments made to the balance, measurements and fit of the garment, then we will suggest that a fully bespoke service is undertaken in order that we can refine the fit at each stage of the make. This method takes longer than a suit which is made-to-measure or made utilising a mid-stage fitting with a toile, up to 16 weeks or thereabouts.

Obviously, if there is a time constraint, for example a wedding, this must be taken into consideration when deciding which type of tailoring service to opt for. In addition, so must one’s budget as there is naturally a cost implication for the various types of tailoring process also; made-to-measure being the least expensive, fully bespoke being the most.

It is the latter service which also affords the customer the option to choose the finer details of their suit design, for example, if you hanker after an exceptionally wide and flouncy lapel a la David Bowie by Tommy Nutter on your double breasted jacket, then sharpen your pencil as this is where you can try your hand at playing couturier.

This is not to say that one cannot experiment with the width of one’s lapel, or the length of one’s coat or the number and material of buttons on one’s jacket if your suit is not made utilising a fully bespoke service, as all of these details and more can be incorporated into any of the aforementioned tailoring processes, but the degree of variation from your chosen tailoring houses block, will vary and may not be as comprehensive.

Once we have your measurements and all of the details pertaining to the design of your suit, shirt, trousers, slacks, jacket, blazer or overcoat, we can then get your order onto the cutting table. And, depending upon which tailoring service you have opted for, you can expect to wait anything from 6 – 8wks for your first fitting and 2 – 4 weeks for the second – and possibly final, if the suit was made-to-measure – or another 4 wks if fully bespoke.

Albeit the phrase bespoke is derived from the olde English word bespoken i.e. to inform your tailor of the cloth which you desire in order that he can order a cut length from the applicable mill or merchant in preparation for making your suit with it, ‘bespoke’ does rather paint a picture of the traditional method of making a suit, does it not.

The next stage of the tailoring process, being one’s first fitting, I think we will leave until another day, as the swimming pool beckons and our children are becoming fractious.
Until then, “buenas tardes” one and all..

The Order Of Things

From time to time, I am asked what is the process involved when having a suit made at Brown in Town. So I thought it might be useful to share exactly how it is we do what we do, beginning with the appointment process and gradually paint a picture of what is entailed when having a suit made – the order of things, if you will.

More often than not, we receive enquiries from those that have been referred by one of our patrons. This is always greatly appreciated because not only does it mean that we have come highly recommended by someone who knows the customer better than we do but, moreover, that one of our patrons has seen fit to recommend our services – way back when, this was the only way that you met your tailor – by being introduced. These days, there is the internet, social media and printed media, of which I am still a huge fan.

We also receive enquiries from people that have been referred to us by those we have never met, for example those who may have seen me about Bangshanky, the salon on Colston St. in Bristol under which my studio is located. This is, of course, incredibly flattering. I am of course aware that a reputation can precede you, but I still find it a little disconcerting.

Invariably, those that have chanced upon us and have not used our services before are either inspired by our house-style i.e. the cut of our jib, or the designs of our suits which they have seen, or, by the ethos of Brown in Town itself – which may or may not be the same thing.

So, how do we go about making someone a suit. Well, depending on any ‘time constraints’, we invite our customers to come and discuss their sartorial requirements with us in the first instance, in order that we can paint a picture of what it is that is required, or desired. Then, and only then, can we make suggestions with regard cut, design, cloth and construction – the four key elements required to make a suit, or any other garment for that matter, be it an overcoat, separates i.e. jackets and slacks, or a shirt.

During the initial consultation, it is likely that we will ascertain what is the preferred cut of one’s jib i.e. the fit of one’s suit, the cloth; it’s colour, it’s pattern, it’s weight, it’s finish and it’s handle, also the suit’s design i.e. two pieces or three pieces, double breasted or single breasted, straight or angled pockets, type of buttons etc. The method of making the suit that is required i.e. whether it will be made-to-measure, semi-bespoke or fully bespoke and also whether the customer wants their coat, or indeed their waistcoat, to be fully canvassed or half canvassed.

Once we are abreast of this information, we are able to provide the customer with a detailed breakdown of costs. Some of our customers will decide on the spot if they would like to go ahead and will commission us then and there. Others, particularly grooms, who might like to seek the counsel of their betrothed, may prefer to discuss the details provided in the comfort of their own home and then let us know in due course if we are to press ahead. At this time, we will make a further appointment to take their measurements.

