So here’s what I saw in the first five minutes…
Dave, one of Harvie and Hudson’s salesman, assisting a young man who wanted some shirts. It was clearly a new experience for the young man, who had clearly reached a point where he wanted to trade up to better quality shirts. It became a cross between a dance and a magic act, as Dave pulled shirt after beautiful shirt from the shelves, subtly and unobtrusively filling in the gaps in the younger man’s knowledge, helping him understand what he wanted.
Richard Harvie, serving an old and valued customer, a man in his seventies, spry, with a sparky good-humour. Watching them shake hands with mutual respect, before going onto the important business of buying pyjamas.
A very handsome Chinese man, barely out of his teens (a tourist?) trying on one of Harvie and Hudson’s shirts. His English was limited, but the fit of a good shirt crosses the boundaries of language.
And then, like another magic trick, the sort of customer that I had expected in Harvie and Hudson, appeared. A tall Englishman, wearing a beautiful black Homburg, a French Navy classic topcoat (think Crombie), so dark as to be almost black, a luxurious navy silk scarf with white polka-dots over a brilliant white shirt and classic navy and red tie. Carrying bags from Taylors of Old Bond Street (in Jermyn Street, as you will know from my earlier articles) and Hilditch and Key. Whoever this man was, he had subtle English style and distinction down to a T.
Wait. I know. What Makes a Man articles do not start like this. I have just tipped you straight into the magic of English classical style. Let me back up one step.
Here at What Makes a Man we get asked about two things above all else. English shirts and English shoes. And our commenters have frequently asked for an article on the classic English shirtmaker Harvie and Hudson. So we set out to honour that request.
Harvie and Hudson
With the assistance of the Jermyn Street Association (here), I arranged to meet with Richard Harvie, the third generation of Harvie(s) to uphold their classic tailoring tradition. Richard kindly offered to give me some of his time and talk with me about Harvie and Hudson’s tailoring history.
So I went along to Harvie and Hudson’s store at 77 Jermyn Street, last week, to talk shirts, tweed, style and trunk shows.
A short history
Regular readers will know that Harvie and Hudson are one of the classic Jermyn Street stores, known world-wide for their beautifully tailored shirts. In fact Harvie and Hudson are the only store in Jermyn Street still owned by the original family firm, except for Floris, the perfumier.
The original Harvie and Hudson were Thomas Harvie and George Hudson, who were manager and cutter respectively. Their first attempts to form an illustrious partnership were foiled by the Great Depression, then by World War 2. However after the war, the first Harvie and Hudson store opened in Duke Street. Over time it moved to a unit in what was going to become part of the Cavendish Hotel.
In 1962, Harvie and Hudson opened their now-famous shop at 77 Jermyn Street. Since then they have opened several other stores (see our link to their website at the end of this article), have an Internet sales service and regularly hold Trunk shows in the US (again, website for details).
Richard Harvie is the third generation of Harvie to direct this illustrious family firm. Here is a picture of him. In person, he is quick, friendly and very observant, with a dry sense of humour. He does of course dress very well and is a good advertisement for Harvie and Hudson’s clothes. His style, as you might expect is classic English. In fact we bonded over our shared affection for the fine details of menswear and the joy of dressing well. You will often find Richard quoted in menswear articles on the finer points of dressing well.
More importantly, Richard is passionate about H&H’s clothes. I was surprised when the first thing he wanted to talk about socks but it turned into an object lesson about the importance of using quality fabrics and good manufacture (they use a very high quality English lisle cotton). How important the quality of the cotton and the weave are to the comfort and fit of the sock. Socks are Harvie and Hudson in microcosm. Their care over fabrics extends to everything in their range of products. Their shirts, suits and accessories are famous for their hard-wearing quality. They Are discreetly proud of the quality of their fabrics in a very old-school way.
We talked about the Harvie and Hudson family tradition, which is key to the spirit of Harvie and Hudson. Richard’s father, who is 82 and Derek Hudson’s (the current Hudson in situ) father who is 84, still work in the business. The fourth generation of Hudson’s also work in the business, both in the stores and behind the scenes. They are all rightly proud of being part of the English menswear tradition. For me they are exactly what Jermyn Street is about. The meeting of craft, service, knowledge of style and a smidgen of history.
Harvie and Hudson today, suits, shirts and accessories
The original Harvie and Hudson offering was of course more focussed on made-to-measure shirts, the then ready-to-wear market not being as developed as it is today.
