Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Gieve's and Hawkes: Tailor to Naval Stars!

A Royal Navy officer's bicorne with tin transit case and associated cased pair of epauletsThe other day I saw a photo of a wonderful item auctioned at Bonhams, London in June of 2012. The item, a bicorn hat from a Royal Navy officer along with its tin transit case, and a pair of epaulets. Though a bit worn and faded, here it was, a piece of history, in all its glory. Though you can't see it, the lining of the hat is distinguished by the "London" maker's mark that features the Prince of Wales plumes. The inside of the tin is lined in red velour. The lot sold for $351.

But one of the most interesting things to me was the gold stamping on the case, "By Appointment/ Gieve's Ltd./London/and/Portsmouth.

I looked up Gieve's and found that it was a bespoke gentleman's tailor founded in 1771, located at #1 Savile Row, London."Bespoke" is defined as clothing specifically made to order. Gieve's, or Gieve's and Hawkes, as it later became, is one of the oldest continual bespoke tailors in the world! It holds a royal warrant, and these days, also sells ready-to-wear items.

Back in the day, even King George III was a customer. The first store was located on Brewer Street, then moved to Piccadilly in 1793. By the early 1800's another store was included, in Portsmouth, the main naval port of England. The tailor at the Portsmouth location, Mr. Meredith, was the person who tailored the uniform of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson! And, that's saying something! Nelson, with the winning of the Battle of Trafalgar, has been elevated to god-like stature.

Other customers include Winston Churchill, the Duke of Wellington, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, David Beckham, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

In 2007, Robert Gieve died, the fifth and last generation of the family to serve G&H. In 2011, the Saville Row store was completely refurbished, and in 2012, it was sold to Trinity Ltd, continuing to expand in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The days of Gieve's and Hawkes is far from over. Ahhh...if the walls could speak!
When you get a chance, check out the link below. Of course, G&H has a larger site, but I think you'll find the military section interesting. Take a look at the swords! Very sharp, indeed!


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