Currently reading : SB5 Archive (2010): Uniforms

SB5 Archive (2010): Uniforms

12 September 2017

Words by Ben Perdue

Photography by Adrian Wilson

Photgraphery Assistant Alex Wilson
Style Aida
Hair Louis Byrne for Swarzkopf Professional
Makeup Jo Frost using MAC-PRO
Models Elina Alminas at FM, Juli Molnar at Profile Models, Lianna F at Models 1
Uniforms supplied by Gieves & Hawkes military archive

The First Cut is the Deepest

Gieves & Hawkes at No.1 Savile Row is a name and address synonymous with sartorial style. Renowned for its prestige tailoring, the company history is also steeped in a demand for bespoke uniforms and battledress generated by war, pomp and ceremony dating back to its inception in 1771. This rich military and naval heritage is preserved in the Gieves & Hawkes archive; a collection that covers some 1000 sq ft, and over 200 years of provenance, available to view by appointment only. For this exclusive shoot, Sang Bleu was not only granted access to the incredible garments on display, but was also able to speak to the men who use and look after them.

“When I joined Gieves & Hawkes I discovered that we dressed King Leopold I of Belgium. I am a born and bred Belgian so I would love to see the official uniform Gieves & Hawkes made for him,” says Frederik Willems, Head of Design. A key role of the archive is as a source of inspiration for the current team of designers. Whether created for royalty or the officer classes, the antique craftsmanship provides a rich store of exquisite construction details and decorative embellishments. From the gilt buttons and opulent insignia, to braid cuffs, sharp epaulettes and intricate frogging. “I believe it is a combination of these factors, plus the non-stop attention to detail we use as one of our trademarks,” says Willems. “The precision and high level of quality work is what makes Gieves & Hawkes stand out.”

The bespoke nature of a tailored suit is reflected in the archive uniforms, each being one of a kind because of the way it was cut. But what makes every piece truly unique is the life story attached. “There are several of historic interest, for instance the drummer boy’s uniform from the Crimean campaign,’”says Mark Henderson, Deputy Chairman. “Particularly sad is the apparent bullet hole in the back.” Sourced through specialist sales, auctions and from enthusiasts who contact the company directly, Gieves & Hawkes is able to selectively add to its stock of memories, as the right pieces come on the market. Whilst still attending to the needs of international royalty today. “Most recently for the coronation party for the King of Tonga in 2008,” says Henderson. “Whose father we also had the pleasure of serving.”

Preserved to maintain their historical interest, the incredible condition of these historic pieces pays testament to the high standards set by previous generations of cutters and tailors at Gieves & Hawkes. Levels of workmanship that have seen the esteemed house outlive all its military competitors on Savile Row; save for Dege & Skinner at No. 9. And just as the feats of the artisans that created the uniforms live on, so do those of the men who wore them, immortalized for posterity in the archive. “My favorite piece has to be a Royal Navy cap from WWII,” says Garry Carr, Head of Military. “The reason it is my favorite is that it was produced by Naval Officers while detained in a prisoner of war camp. It was crafted out of pieces of cloth and spare bits they could find. Such an amazing achievement.”

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