Why Jermyn Trumps The High Street

Advertisement

jermyn-leaders

It has been said, among my friends, that I have become a rather unctuous high-street drum-beater. Even I myself fear that my initial ravings about how good the overlooked menswear departments of high street retailers actually are has turned into a sanctimonious and rather dull eulogy. Shaking my head at the ‘fools’ spending their week’s wages at the perplexingly popular Abercombie & Fitch, tut-tutting at the gross overspend at Bond Street boutiques and generally exhibiting a nauseating, self-satisfied air of aloofness. For this walk of pride always deserves a fall; as good value as the stores I profess to admire are, they are far from perfect and should I be in a position to purchase greater numbers of higher quality garments, I will surely take advantage.

And, testament to the imperfection of the stores which I have so heartily recommended, there are certain items sold in these establishments which are, to put it bluntly, not good enough. I could never again purchase a smart shirt from a ‘true’ high street shop. Zara and H&M are good at what they do – but they are really quite bad indeed at manufacturing proper shirts. Especially when you consider what can be obtained locally for the same price, or even less.

TM Lewin, a favourite shirt shop of mine, does not qualify as a high street shop in my mind, even though the name familiar once only to ‘shirties’ is now a household one. It has a long established history and considerable expertise in manufacturing shirts. It knows cloths, it knows collars, cuffs, plackets, buttons and yokes. The brand might be rather ubiquitous now, especially as it continues to trade on it’s grand, Jermyn Street origins, but the fact of the matter is TM Lewin shirts, for the money, are very good value. £30 doesn’t buy you a lot these days in clothing terms. Many high street manufacturers charge at least £35 for a shirt and Banana Republic has been known to charge a mind-boggling £75. Lewin’s shirts, invariably ‘on sale’, are currently priced at £25 for current season and £19 for end of range shirts. In my mind, if you are a gentleman who is the proud recipient of a new and exciting job and require advice on an inexpensive but reliable shirt manufacturer, I would direct you here first.

Gentlemen are certainly in need of a good selection of shirts. Other Jermyn street oldies, like Turnbull & Asser, Harvie & Hudson, New & Lingwood and Hilditch & Key do sell excellent shirts in their remarkably silent, antiquated berths on ‘The street of shirtmakers’ but though the quality is high, the price is equally so. For a shirt collection of five or more you will have to part with a significant sum. It’s no wonder the doorbell is the most audible sound in Turnbull’s when the economically minded man who requires shirts only for his City career can get 4 for £100 a few minutes down the road. A gentleman would have to be rather serious about shirts, or perhaps merely seriously wealthy, to purchase from these hallowed emporiums.

The sad fact of the matter is that most gentlemen are hardly serious about shirts at all. This is perhaps why the pile-‘em-high merchants on Jermyn are doing so well in comparison to their quieter, perfectionist neighbours. Both Hawes & Curtis and TM Lewin, and to an extent the slightly dearer Thomas Pink, have colonised ground beyond SW1 and though their shirts are produced at far greater volumes, the overall quality has only slipped a little in the past 10 years that I have been wearing them. While they are rather sneered at as being ‘commercial’, ‘common’ and ‘crass’ by their financially overshadowed companions on Jermyn Street, they are without a doubt among the best on offer elsewhere. The collars retain strength wash after wash, the fabric is of a very good quality for the price range and they last for years and years – models I have purchased from Marks & Spencer, Zara and Next have crumpled and faded within a year. I still wear a Lewin’s shirt bought in 1998.


Advertisement

Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. Patrick says:

    Does Banana Republic Europe carry different clothing than the US stores? It always surprised me that they even had stores in Europe/UK because even now that the fit of American BR clothes has become slimmer, it still seems made to fit a “fuller” american build.

  2. Skweekah says:

    Just purchased a couple of TM Lewin shirts. They are amazing. I feel like a king when I wear them. Now all I need is a pair of cool capuccino-coloured brogues.
    Skweekah

  3. Patrick,

    I think the clothing is the same as I have seen many items I recognise on the American website. I do remember trying on clothes there thinking they were rather ‘fuller’ than some of the European retailers. I also think this is true of GAP, the parent, where I absolutely have to purchase XS to feel at all presentable.

    W

  4. Jussi says:

    I wonder if Charlet Tyrwhitt is a good place to order some shirts? They seem to carry a size 15,5″/37″ which would fit me rather nicely if the measurements are true. Their sales seem to be decent ones, especially when compared to common prices here in Finland.

    Their shoes, too, have caught my attention, being very reasonably priced.

    Your opinion about CT would be appreciated.

  5. Charles Tyrwhitt are also a very good choice. The shirts are of a fine quality, good cotton and well structured collars.
    They also probably qualify as one of the ‘deal’ shops of Jermyn Street – i.e. frequently, out of ‘sale time’, offering value purchases i.e. 4 for £100. They are perhaps a little more conservative, in pattern and style, than Hawes & Curtis and even TM Lewin as the stripes tend to be narrow, the checks tend to be subtle and the collars tend to be smaller. I have noted that Tyrwhitt offer other items (coats, suits, polos) – just like Lewin – and the shoes do seem to be of a decent grade. The current shoe sale offers very good value for money.

    W

  6. Jussi says:

    Thank you, Winston, for your answer. I think I shall – at least – order a couple of CT shirts. It’s terribly hard to find a decent quality here, especially when I’m size 148 (I think it might be “tall 38″ in English sizes).
    Thank you, as well, for the recommendation for TM Lewin.