Last Monday evening after work I was lucky enough to enjoy a couple of pints in one of the local pubs near Savile Row. I was in very good company; I was with Alan Pitt of Anderson & Sheppard (Mr Pitt made this coat, among others), and Alan Cooper of Welsh & Jeffries.
Though I’ve known Mr Cooper for a long time, I only found out yesterday that he also worked for A&S in the early ‘Sixties. Typical of Savile Row and its nomadic tailors.
(Mr. Sheppard’s shears lying on top of one my hand-drafted trouser patterns.)
Back then, the head cutter at Anderson & Sheppard was an infamous tyrant named Mr. Cameron.
No one would doubt Mr. Cameron’s abilities as a craftsman- utterly top notch and world class. But let’s just say his hot temper was as memorable as his red hair.
My teacher and former A&S head cutter, Mr Hallbery kept me on my toes, but even he would shudder when he spoke of what Mr. Cameron would do if he ever spotted a finished suit, waiting for collection by some important customer, that he wasn’t happy with.
After a close inspection of the cut of the lapel and drape of the shoulder, Mr. Cameron would explode and demand to see the young cutter responsible.
When the trembling wreck was summoned for his scalding (which I’m sure felt more like an execution), Mr. Cameron would show his utter disgust by taking his shears and cutting the offending coat horizontally in half.
It was of no consequence of who or what the garment was for. If it wasn’t right, then no way would it be seeing the light of day. Pretty terrifying. The only revenge I ever heard the cutters and apprentices ever exacting was to put itching powder in his overcoat pockets. That’ll teach the great Mr. Cameron. Indeed.
Two nights ago at the pub, after a long inhalation of his cigarette and a good chug of his India Pale Ale, Mr Cooper recalled how he he was witness to one of Mr. Cameron’s most famous tirades.
Whilst Mr. Cameron was fitting a illustrious, high-ranking member of English Society, young Mr. Cooper was then Mr. Cameron’s striker (undercutter), standing silently with pins and chalk in the corner of the fitting room, as Mr. Cameron masterfully fitted the gentleman in question.
The unfortunate customer made the mistake of inviting his wife into the proceedings. Officially that’s not a problem in Anderson’s, as long as the wife stands quietly in the corner in silence like the apprentice cutter, clutching her handbag instead of pins.
Sadly, this is where the good lady made a near fatal mistake, by daring to utter a minor detail with regard to the fit of her husband’s coat.
Within a split second Mr. Cameron’s tape was lassoo’d around her neck with more skill than any western wrangler, the chalk thrust into her hand, followed with the statement, “You seem to know what you’re doing, Madam. The job is yours.”
And with a swoosh of the curtain he was gone, like a Savile Row Batman.
My friend, the young Mr. Cooper, was greeted with an uncomfortable stunned silence in the fitting room, as he squeezed ever tighter on his chalk.
After a request of forgiveness from The Good Sir, Mr. Cooper crept out to find Mr. Cameron for an indication of what to do next. On finding his master, he asked on what he should tell his stunned customer?
Mr. Cameron simply replied… “Get rid of the wife.”
Thanks, Alan, for that great story. Yes, it was worth every last drop of beer I had to buy you, in order to get you to tell it.
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