Eton: Where tailoring inspires
PUBLISHED: 11:00 26 April 2016 | UPDATED: 11:00 26 April 2016
All those colours, caps and blazers - but it's not just the college boys who make the most of some Best of British skills, Jan Raycroft finds
Even if you turned back before reaching the college doors during a stroll down Eton High Street from the Windsor Bridge, certain shops would make it quite clear that this is a unique little town. It’s the four expert tailors, with more than 500 years of serving the boys, masters and other staff at the college.
If you are not connected to Eton College, it’s an easy mistake to glance at the fascinating window displays in historic buildings and then head on to other lures of the town, including some fine eateries and little independent stores. But they all have stories to tell and behind their doors are some fascinating finds.
There’s Tom Brown at No 1 High Street, established back in 1784 when the first of five successive Tom Browns took over the premses after the previous tenant found himself in the debtors’ jail at Aylesbury. At the other end of the street, Billing & Edmonds began in London in the late 19th century and is now an official outfitter to some 40 schools. And back close to the college, Welsh & Jefferies were established in 1865.
The fourth shop is New & Lingwood and it is here we will focus today because the store is celebrating 150 years since Miss Elisabeth New and Mr Samuel Lingwood founded the business which still bears their names. By the 1920s they’d also opened a London store in Jermyn Street. It was bombed during the Second World War Blitz and re-opened on the corner of Piccadilly Arcade. Over the years New & Lingwood have tailored suits for some of the world’s best-known and influential gentleman from royalty, film and politics.
But back to Eton, where the 150th anniversary was marked with a refit of the store. Of course the new look has retained all the history, but the vibrant collection of school colours and caps somehow brings a modern edge, and displayed garments seem to have a ‘come and touch me’ lure.
At the rear there’s now a club room, decorated with old photos and memorabilia where pupils and gentleman can be fitted and receive personal tailoring. Not surprisingly, store manager Jack Muggeridge is bursting to show us all this. Jack is a ‘Berkshire boy’ through and through, having attended school in Reading before heading to Pangbourne College. “It’s a dream come true to be working here,” he says. “The lure of London is there for some, but I’ve always wanted to work in Eton.”
What you quickly learn from him – and from the range of customers entering the premises while we visit – is that the clientele served by Eton’s tailors is not just comprised of the college boys.
The lure of first class, bespoke tailoring attracts many chaps. Personal tailoring remains an area of expertise and a service in which the brand prides itself. As product & marketing director Simon Maloney says: “One of life’s genuine privileges and pleasures is having a suit tailor-made to one’s own specifications.”
Other customers include the ‘town and country set’ who call in to choose perhaps the softest corduroy trousers in a huge colour range. While some head to country homes for the weekend, the truth is that others just like the ‘rural gentrified’ look. Think how we often see Prince William in photographs… it’s very much his style.
Then there are those who treat themselves to one of the ‘Classic Poplin’ shirts, priced at £95, or a pair of incredibly comfortable, gleaming shoes, or head for the tuxedo range for a special occasion.
Even some tourists add the Eton tailors to their ‘trail’, often taking back a tie or similar to show at home as an unusual souvenir. But perhaps the most unexpected regulars are ladies. Yes, we know many are simply shopping to keep their partners ‘in shape’ but here’s a find – quite a few are arriving to buy items such as superb cashmere sweaters or beautifully-made dressing gowns for themselves.
And another surprise, you will actually find ‘affordable’ items in New & Lingwood – it’s well worth looking out for special offers and sale times. These are items carefully crafted and made to last, so there’s actually great value in a purchase. We spotted a splendid blazer down from £595 to £395.
New & Lingwood styling tips for the season
1. Pressed for time - Set aside enough time to make sure your clothes are pressed to perfection. Be smooth in every sense this season.
2. Preperation is key - It’s important to be prepared. Plan your outfit the evening before to avoid making fatal outfit errors. Make sure your look is on point for each show.
3. Fit for purpose - Whether you’re looking to adopt a casual or more formal style, it’s imperative that your suit and jackets fit for a sharp and well-tailored look. Neat shoulders that don’t make you look like an American football player and sleeves short enough to show at least an inch of cuff.
4. It’s in the details - Add personality to your look by adding a pocket square or contrasting tie to compliment the outfit without distracting from the tailoring.
5. Be polished - A true gentleman’s shoes should be polished to the highest standard. Good English bench grade shoes are an investment. Secondly, make sure your trouser hems are at the correct length, not too much of a break!
6. Sock it to them - Overlooked in the past as an outfit basic, the sock is now an essential item to perk up a look. Go for a bold design in high quality cotton or merino wool and don’t be afraid to show some personality.
New & Lingwood is at 118 High Street, Eton, and opens Tues to Sat, 10am – 5.30pm. See www.newandlingwood.com.
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