Who would you love to tailor for and why?
Nick Cave. He’s a man who knows his suits and has a very particular style. Esquire magazine described it as ‘high-end tailoring and gutter-level sleaze’! It is fitting that one of his preferred tailors is not in Savile Row but London’s Soho.
Nick Cave’s suits are always fitted, but never tight. He doesn’t follow the current trend for overly small lapels and isn’t afraid of a peak lapel. You know there would be little point in showing him anything other than a bible black cloth. With his high-collar, double-cuff shirts open to the waist, there is a certain wonderful loucheness to his style.
His occasional taste for a bootcut to his high-waist suit trousers (even sometimes venturing into 1970s flares) adds to that. It is a style that shouldn’t work but is profoundly associated with Nick Cave.
But because the style is so iconic there is nowhere to hide for the tailor – especially as the challenge at Edinburgh Tailoring Company is to deliver that suit finished at less than a third of the starting price for Nick Cave’s usual tailor. It would be a scary job, but one worth every worry.
Belt or Braces?
For a suit, always braces. It might seem a little old-fashioned, but they help maintain the line of your trousers without getting in the way. Belts effectively cut you in half. Optically they make you look shorter by putting a black, brown or whatever colour line through the middle of your body.
Braces on the other hand can sit neatly under a waistcoat (although they were originally designed as underwear), maybe flashing a little colour now and again. Whereas belts have a tendency to slip down over the day, braces hold trousers where they are supposed to be.
I always recommend braces to grooms – especially younger gents who are used to wearing their trouser waist on their hip bone. Braces will keep a nice line for your trousers across the seat and avoid that baggy, nappy look that trousers which have crept down from the waist to the hips get across the front.
When you are buying trousers ask for brace buttons to be put on the inside of the waistband and wear button-on braces which are more secure, longer-lasting and less damaging to your trouser cloth than their clip-on cousins.
BTW – never, ever wear BOTH belt and braces. As Henry Fonda said in Once Upon a Time in the West, “How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? The man can’t even trust his own pants.”
If you could describe yourself as a cloth, which would it be and why?
I’d be a Harris Tweed: colourful, deeply textured, coming in a range of weights – maybe a little prickly sometimes – but something that’s going to look after you when the weather gets brutal.
What is your proudest moment in tailoring?
I once made suits for a groom and his two best men. They were huge graphic novel fans, they played computer games together and met up regularly for sessions of Dungeons and Dragons.
They were one of those group bookings that are really enjoyable. They were excited and engaged with the process of choosing cloths, designing their suits, getting imaginative with linings. It was the type of appointment where there’s a little whisky and a lot of laughs to be had.
At the first fitting, one of the groomsmen tried on his suit. It was a bold choice – a bottle-green tweed with a scarlet lining and double-breasted waistcoat. He stood in front of the mirror. The suit fitted wonderfully. But a good fit doesn’t necessarily mean a customer will be happy – especially if they have made bold choices.
The chap stood looking at himself in the mirror. He said nothing. I paused waiting for the worst. He still said nothing. Just stood looking at himself. Up and down. The three of us waited until the groomsman took a deep breath and said, ‘This must be how Iron Man feels when he put on his suit!’. I’ll take that as a compliment I’m proud of!
Fashion can be bought, but one must possess style. What is style to you?
Style is about knowing what to repeat in the way you wear your wardrobe – and knowing when to stop doing that and move to something else. To have style, you need the courage to experiment a little, to try new things, and keep your look fresh. Over time we, the world, and our bodies change. That look that you rocked a decade, even two or more ago will now look dated and tired.
You will become known for a dated style and it becomes a costume. Everyone will spot that you are stuck on repeat. By keeping a fundamental look that incorporates classic elements (whether they be from British tailoring, American military fashion, or Japanese workwear) you will have a confident bedrock to evolve a style that projects you and your personality.
What is your favourite colour combination and why?
Ha ha, I’m so the wrong person to ask about this! Working at a previous Edinburgh menswear company, I was often described as a proponent of the ‘power clash’ – mixing colours and patterns that would have Beau Brummell turning in his grave.
But pulling that off is a tough call. When advising customers, I do tone this down, but a little colour theory can go a long way to understand why a burgundy or gold tie can work so wonderfully with a navy blue suit.
Give us one rule you always swear by when dressing up every morning.
Make sure your shoes are properly polished! Expensive shoes are wonderful, but a pair well-cared for will take you further. Spend £10 on quality polishes and waxes – such as those from Saphir – and learn to make time to properly polish your shoes and moisturise the leather.
What’s the one style tip you offer everyone?
When having a suit made for you and you are asked if you want none, one, or two vents in the back of your jacket the right answer is always two! (evening and morning suits aside).
It is more flattering, your jackets will crease less at the back, and you won’t show your seat if you put your hands in your pockets.
The rise of single vent jackets (especially dominant in the United States) has been more about cutting production costs than producing a well-fitting suit.
Outside Edinburgh, whose tailoring excites you at the moment? Why?
If I could name three, they’d probably be Tom Baker, Gresham Blake and Mark Powell. Each of them is masters at their trade with a passion for fine tailoring and perfecting the fit of a suit for their customers.
While each of them could deliver a fine navy two-piece suit, that’s not where their talents stop. Tom Baker takes the London Cut suit and drenches it in a punk sensibility.
He adds points of interest to his suits such as incongruous pockets, sleeves, or collars and works materials such as leather, leopard print, brocades, and tartan into his tailoring. Mark Powell is like a child of the glam-rock 70s making suits which draw on the style of the 40s and 50s to develops suits which could only have been born in Soho. He was a pioneer of the modern vintage look which has become very fashionable. His suits tailor the spirit of spivs, jazz musicians, and British gangsters.
His spearpoint shirts are often regarded as unsurpassed. Gresham Blake is entirely different again. He was an art graduate and is based in Brighton.
In a world where most men are worried about developing their own tailoring style and most men’s tailors are profoundly conservative, Gresham Blake has a love for riotous colour, big block patterns and a sense or almost child-like fun to tailoring and the joy of dressing up.
You are allowed just one suit for your wardrobe – what do you go for?
A relatively heavy, navy blue three-piece in a wool twist – most likely a Fresco. Single-breasted, two-button, double vent jacket paired with notched-bottomed waistcoat and trousers with a high rise and a single reverse pleat.
Such a suit will work for everything bar the most formal events. The trousers and waistcoat will take a lively tie and statement pocket square for evenings out, can be dressed down for workwear and the three-piece will work for weddings and dinners where a lounge suit is called for.
Fresco is a cloth that has fallen out of fashion as people have moved to lighter and softer fabrics, but it is very breathable, durable, and will withstand being packed in a suitcase as well as the commute to work with an impressive ability to resist creasing. It’s not the cheapest option for a suit but will offer more bang-for-your-buck than super-soft 150s or wool-cashmere mixes.
If you have an idea in mind for a suit, you can contact email@example.com to chat further.
We look forward to seeing more of his bold and colourful suits in the near future (and we’ll keep and eye out for Nick Cave’s upcoming tour dates in Edinburgh! Who knows, he might just need a brand new suit…).