Of course, if time is of the essence, then we are more than happy to wax sartorial, agree the design, the cloth and the construction and then take measurements during the same appointment. This can take several hours or be all said and done within an hour, if the customer knows exactly what they want, or, they are happy to be guided. They must also be able to stand rooted to the spot whilst I whirr-around them with a tape measure!

So, broadly, that is the appointment process in a nutshell. Book your appointment with us at a time that is mutually convenient – including evenings. Bring your ideas, wants and desires to the table and feel free to spend as long as you’d like discussing your sartorial requirements – this can take place over more than one appointment.

Once a decision has been reached with regards all details pertaining to the making of a suit, we will then arrange a mutually convenient time to take measurements. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Once we have taken measurements, we request a deposit of 50% of the total cost in order to commence works. This enables us to place an order for the chosen cloth and materials with the mill or cloth merchant.

In fact the term bespoke comes from the word bespoken, which is the process of asking your tailor to earmark the cloth of your choice for use in making your suit and is the beginning of the tailoring process: The Order of Things.

If you’d like to make an enquiry, please find our contact details here.

With thanks,


Time: The Greatest Luxury Of All

To say that we have been a little busy of late at Brown in Town, would be a gross understatement – Saffron Darby may require a housekeeper if we spend any more time in the studio and not at No. 73, ahem.

And there is one reason and one reason alone that our books are so full; grooms. It is wedding high season and it is most certainly in full swing. But whereas in previous years our grooms were a well organised bunch who picked up the phone as soon as their brides went to look at the first (of many) wedding dress shops, this year, we seem to have regressed. And more’s the pity.

If there is one luxury a groom is afforded on his wedding day, then surely it is the opportunity to have his wedding suit tailored and to perfection. But these things are not to be rushed, nor the undertaking to be taken lightly.

For example, there is the task of finding a tailor. Whilst we may be enjoying a sartorial renaissance, those that are worth their salt do not grow on trees. Moreover, it must be a tailor with whom you have a good rapport – this is incredibly important, as you want to feel at ease explaining to them what you like and what you do not, or, perhaps more importantly, if you have no idea and need their assistance in matters of the cloth.

Once we are in the company of a tailor that we trust enough to discuss which cloths and, moreover, which cloth colour will be most appropriate – by which I mean flattering, not traditional i.e. grey. There are literally 1000’s of cloths to choose from, made by 100’s of mills, all of whom have their own finishing techniques, colourways, patterns etc. Take your time, there are no right or wrong answers. But I’d suggest the best cloth is the one that is flattering of the wearer i.e. it compliments your own complexion in terms of skin-tone, hair-colour, eye-colour and, more commonly these days, beard colour.

Then, you must decide whether your suit will be made up of two or three pieces i.e. jacket, trousers and if you so desire, a waistcoat (or vest as it is known on the Row). The three piece wins almost hands down these days as it is generally understood that a three piece suit will distinguish the groom from the congregation (when the suit is worn without the jacket) and in terms of a three piece suits elegance, there will be no mistaking who the groom is.

Once we’ve decided upon the number of pieces we’d like to be clad in, you will want to consider which lapels; notched or peaked and pockets; slanted or straight and vent; single or double. Not forgetting how many buttons you may want on your sleeve cuff, of course (the answer to which is four: if it’s good enough for the Row, it’s good enough for you).

Once these decisions have been reached, then, and only then, will your tailor take your measurements, which will take around 30 minutes depending on whether you trust your tailor to dress you to perfection or whether you want to dictate every last detail based on the fit of your favourite skinny-fit chinos! Feeling exhausted already?

This is why Brown in Town prefer our grooms, or any of our patrons for that matter, to afford themselves a little time. Because we prefer to conduct an initial consultation in a relaxed fashion over a coffee or even a gin and tonic of an evening – cigar optional. This gives both parties an opportunity to ascertain whether or not there is a good working relationship and whether or not we are right for the job i.e. we can provide the service which the groom, or customer in question is looking for.

At the end of this initial meeting, we would hope to furnish you with enough information to be able to make an informed decision, or, at the very least, something to show the memsahib so that she can make an informed decision with/for you. This would include costings, design details and perhaps one or two options of cloth and if a cloth has been selected, also linings for coats (jackets) and waistcoats.

Once a decision has been reached and, we would hope, reached at one’s leisure, will we then make another appointment to measure our subject and take down the details of the chosen design together with a 50% deposit in order to commence works. Presently, this second appointment can take up to 3 weeks to get booked-in, owing to demand.

