Web Page No 2208
3rd November 2015
Top Picture: Commercial Road with Dunns the outfitters on the left. Note M&S in the background and the large clock hanging over Samuels the jewellers.
Second Picture: Burtons
Third Picture: John Colliers the Fifty Shilling taylors. Could not find a picture of the Portsmouth store so this is Merthyr Tydfil
In the 1950s and 60s the average business man bought a new suit every couple of years or so and in 1965 the menswear industry sold over thirteen million suits. Most of these were bought at one of a large number of menswear chains which were common on Britain's high streets right up until the 1970s. However the average working man would have just one suit which would have to last for years, one sports jacket for casual wear and his working clothes.
The most well known and most prolific of these High Street taylors was Montague Burton a firm which still exists today as just Burtons. However, changes in tastes mean that formal suits now make up only a very small proportion of the what the chain sells today.
On a 1960s high street you might find one of these shops below, listed in order of the number of stores they had:
Burton (still around today)
John Collier (this was originally the famous Fifty Shilling Tailors). It was rebranded and relaunched as 'Collier' in the 1980s but this did not work and the shops closed in 1985]
HepworthTailors [converted to Next Stores in 1984]
Dunn & Cowell known for men’s hats and sporting gear [closed 1995]
Willerby & Co [more of an upmarket tailor]
Weaver to Wearer
Jackson [owned by Burton]
Harry Fenton [a favourite Mod label]
You may notice that very few of these shops still survive today.
Burton was by far the largest chain. In 1965 there were 511 Burton Tailoring shops in Britain. Sir Montague Burton founded the empire in 1900 with one shop in Chesterfield and the ambition to bring made to measure tailoring to the average man in the street. He succeeded and the business prospered.
The second largest chain was John Collier. There were 331 John Collier stores surviving in 1965. John Collier had a similar history to Montague Burton. It was founded by Sir Henry Price in 1907 also trading from just one store this time in Silsden, Yorkshire. He traded under the name of the Fifty Shilling Tailors. In 1953 the giant United Draper Stores Limited acquired the Fifty Shilling Tailors and changed the name to John Collier. John Colliers was sold to Hanson in 1983 and finally to the Burton Group in 1985, which then closed its rival.
Buying a suit from one of these shops was not quite what you might imagine. There was no tailor actually working in these shops and there were no workrooms at the back. The customer went into the shop to be measured by an assistant. This process then took about half an hour, after which the sales assistant sent the measurements to the factory which then manufactured the suit. The customer then arranged to go back to the shop for a fitting a week or two later. This is where the customer tried on the suit for the first time and agreed to any alterations with the sales assistant. It was quite common for the customer to have two or three fittings and the whole process could take about six weeks. For most men over thirty the smart suit remained the only way to dress for going out and Burton or John Collier suits were good value for money and lasted reasonably well.
The factory was an important part of the shops and the economies of scale allowed Burton, Collier and Hepworth to offer good quality suits at very reasonable prices. In 1967 Burton employed 20,000 people in its tailoring factories and shops.
A suit from Burton's cost £17 10s (or £17.50) in 1966, about £225 in today's money. You would really struggle to find a made to measure suit for that price today. If you went to a more upmarket shop in the 1960s, such as Austin Reed or Simpson, you would still receive the traditional service complete with several fittings. You would pay considerably more for this, around £50, or £640 in today's money. The end product, according to Which? magazine, was only slightly better.
Suits from Savile Row tailors were cut more generously and offered a slightly better fit than those made by the average high street tailors. But Burton was only slightly behind in terms of the quality of material and wear.
Then along came teenage fashion with ready-made clothes sold in both male and female boutiques. In our area probably one of the first of these shops for men was The Shirt King, I remember one shop in Charlotte Street and a local one in Cosham High Street and these shops sold more than shirts because Its first-ever January Sale cutaway shirts were 12/6d, boots 49/6d, Casual Jackets 50/- (£2.50) and denim shirts 25/-.
More and more memories!!!
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News and Views:
On this day 3rd November 1960-1965
On 3/11/1960 the number one single was Only the Lonely - Roy Orbison and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Bootsie & Snudge (Granada) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was first vertical take-off aircraft tested in Surrey
On 3/11/1961 the number one single was Walkin' Back to Happiness - Helen Shapiro and the number one album was The Shadows - Shadows. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 3/11/1962 the number one single was Telstar - The Tornadoes and the number one album was Out of the Shadows - Shadows. The top rated TV show was The Royal Variety Performance (BBC) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 3/11/1963 the number one single was You'll Never Walk Alone - Gerry & the Pacemakers and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was Beatlemania born.
On 3/11/1964 the number one single was (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me - Sandy Shaw and the number one album was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 3/11/1965 the number one single was Tears - Ken Dodd and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.