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Backwords: Kings Of Tailoring

ÖNo decent manís wardrobe used to be complete without a suit.

A best suit, that is. To wear on Sundays, and for christenings, weddings and funeralsÖ

Mike Shaw recalls the days when a man was not a man until he owned suit made by a reputable tailor.

No decent manís wardrobe used to be complete without a suit.

A best suit, that is. To wear on Sundays, and for christenings, weddings and funerals.

No wonder the Colne Valley mills had to work flat out to keep up with the demand.

Sports coats and flannels were all the rage for a summer holiday at Blackpool. Along with open-toed sandals.

And to keep out the cold in those terrible winters there was nothing like a thick, heavy overcoat.

But - long before jeans and denim began to dominate the menís- wear scene - the best suit reigned supreme.

When the time came to join the Sunday suit brigade we lads headed for town with our mums and dads.

There was no shortage of tailorís shops to choose from. But it was Burtons, the kings of tailoring, who drew us like a magnet.

Burtons set their stall out to be bigger and better than the rest. In Huddersfield, for instance, they had a massive cream-coloured emporium on the corner of Kirkgate and John William Street.

That was in the days when that part of town was still a bustling shopping area.

They had other menís shops in the town centre - three, I think - but the rest were put in the shade by their big brother at the top of Kirkgate.

Until I reached my teens, flannel and blazer came from the local Co-op.

But when it came to the serious business of a made-to-measure suit the big Burton shop was the place for me.

My memory is not good enough to remember how much my first suit cost. However a little research reveals that 60 years ago Burtons were offering made-to-measure all-wool suits for 45 and 55 shillings. Thatís £2.25 and £2,75 in todayís money.

For those men-about-town who went out wining and dining as often as todayís generation scoff a bar snack, an evening dress suit cost 95 shillings (£4.75).

Itís not surprising that they used to claim: ďAt Montague Burton it costs very little to dress very well.íí

In those days Burtons were making 35,000 menís suitís a week - and most of their cloth came from mills in the Colne Valley.

Mills like John Edward Crowtherís whose 2,000 workers churned out cloth by the mile from some 1,000 looms.

Was it the largest privately-owned woollen manufacturing business in the world? Some people say so and I believe they could be right.

Burtons factories were giants in those days as well. None bigger than one at Worsley in Lancashire which I gazed at in awe when we visited friends who lived just along the road.

Sadly all these manufacturing and tailoring giants of the past are now a shadow of their former selves.

And our suits are made in places such as Czechoslovakia, Italy and Taiwan.


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