Harvie and Hudson From Suit to Knots

By Film Noir Buff

Well, silk knots anyway.

“I’ve got mad tastes Mr. FNB” said the shop assistant at Harvie and Hudson. This comment worthy of Alice’s hatter was made by someone clever enough and sure enough to place clothes in ensembles which were both traditionally English and possessed shock value. That’s what is so wonderful about Harvie and Hudson, they cater to both the staunch traditionalist and the man who wants traditional tailoring with attitude.

According to the store’s ethos, the trick is to be able to size up what a given customer wants without wasting too much of his time with repetitive questions. If you see someone in a bold shirt you know they’re interested in the more adventuresome, brighter patterns and colors. Usually it’s the more established men, the managers and directors, who buy the wilder items. The guys starting out tend to be more straight laced.

Harvie and Hudson customers favor striped suits; mostly navy and grey. A few select customers will buy a black suit with a white stripe. Even the “solid” or plain suits tend to have a self stripe. True plain grey and navy worsted suits are only popular with the youngest customers. And though just about all of their customers outwardly cloak themselves in navy and grey, they often spring for an ochre yellow or bubblegum pink lining.

In London, coloring follows two trends, British and Italian influences. The two main differences are coloring with the English tending towards blue to the extent that everything either has blue in it or is designed to go with blue of one shade or another. The Italian palette will be much more brown/tan/black /grey/burgundy. The actual shape and size of the collar is key too. The English shirt collar will be both larger and stiffer while the Italian one will be both smaller and softer.

Compared to the English, Italian business shirts are very conservative, one might say plus-Anglais-que-les-Anglais. The English will wear butcher stripes and gingham checks with chalk striped suits but the Italians are much more understated and spend more attention on color matching. Italian fondness for matching will extend to printed tie and handkerchief sets. Contrast this with the English attitude. They will often buy new ties that go beautifully with their new shirts but the next morning their favorite old tie gets plopped on the new shirt irrespective of whether it matches or not.

Very English but a bit old fashioned is to throw a pocket square into the pocket that has no relationship to the shirt or tie. Nowadays the younger English are picking up a secondary color in their shirt or tie.

At the moment English pocket squares are often in solid colors and will pick out a color in the tie. A solid scarlet, navy blue, pink and a wine color are the most popular plain colors for silk pocket squares. Also quite popular, Harvie and Hudson carry a range of silk handkerchiefs quartered in four shades of the same color.

Necktie patterns need to be interesting but not so interesting that they clash with the shirt. Tie colors need to be in the ranges that compliment the shirts they offer. The ties offered are designed to compliment their best selling shirts. And ties can be tricky because if you get the wrong shade, you get stuck with the ties. With yellow if it is too creamy or too acidic in color it’ll be a failure, it has to be just the right shade of lemon to pick up the shade of yellow the English like in shirts.

Most popular sock colors after black and navy are scarlet and lemon yellow followed by pink, lilac, purple and a bright blue. Usually, men buy a dozen of the black and navy and a half dozen of the bright colors, mostly the scarlet.

Although Harvie and Hudson carry a good number of ready to wear suits and fabrics for their made to order program, if they had to stock five suits to appeal to their customers and specifically their English ones, they would include: A plain, dark grey flannel in a light-ish weight because no one wears thick, heavy suits anymore. A plain charcoal worsted twill, A strong-ish chalk stripe both in a charcoal ( with the charcoal shade on the darker side of medium grey) and a navy blue, a very dark grey Prince of Wales (PoW)- sometimes with a colored over check in a medium to dark blue- and a plain dark navy in either a muted herringbone or a twill.

The trend is currently shifting away from solids towards striped suits again but solid suits will remain popular. The English shy away from actual black suits and although they like very dark charcoal solid suits, recently, for striped suits, they chose more medium toned greys; mainly because they go with a larger variety of patterns and colors. The English old money look of the black suit with the white rope stripe is dying out except for an occasional taker who wants to stand out. Ironically, medium grey also hides a lot of marks and stains while black shows any hint of dirt.

