Savile Row

All That for a Bag of Sand

Luke Hall

Oscar Wilde once said that ‘if a man cannot be a work of art, he can at least wear one.’ It would seem then, on this street, that a man can be a walking Caravaggio.

Savile Row could clothe the kings; it is a centrepiece for sartor, and property of style. Since the 1800s, this street has been one of the leading authorities in fashion, but a top proprietor in open-wallet surgery. Laced with tailors, inhalers, and up-market failures, I was out of my depth. On one of the windows was a man in a grey flannel suit, an English gentleman, and I imagined him coming back from his daily hunt for a salary worth dressing for, and demanding a light (even though he has one of his own).


A mere window snoop was not enough for me, I had to venture forth, and feast my eyes on that which I could never afford. There was no better place to start than the founding father of Savile Row: Gieves & Hawkes. Inside this two-floored marble empire, hung so many jackets I felt like I was getting gang-banged by the stitchwork. One look at the three grand price tag and I bolted to its next of kin.

Kilgore, established 200 years ago, also known as “the raping of the chequebook”, buck the traditional London market, boasting an eye-watering price. Upon negotiating my way through two giant front doors, like bouncers in a club too attractive for me, I needed a moment for my arms to recover. The shop was a villain’s lair, complete with glass walls and stone furniture. I braced myself for the criminal mastermind who would lunge out at me from the fitting rooms, a scar from cheek to cheek, and monologuing as he feeds me to the shark. The saleswoman burned her eyes in the back of my head, she could smell the overdraft on me, she could sense my penury. When she eventually relinquished her gaze, I darted to the exit and landed back in the gutter where I belonged.


As I hobbled on, Savile Row had yet another trick up its sleeve. Across the way, I saw a man who I can only assume had also heard the prestige. I watched in disbelief as this man, not much older than I, tore out pages from a tabloid newspaper and taped it to himself. I must confess, I admired his penny saving tactics, even if he probably held a club card at Broadmoor.

It came as a shock, however, to discover amongst the finery, some of the most absurd excuses for art a balding midget might come by. A gallery, unlike any I’ve seen. I’m no snob when it comes to art, and I love to witness a piece of work reach its full potential. However, when an “artist” shovels up some sand and lumps it into a corner, and when an “artist” folds up some blankets and labels it ‘Pile,’ I fail to see the potential in that. The titles, or lack thereof, only prove further that they couldn’t give a toss. For example, the artist of three separate shadings of grass must have been turning in his sleep, exhausting all of his creative strength, before he arrived at ‘Grass 1,’ ‘Grass 2,’ and ‘Grass 3.’


As I headed back, I was reminded again of that English gentleman in his grey flannel suit, holding out his cigarette for someone else to light. It seemed only apt to take the lighter photo in front of one of the most renowned tailors on Savile Row – The Huntsman.



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