Today Harvie and Hudson offer a much broader range of menswear. One of the first things I learnt was that Harvie and Hudson suits sell as well as their tailored shirts. I looked at the suits and it was obvious why they are so popular. Their suits are classic, handsome, English cut, in soft, quality wool worsted fabrics. Classic fabrics, Charcoal flannel, Navy Pinstripes, all tailored to H&H’s exacting requirements at their factories. The suits radiate classic English style. They are beautifully finished, linings are richly coloured, all the details (Blackberry pocket etc) are in place. They retail at £399.00 upward, which seems a good price for quality ready-to-wear.
I was really pleased to hear that one of their biggest sellers were tweed jackets. As regular readers will know I am a huge tweed fan. The recent resurgence of tweed, in softer, lighter weights and more adventurous colours, has been a high spot in British menswear in recent years, in my book.
I was curious about who was buying tweed and Richard told me it was younger men in their 20’s and 30’s. They are buying quality tweed jackets, pairing them with a good shirt, upscale jeans and leather shoes. Richard’s recommendation would be to pair Harvie jackets and with a good pair of brogues. His preference would be Crockett and Jones, but Church, Cheaney or Barker might suit you as well. Our definitive articles on English shoes are here and here. Our article on classic English country brogues is here.
Richard showed me two tweed jackets from the Harvie and Hudson collection. The first was a rich blue herringbone which, in my opinion, would go really well with the current style for skinny chinos. The second was a classic tan heather tweed, with a fine gold check in the weave. Relaxed and colourful, yet classy enough that one could wear them to any of the local upscale restaurants without feeling out of place. Classic H&H style, being transmitted to a younger generation of men. Here is a picture showing some of the tan heather tweeds.
One of the style movements that I seen in recent months is younger men are buying into classic style. To be honest, many of Harvie and Hudson’s customers defied my expectations, being much younger than I had expected. So I was curious about their motivations for buying classic style. Richard talked about Harvie and Hudson’s experience with changes in men’s style over the last couple of years. That men are moving back to quality clothing. Harvie and Hudson have seen a renewed interest in ties, and their experience is that more men are wearing ties, and buying more (and better shirts). Also that younger men are becoming more interested in the distinguishing touches that identify personal style, such as pocket handkerchiefs and cravats. Harvie and Hudson are selling more of both, and mostly to younger men.
This ties in with feedback that I am getting from my old friends in the City and with a number of reports that are percolating out onto the net. That, in a recessionary economic climate, smart men are stepping up their game and improving their appearance by dressing with classic authority.
Speaking of accessories one of the things I liked most about the 77 Jermyn Street store is H&H’s big waist-high cabinet, where everything can be handled and assessed. Here sit a range of products, ties, accessories, testers for classic fragrance Askett & English. Pride of place is given to their sumptuous silk pocket handkerchiefs, scarves and cravats. Also their rather wonderful socks, of course. I like the confidence that puts all these items out to be handled by prospective customers. The shirts are here, you can feel the quality of the fabric.
My single most useful tip with any piece of menswear is get your hands on it. Run your thumb along the seams, do they feel uniform and regular or do they feel rough and uneven? Crush the shirt sleeve in your hand, what does the fabric feel like? Good instincts will really help you buy good stuff.
I know there are some of you out there who have been reading this with impatience, asking yourselves, when is he going to get to the shirts? Here we are.
Harvie and Hudson are famous world-wide for their excellent dress shirts. They are made of good cotton, beautifully cut and stitched, in classic collar and cuff styles. Good shirts, backed by over 60 years of English shirtmaking craftsmanship. They are, as numerous readers of this site have pointed out, exceptionally hardwearing. More than this Harvie and Hudson’s shirts are also known for their distinctive and colourful patterns. Colourful shirt designs have become H&H’s signature. It all started back in the sixties when H&H were Jermyn Street’s rebellious newcomer. They started making shirt fabrics that were bolder and much more colourful than was then the convention. They took off like wildfire.
Ready to wear shirts come in two types, regular and slim-fit, both ranges start at £64.50. Richard Harvie talked about how they created the Harvie and Hudson slim-fit. When H&H first looked at creating a slim-fit shirt they knew that they wanted something special. So they took their greatest strength, their bespoke shirtmakers, the cutters, and used the bespoke team as their R&D team. In this way they produced the H&H slim-fit, which is fitted but still looks classic English style. So if you are wearing a H&H slim-fit, you are wearing the creation of some very talented tailors.