It is from this point in the process that we quote 8 weeks to make a suit, at the end of which the customer is invited for their first fitting. Now, if the customer’s suit was made in it’s entirety, that is to say if there were no reason to warrant making it piecemeal, and there are no adjustments to be carried out to the suit, then the customer is in the very fortunate position of being able to take the suit home with them then and there – a hole-in-one, as we call it.

However, If the suit requires adjustment, then another two weeks are required. And if the suit has been made piecemeal i.e whereby several fittings of the basic garment are required in order to adjust the balance and fit before the coat is made in all of it’s glory, then factor in an additional 8 – 12 wks. Getting nervous.

So, whether groom, businessman or layman, when it comes commissioning a tailored suit, afford yourself and your tailor the greatest luxury of all: time. And enjoy the process having something made just for you.

Style, after all, is a journey, not a destination.

Once Bitten, Forever Smitten

Last week I had the unfortunate duty of laying an old friend (too young to die) to rest. Not only was Simon an incredible athlete and skateboarder, he brought a smile to many faces over the years, not least his wonderful family who now have a huge void where Simon’s beaming face once was. May you rest in peace old boy..

Like so many friends that we grow up with, we lose touch over the years as our lives take us down different paths, but it was nice to see some familiar faces and reminisce about the good ol’ days when we were footloose and fancy free.

Our reunion, as it was, also afforded me an opportunity to wax sartorial with one of my fellow skateboarders about his own sartorial journey which I’ve watched unfold with great pleasure on Facebook. Steve was also an exceptional skateboarder, with a fun sense of style who I’ve wanted to quiz for some time about his recent induction into the world of bespoke tailoring and how he had come to embark upon the journey.

It transpires that, in the old fashioned way, Steve was introduced to his tailor by his sister who used to work alongside the in-house tailor of John Lewis in London. Upon leaving John Lewis, he set-up shop in Reading where Steve makes the pilgrimage whenever he wants something made – I should point out that Steve lives in south London so Reading is quite some distance, but when you have found your man, it is worthwhile and you are unlikely ever to take your customer elsewhere.

So confident is this chap that once a customer has tried his services they will never stray from his path, he purports to make them their first suit at a loss, safe in the knowledge he’ll have a customer for life. Savvy.

While Brown in Town may not offer the first garment we make for our customers at a loss, I have always been of the volition that if you take care of your customers and their needs before your own, they will be with you for life – looking out for tomorrow, if you will.

However, I am oft’ surprised by the limited view that people have of a traditional tailor in terms of what it is that he makes i.e. that a tailor makes suits only and not much else. Given that suits would be the reason that 80% of our customers knock on our door, I suppose this is, perhaps, fair enough. But did you know, for example, that Brown in Town makes more shirts than it does trousers?

Given that Brown in Town have been dressing many of our patrons for many years, I often take for granted that it is understood just how much of a man’s wardrobe we can make – but this would be a folly.

Tailors will make for you pretty much anything that requires a needle and thread, for example, overcoats of varying styles and lengths i.e. a single breasted Crombie style, or double breasted reefer. Suits of two or three pieces (the third piece being a waistcoat or vest, not an extra pair of trousers). Single breasted jackets or double breasted jackets. Trousers or slacks (albeit an Americanism I often use the term slacks to define casual trousers like chinos or traditional style trousers worn as separates as with a jacket of a different colour and/or cloth). Shorts to smarten-up an otherwise casual ensemble, giving the wearer the opportunity to choose a colour which is flattering of their skin tone – not necessarily a consideration for trousers, but above all to ensure a comfortable-jib with a flattering silhouette – I have historically favoured a double continental-pleat (facing outwards as opposed the English pleat which faces inwards which I prefer in trousers) and a turn-up. Shirts for both work and play – often it is the cuff that defines one style from t’other i.e. double-cuffs are more often worn for work and single-cuffs on casual shirts. Also, casual shirts are often worn without a tie and, ergo, have a collar which reflects this, for example the Kent collar which has wingtips closer together and which do not disappear beneath one’s jacket lapels when worn unfastened – as a cutaway shirt collar would.

We also make tailored shorts for the summer months as well as overcoats for the winter ones. It is perhaps little known, but it makes sense does it not. Broadly, any garment made using a pattern, where the various pieces are stitched together with a seam and an inlay that can be both taken-in, or let out, is an item of clothing which can be tailor made.

And just as our own personal style is refined over the years, so can your tailor made garment’s if you afford your tailor the opportunity to make more than just your business duds, or your wedding suit.

For those who appreciate the luxury of having something made and made to their own specifications, using their own measurements, once is never enough – and why should it be – and why should you stop at having just your suits made..

