The Garmsman Dozen #11: Lee from Great Britain (Bespokeaddict)

Reading Time: 20 minutes

Welcome to the eleventh instalment of the “Garmsman Dozen” question and answer session. The response so far has been tremendous. Did you miss earlier ones? There are links at the end of the page.

This week we welcome to the Garmsman Dozen Liam from Great Britain!

Who are you, where do you live and what interests you?

I am Lee Morrison, 50 years old, from Brighton UK.

Winter sunshine at the beach in Brighton.

Winter sunshine at the beach in Brighton.

I am @bespokeaddict on Instagram and will be launching a YouTube channel as “Bespoke Addict” around the end of May.

My family home is in Brighton however, I also have a house and small business in Nottingham, my time is split between the two homes.

My main interests are: Vintage Savile Row bespoke tailoring, and English Bespoke shoes, also, classic Jaguar cars, having driven and restored Jaguar and Daimler for 30 years.

I am also a keen restorer of bespoke shoes and exotic skin luggage, I regularly spend up to 70 hours restoring a particularly rare or fine pair of shoes, or exotic skin Gladstone etc., In fact, many restorations, repairs or just routine maintenance are currently being videoed for Bespoke Addict YouTube Channel.

Thinking back to your childhood, what were your most memorable or favourite clothes?

I do struggle to remember particular pieces from my early childhood, I do remember fondly burgundy trousers, white ‘Grandad’ shirt and a burgundy tank top, this would be the early 1980s, aged around thirteen. I still have in perfect condition, extremely important pieces purchased around 1986 / 87, a pair of Jean Paul Gaultier Boots, & a Vivienne Westwood jacket from her famous ‘Armour Plate’ collection. Matt & Luke Goss from the band Bros, & Jazzie B from Soul to Soul wore similar jackets on Album covers at the time. These were my early spendthrift years, the boots cost about six weeks salary at the time, the Vivienne Westwood was probably about three months salary.

How would you describe your style today, and what are your influences?

I would describe my style as Classic English Gentleman, I do have a vast collection of bespoke tailoring, bespoke shoes, hats, gloves, bags and luggage; however, I do not consider myself a collector, it is very much a lifestyle for me, these are my everyday items, they are not museum pieces to me, this is my normal.

How do you think others’ would describe your style and garments, do you get any reaction from friends and random strangers?

I do get quite a lot of reaction and comments from random strangers and often am photographed, both with and without asking first, I am always happy to agree to photograph but do prefer if the photographer is polite and courteous enough to ask first. A few weeks ago in Brighton, a young woman from a larger group saw me from a distance and immediately dropped to her knees on pavement and began photographing me as I walked towards her, She was very surprised when I ignored the situation and walked past without stopping, even calling out after me ‘Hey, don’t be rude’, I could not help wondering to myself who was displaying more rudeness, myself or the young photographer?

I am often asked if I am going to a wedding, the reaction amuses me when I say “I dress like this every day”, I do get the impression people think I am not being truthful, it is true, I even have a rather motheaten suit I wear to repair my car, I drive old Jaguar’s, & do all of my own repairs, servicing & restoration, I suppose it is a rather odd sight, a man in the street wearing old tweeds using an Oxy-Acetylene welding torch on an old Jaguar.

A Jaguar makes the perfect companion for the many many trips between Brighton and Nottingham.

A Jaguar makes the perfect companion for the many many trips between Brighton and Nottingham.

People are often surprised when I tell them the age of an item, most of my vintage items are in ‘as new’ condition; I try to only buy timeless classic items, suits can be more difficult, but classic shoes are a lot easier, many classic styles worn and manufactured today were originally designed and made between 1910 & 1920. I regularly wear a ’60s tweed suit with ’30s shoes and a new piece of John Smedley knitwear or shirt, it can be difficult to identify new from vintage items.

My friends and family are rather used to my appearance, and more often than not do not pass comment.

I suspect not all strangers’ would be complimentary if describing my style, I am rather used to stares in the street, less so around Brighton than other places I spend a lot of time, Brighton is extremely eccentric as a City, it is one of the many reasons I so love living here.

I do try very hard to look classic and timeless, I do want to appear as a period costume enthusiast.

When looking for clothes, what factors play into your selections?

Cost is a major factor today, I am no longer the reckless spendthrift of my youth, apart from shirts, socks and underwear, the vast majority of purchases today are second hand or vintage. I generally try to restrict purchases to bespoke items, it is possible to buy bespoke items for a similar price to ready to wear; also, restricting purchases to bespoke items limits the scale of purchasing. I do buy a lot of exotic skin luggage, generally searching for items which are in very poor condition, and low cost; I do enjoy restoring these pieces. Buying in poor condition & restoring is the only way to buy within strict financial limits I place upon purchases today.

When putting together an outfit combination, do you spend a lot of time considering it?

I do spend a little time, perhaps a few minutes as I am going to bed, I will consider a few outfits for next day, generally arriving at a final decision as I am showering in the morning. It is very rare to rummage through the wardrobe, trying different combinations in front of a mirror, the combination is usually decided in advance.