The store has a rail of try-ons for every size and shirt type, which you can take into the fitting room to try, to find the best look/fit.
Harvie and Hudson have two made-to-measure shirt services, Semi-custom and full bespoke. Both services are offered at the shop at 77 Jermyn Street and on their trunk shows. Here is how they work.
Here Harvie and Hudson, measure you, collar, chest, waist, cuff, shirt length, circumference of your body. With this service they offer five collar types and three cuff types. This takes about 20 minutes. From this they can then You can then choose from over 2,000 fabrics, including H&H’s own unique patterns. Aftwerward, one of Harvie and Hudson’s tailors will cut a patten to your sepcification.
You will be measured and your shirt is cut in the cuttingroom at the back of the 77 Jermyn street branch and made up in the Harvie and Hudson’s workroom. It is then returned to the tailoring shop for final checking and then dispatched to you.
Or you can collect from 77, which fits my preference to always return to the shop to try the shirts on, so that any necessary changes or tweaks can be made. Once you are happy with the shirts, you have taken another step on the road to classic style!
The semi-custom service costs £160.00 per shirt, for a minimum order of two.
Harvie and Hudson’s full bespoke service works much like Savile Row bespoke, only for shirts. With this service one of H& H’s shirt tailors takes extensive measurements and works with you to design the shirt you want. Here you can really express yourself,
designing shirts that are uniquely your own. H&H’s tailors will create a pattern for you, which will become the template for all future shirts, to be altered as you need it.
As before, you choose your shirt fabrics from over 2,000 fabrics. Again, your shirts are made at one of H&H’s English factories, and returned to 77 Jermyn Street for you to try, collect and wear. You then join the ranks of us who know just how good a bespoke shirt feels.
The full bespoke service costs £210 per shirt, for a minimum of 4 shirts.
Both of these services are available from the Harvie and Hudson trunk shoes that visit the US (see website, bottom of this article, for details).
It is worth touching briefly on how Harvie and Hudson manage the process of making bespoke shirts.
The customer record
For every customer there is a customer record, a paper file. This contains the customer’s measurements, swatch(es) of fabric for each shirt made and special instructions for each shirt (such as “extra-stiff collar”).
For each customer there is a paper pattern which is used to cut the individual fabric pieces that will make your shirt.
Harvie and Hudson also retain a history of every shirt they have made for each customer.
These three sets of information make up the backbone of the bespoke and semi-custom shirtmaking services. It means that anyone who has bought a Harvie and Hudson shirt can call the shop and have new shirts make, simply by asking the tailor to makwe a new shirt based on the existing information. Customers in other countries or who do not have the time to visit the shop use this service a lot.
Experienced customers have a small wrinkle on this. They phone H&H and ask for images of fabrics similar (but not the same) to one they have bought before. H&H simply photograph a selection of likely fabrics and email them back to the customer. All done within a day and a completely painless process.
I have articulated the process here because men of style want to know how it’s done. However the real point here is that Harvie and Hudson have a seamless process which makes buying good shirts a pleasant, enjoyable experience. This is exactly what buying good clothes should be like.
What surprised me about Harvie and Hudson was the warmth of customer care, their lightness of touch and the range and quality of their clothes.
I have been a customer of H&H in the past (shirts of course, ready-to-wear) but on this visit I got to see just how special Harvie and Hudson are. Part of this is the unique family spirit, knowledgeable without being showy, providing classy understated patient
service and finely tailored clothes. H&H are understated in the old English style, they are discreet about the fine quality of their clothes. However they will happily talk to you about their clothes if you ask them.
What was also new to me and very gratifying to see, was the diversity of men who come to buy from Harvie and Hudson. Harvie and Hudson have made a bit of niche for themselves in helping younger men to buy up into classic clothes. They also have a great many customers from overseas. Richard pointed out to me that Americans are amongst their best customers, being very knowledgeable about good menswear.
If you want to see the H&H service in action, go to 77 Jermyn Street, and meet Richard Harvie. He personifies the spirit of Harvie and Hudson, he is proud of his business and passionate about their clothes. If you are or aspire to being a gentleman of style, you will meet a kindred spirit and you will find that, this is a shop for you.
Harvie and Hudson
77 Jermyn Street,
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7930 3949
For other stores in central London (including the City and Knightsbridge), Internet sales and the US trunk show calendar see the Harvie and Hudson website here.
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