English shirt basics include: plain white, blue herringbone, a blue, large gingham check, a Mediterranean blue (often with a white collar), a plain pink and blue end-on-end. Most men get three or four of these basics then select the same number of bolder shirts from the thousands Of Swatches Harvie and Hudson can tantalize their shoppers with. The basics are a wardrobe anchor while the bolder shirts act as the wearer’s personal semaphore.

The English love large gingham checks which are always popular in this order: light blue, pink, medium blue, red, navy, purple. Also popular but a bit more fashionable are three colored ginghams (always on a white background). For example two shades of blue on white or blue and yellow on white. Gingham shirts are also worn casually and the English wear them this way even with French cuffs. Silk knots are common with gingham shirts because they are both lighter than metal cufflinks and look less odd without a jacket.

Once you get the color palette right and as long as there is some variation in scale you can place any tie on any shirt you like and wear it with just about any suit you like. Even gingham shirts, as long as you don’t wear a tie with squares on it or a pattern that’s much larger than the check, can be worn with just about anything.

For casual, the brushed cotton shirts in tattersall patterns are popular. Also sought after are floral print shirts which are worn during the spring and summer.

For suit linings they have a their own Harvie and Hudson logo and other, plainer linings in pink, gold, royal blue, wine, scarlet, purple, turquoise, peppermint or aqua.

Few double breasted suits are sold these days. Customers ask Most for single breasted, two button, double vent, and single pleat trouser with no turn ups. Belt loops are standard but they will put side adjusters. Plain black or brown belts with simple, plain sterling buckle. A double breasted has to be more precisely fitted and it has to be buttoned most of the time which makes it less popular as a suit choice. Three piece suits are decidedly out of style.

Neat check suit designs exploded back in the dotcom era when casual Fridays hit both London and New York City in Dark blue and grey with a blue over check. They were thought to be casual but still a suit.

Lighter PoW checks in the standard black and white mix making an overall light grey look are only worn by estate agents or used car dealers. They might be used as a weekend or country suit but not for work; they are gone from the wardrobe. Part of this suit’s demise is tied to the ascent of more boldly patterned shirts; you can really only wear blue or white solids with it. By comparison, with the dark PoW’s checks you can wear just about any type of shirt. One note for the lighter PoW suit is that sometimes someone who has a lot of suits might get one for special occasions.

Evening dress suits are typically black single breasted peak lapel with silk facings and dark red linings.

Purple and pink stripes on a dark background are acceptable for suits but not that much in demand. However, blue stripes on blue or grey backgrounds are popular.

English, Europeans and Americans all buy a great deal of blazers. They usually come with metal buttons but you get the occasional nautical type who likes the black or navy blue button with the anchor design on them similar to the ones found on traditional pea coats. These double breasted blazers are usually a very hard finish twill fabric in 11-12 oz; the single breasted version is a bit lighter in weight.

Now that the economy is somewhat gloomy the colors will get less bold and the patterns, smaller and neater. Choices in clothes for men have to do a lot with making a good first impression for business purposes. The exceptions will be lawyers (and Doctors!) who do well in slow economies and will continue to buy and wear the brighter, bolder clothing items.

Irrespective of the economy, Harvie and Hudson will continue to offer quality traditional clothing infused with occasional flurries of color and for those willing to join the perpetual March tea party hosted by their resident “hatter”, there will be mad tastes enough for all.

Harvie and Hudson online shop: www.harvieandhudson.com

  1. — Bishtok    Mar 5, 14:36    #

    What a useless article that gives not an iota of real information. Do you write H&Hs ad copy?

  2. — FNB    Mar 9, 18:47    #

    It’s always nice to hear from a man with a closet full of PoW pattern suits.

  3. — Cormac    May 20, 13:15    #

    Actually, I learned a couple of very useful bits from this. Thank you!

  4. — SJK    Jun 15, 01:38    #

    I would respectfully disagree with Bishtok. The article gave a good overview of the H&H aesthetic and which colours/ patterns generate their sales. In learning even more,I would interested to know which style of collar is the most popular -they have a very nice deep spread collar option available. Would also be interested in FNB’s views on the various spread collars on Jermyn Street-with the most ‘extreme’ being the N&L collar that is sold with the turnback cuff option.

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