Most Garmsmen will have a few “Grail Items” in their collections. Not to out you, but your house is burning, which garments do you grab?

Assuming my beautiful wife and daughter are already safe, and irreplaceable items such as family photographs have already been rescued, I would rescue a magnificent Shepherds’ Check suit made in 1968 for Hollywood Actor Robert Horton, and a staggeringly beautiful pair of bespoke Foster & Son ‘Chaves’ brogues in black with classic ‘Foster Fade’ antique Patina, made in 1974 for Race Driver Briggs Cunningham.

Both items still look quite new in condition, & are a remarkable fit on myself, and have required very little alteration or modification.

 

Are you budget-conscious or spendthrift? Are you a single-shot shopper, or go large and buy bulk? Where are you on slow-fashion and buying less?

In my younger years, I was definitely a spendthrift, & was previously very happy to spend what was in effect a whole months salary on a single item. However, today I have a lot of responsibility and many commitments, the largest and most important of which is my daughter’s school fees. I no longer have the financial freedom to be a ‘spendthrift’, that is not to say my tastes have changed or gone away, simply I have had to find another way. When disposable funds became scarce due to commitment of school fees, I began searching for good items second hand, I had previously been buying high end ready to wear, in particular Prada, Gucci, Ozwald Boateng etc., these were the items I searched for second hand, without much success, then stumbled upon vintage bespoke, the difference in quality & craftsmanship I found staggering, I have not been tempted to return to old habits.

I buy items as and when they become available, often many weeks will pass when nothing of correct price and quality comes up for sale, at other times, many similar items come from one source at the same time, this often presents something of a dilemma, because I now place strict financial limits on items, each item has a strict maximum, shoes, suits, overcoats, ties, all have a separate rigid budget limit which I will not exceed, regardless of condition, fit or maker.

All purchases are regarded as permanent additions to my wardrobe, and fully expect to be using and wearing items many years even decades into the future, I do not buy fashion items with the expectation of replacing next season or as soon as they go out of fashion.

Having a large collection of clothes can lead to changing outfit on a daily basis, but if you were going to wear a single outfit the next two weeks, what would it be?

This would be an absolute horror show, I am struggling to imagine how I would cope. I usually change outfits throughout the day, depending on where I am working, I also have shoes set aside for walking to work or for driving, carrying another, more precious pair in a small crocodile skin overnight bag, changing when I arrive at the destination.

1930's crocodile skin overnight bag, perfect for carrying a change of shoes.

1930’s crocodile skin overnight bag, perfect for carrying a change of shoes.

I drive around 1,000 miles per week, & walk several miles too. Driving ruins heel area of shoes, & stretches knees of suit trousers. If forced to make this decision, it would have to be something I am happy to walk distance wearing, wear for driving, & walk in the rain, most of my garments are protected from such heavy use. I think, if forced under duress, I would choose a battered but beautiful 1960s pair of bespoke Oxblood Trickers Brogues, this pair is used in the rain, walking on the beach & for driving. The trousers would be red, slim fit fine cords, a brown John Smedley V neck with gold silk cravat, & finally, a 1970 Hector Powe single breasted Sports Gun Club Tweed with classic Panama Hat, and light tan Pigskin gloves. This would usually be a driving or beach outfit, but if forced, could be an all-purpose outfit for a painfully long two weeks.

Do you have a dream garment you would love to own?

I do indeed have dream items I would love to own, less so with shoes, I already have several examples of most English Bespoke Makers’, including Tuczek, which are usually top of most collectors’ list.

I do have quite a few vintage Bespoke Savile Row suits, however, one has eluded me thus far: Tommy Nutter, I have searched in vain for years for an original late ’60s or early ’70s Tommy Nutter suit cut by Edward Sexton, something similar to the suit Ringo Starr is famous for wearing would be a dream come true.

When I finally pay down my daughter’s school fees, I do plan to have a Bespoke Suit made by Edward Sexton; Sexton was Nutter’s original cutter/partner. This suit will be a navy chalk stripe, single-breasted, three buttons, with double breasted vest [waistcoat] with shawl lapels, & slim, flat front trousers with military hem. I still have five years before final payment of school fees, my wishes for this suit are unlikely to change in this time.

Do you have any style icons, historic or current?

For me, the Duke Of Windsor stands out as one of history’s most stylish men of classic sartorialism, also, the tailor Edward Sexton, He is now in late middle age, and still looks fiendishly good in one of his own suits.

Does your interest in clothing influence other aspects of your life?

Yes indeed, much of my life is very influenced by clothing & style generally, I have met countless amazing people over a period of several years with an interest in image style or fashion, many of these people become lifelong friends.

Instagram, for me, has magnified this, I am a fairly recent convert to Social Media, my life has definitely change dramatically, in a positive way since adopting Social Media, countless fantastic talented and interesting people have very quickly become trusted friends.

Amongst other things, I own a hair salon, Curtis & York @curtisandyork [named after Ian Curtis & Tom Yorke], the vast majority of our clientele live an image based lifestyle, our clients’ mostly have a very strong hair/clothing image, and recognise old & classic Sub Cultures, predominantly Mod, the 1960s, Ska, Football Casual, & Manchester Indie. Paul Weller, Ian Brown / Stone Roses, The Beatles, The Who & Oasis etc., are all influences for our client style.

