TEAM TALK – HARRY HIGHTON
Continuing with our series of Team Talks, Brigita had a chat with the newest member of Cad & the Dandy’s Savile Row team, Harry Highton. Over coffee, Harry gives us his views on tweed, black suits and those all important style icons.
B: Let’s set the scene – we’re seated outside The Service, Savile Row’s favourite coffee shop, on a brisk, bright January afternoon. Talk me through what you’re wearing.
Harry: I’m almost head to toe in Cad & the Dandy Ready-to-Wear, shock horror! With the newly opened flagship Ready to Wear shop, at 7-8 Savile Row, I may have gotten a bit over excited… Mostly about this jacket – a silk, cotton, linen mix from Marling & Evans, in a classic tweed pattern.
This type of mixed cloth makes for the most versatile of tweed jackets, one we refer to as a 3 season jacket, ideal for wear in the UK, from spring through to autumn. I particularly love tweed and think a classic tweed pattern has its place in town, just as much as in the countryside.
For me, the best way to achieve a city tweed look is by pairing your jacket with a flannel trouser, modernised with a denim shirt, keeping things smart with a complementary tie. Remove the tie and pair with jeans for a more relaxed, off duty feel.
B: Do you tend to wear more separates?
Harry: I go for roughly half and half. The suit still has its place in formal business environments, but separates are great to break up the routine.
B: What got you into menswear?
Harry: My grandfather was a very stylish man. He had all his suits made at a tailor called Frank Hall of Market Harborough. He was a farmer and wore a shirt and tie every day and I always wanted to emulate that.
I started to collect vintage clothes when I was about 15, especially military dress, because of the quality and structure of the clothes. Then, when I moved to London, I got a part time job working in shirting. After that, I moved to a tweed specialist, which locked in my love of that cloth. Tweed is underrated. It’s completely and utterly the most versatile category / family of cloths. The everyman of wool cloth.
B: And now you’re a Tailoring Consultant on Savile Row. Is it as exciting as you thought it would be?
Harry: I wouldn’t describe it as ‘exciting’ but it is very rewarding. Savile Row has a hard earned and well deserved reputation for heritage, luxury and quality. London is the global capital of menswear and Savile Row is the epicentre of it all. It’s a little London village, where everyone knows everyone.
The most rewarding thing about this job, for me, is assisting customers to achieve their vision of themselves. For many, a bespoke suit is a once in a lifetime purchase. Helping to create something that is entirely unique to the individual is incredibly rewarding.
B: Do you think the pandemic has affected Savile Row’s bespoke houses more disproportionately than the Ready to Wear sector?
Harry: The fact that tailoring is a ‘hands on’ job has obviously made things more complicated on the bespoke side of things. Everyone has had to adapt and some of the tailoring houses have been better at that than others, pushing through to set a more modern tone for the street as a whole.
While online shopping worked in the favour of the Ready to Wear sector, I think there is also definitely a place for off the peg garments on Savile Row. That’s not to say this could ever replace bespoke tailoring, just that it’s entirely possible to make Ready to Wear to the same high standards of bespoke. Quality is key – if you sacrifice on the craftsmanship then you’re not adhering to the principles of Savile Row.
I think ultimately the pandemic gave Savile Row an opportunity to modernise, and whilst bespoke tailoring ultimately comes back to craft, quality and the heritage, with the right approach and outlook, the two sectors can evolve, hand in hand.
B: Who is your style icon?
Harry: Because I have curly hair and glasses, seeing Michael Caine in the original 1966 film, Alfie (and I guess Jude Law in the 2004 remake) definitely struck a chord. He wore his clothes effortlessly.
Hardy Amies once said that a well dressed man “chose his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgot all about them”… Your clothes are an extension of yourself, they are a second skin, a part of your persona. For example, for black tie, my grandfather never wore a dinner shirt. He’d wear a pale yellow shirt with a faint blue overcheck and he always looked smart and always stood out. It wasn’t any kind of protest or statement, it was just what he wanted to wear.
B: Do you think we still have tailoring rules?
Harry: Yes, and those rules are useful for beginners. But knowing the rules also allows you to break them. If you’re starting out and are not sure where to begin, the rules help avoid making obvious mistakes. However, it’s in the deliberate breaking of rules where true individual style comes out.
The rules that surround tailoring are to do with fit and apply to everyone. They’re not there to restrict you, they’re there to benefit you. For example, the reason for a half break in a trouser is that they lengthen the leg – this unbroken line all the way down the trouser crease only breaks where the trouser grazes the top of the shoe. A rule that exists to flatter the wearer. Other rules – like don’t mix patterns or no brown in town – are definitely outdated.
Cad & The Dandy’s approach to the rules – with the tradition of bespoke at its heart with an eye firmly on the future – is, for me, a true representation of modern ideas being brought onto Savile Row, which is what attracted me to the company.
B: What’s your advice to those who struggle to be inspired when dressing?
Harry: You’ve got to like what you’re wearing because if you don’t like it, you won’t look good. Within your budget, make sure your suit is properly adjusted. Make sure you ask your tailor for their opinion. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance on colours to compliment your skin tone and styling details to enhance your silhouette.
Investment pieces are key, with cost per wear is also an important factor for some. A plain grey or navy suit will get lots of wear, as suits and separates, so represents a sensible and sustainable way of shopping. Pay more, buy less. You can only wear one suit, one shirt and one tie at a time.
B: What’s on your wish list?
Harry: A bespoke black suit, a true rarity on Savile Row. Very few people wear them, and most people associate them with the shiny, poorly made, Ready to Wear kind, worn by those in the service industry. I happen to think a bespoke black suit is unique – perfect for breaking up into separates.
I was told the other day ‘If you have a black suit, you’ll be the only man on Savile Row with one’ and I thought ‘Excellent! It’ll be a truly bespoke suit’. In terms of outerwear, it has to be the Greatcoat in Prussian Blue herringbone tweed. I also like our classic double breasted navy blue overcoat, but for me, the tweed has more character and individuality – I do love me some tweed.