So, before you have need of a new linen or seersucker jacket for summer, or short sleeve shirts for your hols, or even a pair of chinos that won’t cut you in half, look to your clothier of choice and enquire if they can’t rustle you up something unique, made just for you, and in the comfort of their studio and their good company.

With thanks,


“You Have To Make Them Feel Good, Before You Can Make Them Look Good..”

It has come to something when the photographer asks you if he is dressed appropriately for the shoot which he is about to conduct: I have always been of the volition it is one’s responsibility to provide sartorial inspiration and solace, not strike fear at the heart of one’s cohorts!

Lee ‘Magpie’ Smith had been commissioned to take some candid photographs of me – I’m no fan of having my picture taken, as official Brown in Town photographer Remco Merbis will attest; that is to say, I do not like seeing myself in pictures. However, I realise that it is a necessary evil and so prefer candid photography over the staged sort.

So, what better opportunity to catch me off-guard, as it were, than to observe me in one of my natural habitats, enjoying a lunch at  The Ethicurean restaurant.

And, given that we were at The Ethicurean for the inaugural Diners Club luncheon, this not only afforded our lens the opportunity to capture me off guard, but also to capture this wonderful event where like-minded souls met to break bread over a glass or two of wine in Wrington’s most picturesque Barley Wood Walled Garden.

The best of Bristol, not to mention Wales, were represented; from restaurateurs, vintners, distillers, mixologists, photographers – in fact both of the lenses who are responsible for making me look good were in attendance – Google gurus, DJ’s and even the prolific blogger and omnipresent social media commentator who is Bookends and Bin Ends.

To my chagrin, it soon became apparent that our photographer was not alone in his quandary about what to wear to this wonderful occasion, as many of the table made apologies for their appearance. But if ever there were a perfect opportunity to wax sartorial, then doing so over a couple bottles of wine and a good meal would certainly be it! In the words Mount St.’s most famous tailor, Douglas Hayward “You have to make them feel good, before you can make them look good..”.

What did impress me was that some of the chaps in attendance had made use of various items which they’d had tailored by Brown in Town and were mixing and matching, as opposed wearing the entire suit, which I’ve often found is a wonderful way in which to discover new ensembles e.g. tailored chino jackets with contrasting untailored chinos or tailored suit trousers with Smedley style knitted polo shirts for a Jazz or Mod appeal. The key is both how you wear it and how you complete the look. The same rules which should be adopted regardless whether for casual or formal attire.

Most importantly, one should feel completely at ease in what one is wearing; whether it be a kaftan, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt or a three piece suit; you should look as comfortable as you feel, or not, as the case may be. Some men have this laissez-faire style and have it in spades. They will most likely never have use for a tailor as they can throw anything on and look effortlessly cool – our photographer would certainly fall into this category. 

However, for the rest of us, following a few simple guidelines will ensure that we do not look like a dog’s dinner;

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere
Most of us have what colourists refer to as base colours. These are more often than not muted tones which form the backdrop for the rest of our ensemble and it is important to ensure that this colour, whichever colour that may be, is flattering against one’s skin tone, or hair colour or even eye colour. More recently an additional consideration or reference has been the colour of a man’s beard, which abound in Bristol and also Shoreditch – this has no bearing on the reasons why Brown in Town choose to conduct their business in these hirsute places, but certainly in my experience, the bearded fellow is invariably a discerning fellow.

Keep it Simple
Use no more than two colours for the main garment; obviously a suit should have the same colour trousers and jacket but if wearing separates the jacket and trousers should be colours which work well together, for example a blue blazer with khaki coloured chinos or grey coloured flannels or worsted trousers. This will give an overall consistency to the ensemble which is easy on the eye and, above all, flattering of the wearer.

A Little Colour
Try not to introduce more than one additional accent colour to the outfit, whether that be a pair of brightly coloured socks or a tie, a belt – hence your shoes and belt ought to be the same colour if not shade, so as not to add an additional colour to one’s ensemble and thus detract from the overall effect. 

Shoes should be of a colour which either match, or offer a complimentary contrasting colour to, the trousers i.e. dark brown or tan shoes with navy blue trousers or khaki chinos, or black shoes with navy blue or black or grey trousers. There are of course exceptions to the rule i.e. brown brogue shoes with grey trousers can look good together but ensure there is an element of black in the broguing, for example, that is cohesive and ties the two colours together. Tan shoes and grey trousers is a contrast too far..  Continue reading