At work in Curtis & York, gentleman's barbers, in Nottingham.

At work in Curtis & York, gentleman’s barbers, in Nottingham.

My personal style, & that of the team is critical to the success of the business, it might sound fickle, but we operate an image based business, much new business is attracted into the shop because a potential client might notice, my suit, or perhaps the footwear of a colleague, these clients remain intensely loyal to the business, it is as much about presentation as the service.

Since my teens, I have worked in the Hair / Image business, and consider image, style and fashion to be critically important.

If your clothes need alterations or repair, do you do it yourself?

Clothing alterations I do not attempt to tackle myself, I am loyal to an alterations tailor, a lady in her mid-seventies who worked for Chester Barrie in the 1960s, her work is beyond amazing, she re-tailors all of my vintage bespoke suits to achieve the perfect fit on myself. I have to say, one needs to have patience if employing her services, not only is she busy, she is very chaotic and disorganised, it takes months to get garments completed, some of mine she has had for years, it is always worth the ridiculous wait. I do worry what I will do when the time comes when she is simply too old to continue, there are other alterations tailors, but seeing work from several makes me shudder. In fact, my wife and I ran an alterations shop in the 1990s, we were overwhelmed with business, were unable to attract staff with the required tailoring skills; we were faced with the unhappy decision of closing down this potentially buoyant business when we failed to keep up with demand. This was a big shock to us, we failed because we were too successful too quickly, it was impossible to deliver, garments came in at an alarming rate, waiting times were huge, when customers’ returned to collect garment, often, much to our despair & the customers annoyance the garment was not ready.

Shoes & leather goods, I usually restore and repair myself; I buy many pairs of Vintage Bespoke Shoes and ancient Crocodile & Alligator Skin luggage cases and bags, in many instances, the skin is still good if not dry, unfortunately, stitching rots with time, and the item simply falls to pieces. I buy many items in this condition, and carefully re-stitch by hand through makers’ original stitch holes in the skin, this is awkward, fiddly & extremely time-consuming, however, when completed with enough care, the repairs are impossible to distinguish from original stitching.

Crocodile skin can lose scales or even complete sections, I have a large collection of old Crocodile and Alligator skins which are used as donor skin for repairs, many of my exotic skin items have been repaired by transplanting or grafting skin from old donor skins, once again, the transplanted areas can be difficult to identify.

How do you see your style evolving going forward?

Realistically, I do not see my style changing noticeably in the future, however, I do expect the quality of garments and items to increase over time, with a continued commitment to relentless searching, new items are added to the collection. My shoe collection has become so vast, recently, around thirty pairs of mostly Northampton bench made pairs have been sold or swapped for suits and coats. All of these shoes are beautiful, however, as my bespoke shoe collection has grown, the ready to wear were not being worn. Stylistically, the shoes which have been sold are similar to the bespoke pairs which have replaced them. A friend whom I have met through our shared sartorial taste has had many of my shoes; he is a lot older than me, and began collecting when I was a child, over time he has gained a little weight, & is unable to wear some of his older purchases; we swap items, he takes my shoes, I his suits & coats which no longer fit. The best swap for both of us so far has been, my ready to wear black George Cleverley Brighton Loafas for his bespoke red silk velvet smoking jacket. I no longer wore the Cleverley because I now have a bespoke replacement, he no longer fits into the smoking jacket.

Thank you for your Garmsman Dozen Lee!

Garmsman Dozen Lee wearing 1961 Hawkes of Savile Row Three Piece Tweed with 1975 Foster & Son 'Chaves' Brogues. This Suit was carefully washed in the bath a few months ago, Dry Cleaning & Airing for six months with a large fan had failed to clean & freshen. It now smells new, & colour is dramatically more vibrant.

Garmsman Dozen Lee wearing 1961 Hawkes of Savile Row Three Piece Tweed with 1975 Foster & Son ‘Chaves’ Brogues. This Suit was carefully washed in the bath a few months ago, Dry Cleaning & Airing for six months with a large fan had failed to clean & freshen. It now smells new, & colour is dramatically more vibrant.

Did you miss the first Garmsman Dozens?

PS: If you have suggestions for participants, let me know. Or have your mother suggest you, if you’re a bit keen to suggest yourself. My email is WellDressedDad (@) gmail.com

 

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3 Comments

  • Lizzie 29/04/2018 at 11:20

    I have really enjoyed this , particularly about the leather repairs, and also about the lady in her 70s who does the alterations. I have been privileged to do a few repairs on very old garments, e.g. trousers from the 1930s still in use, and have really appreciated seeing them and being able to successfully work on them. Reading this has been inspirational!

    Reply
  • Milly 29/04/2018 at 18:09

    Really interesting piece! It’s great to read about somebody carefully crafting their wardrobe, as opposed to simply ‘splashing the cash’, quite inspirational!

    Reply
  • Deanna 29/04/2018 at 18:16

    Great piece – the leather repair is fascinating. Thanks!

    Reply

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