Back in the 90s, when I was young and slim, vintage suits were my thing.
In those pre-eBay days, vintage shops and second-hand stores seemed to be full of them. You had to sift through a lot of rubbish to find the gold, of course – but there was still plenty of gold to be found.
My favourite shop for suits was called – I think – Rowan’s. I’ve combed the internet looking for any reference to it, without success. Maybe it was just my own personal Mr Benn experience.
It was in St Margaret’s Place in the east end of Glasgow, just along from Paddy’s Market – opposite where the High Court building sits – and was run by what I always assumed was a father and son.
A small, dingy shop, crammed with rail upon rail of suits of all sizes, styles and colours, it was a key part of my Saturday shopping route (Remember when there were enough decent shops left to have one of those? Mine went something like this: HMV, Virgin, Borders, Waterstones, Tower Records, Echo, Flip, Fopp etc etc…)
I believe the shop’s owners would go on frequent trips to Germany to bring back their vintage ware in bulk. Most of it seemed to hail from the 60s and 70s and most was, in truth, unappealing garb for, shall we say, the less sporty middle-management executive. Patience would often uncover the real gems, though.
I spent a lot of time there. So much so that, on the rare occasions my weight went down rather than up, the younger of its proprietors would advance on me enthusiastically, tape measure in hand, and declare: ‘You look like you’ve lost weight, Sir! Let’s measure you up!’
But I did find a fair few classics in there. One of my all-time favourites was a dark green-check Reid & Taylor number from the mid-Sixties in a super-stylish sharp cut which I often referred to as ‘my John Steed suit’. I loved that suit. Wore it practically to death, paid for some expensive invisible mending when a stray branch tore a precious sleeve, but eventually parted company with it in the early 2000’s after it committed the cardinal sin of becoming too tight.
I regret that now, because it was a wonderful suit and I’ve only once come close to finding a replacement – which, sadly, proved to be just too big.
After nearly 20 years of family, pets, housework and middle-aged spread, my clothing choices veered more towards the practical and comfortable (three-piece tweed really isn’t the ideal thing for running the dogs around the big field), but (spurred in part by a bout of self-improvement and increased activity), I’ve found myself hankering for a bit of that classic style again. I’m not the slim (but daft) lad I was, but that’s no excuse to look like a slob.
So I’ve started putting together a small collection of original 60s suits again, as a reward for (slowly) discarding that middle-aged spread. They’re not as easy to find as they were back in the day – the internet means there’s no junk anymore, just ‘collectible classics’. The days of picking up a pristine mod-era original for £12 are long gone.
So far, though, I’ve picked up one from America (late 50s/early 60s) in a brash sharkskin green, another more tweedy three-button affair from the UK and, the most recent arrival, an exceedingly dapper two-piece by Alexandre of London.
I’m still on the hunt for that elusive Reid & Taylor suit, though. If you see one, do let me know…