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4 March 2009
By Michael Holland
I must be losing it. I went to an interview at one of London's top tailors dressed like I'd just come off a building site: jeans, boots, bomber jacket. What was I thinking? Had I lost all sense of decorum? It was like turning up at Manze's without an appetite; it is just not the done thing. And this tailor made sure he spoke about how people's dress had become far too casual over the years, making me feel worse, but also nostalgic about having Tonic Mohair suits made as a rite of passage in my youth.
My scruffiness wasn't helped by George's very dapper PR man being on hand; not to vet my questions but to create a welcoming atmosphere, organise refreshments and explain the meaning of 'prevarication' to local actor Johnny Harris who had come along to say hello on his way to a casting, and who, by the looks of it, had himself dressed down to make me feel better about myself.
George Dyer could have had a different future from his Peckham upbringing if his dad had not, 'kicked me up the tookuss and made me get a trade'.
The trade George chose was tailoring and, after being handed a broom and a kettle on the first day to test his attitude and mettle, quickly stood out from other young tailors' apprentices at Dombey & Son in Fleet Street. The governor, Mr Gerry, soon offered him the opportunity of day release at the London College of Fashion. 'Music to me ears, weren't it?' says George. The rest of the week was spent under the wing of the cutter/fitter honing his craft; learning tailoring and how to serve clients. That education lasted twelve years.
When Mr Gerry passed on the two sons sold off the company bit by bit until George Dyer became 'surplus to requirements' and on the dole. Fortunately a friend came to the rescue and took him on at Sidney Fox tailors in Peckham where he stayed for another twelve years.
At that point his partner wanted to move up into the City but George, having started his career there, thought this was the right time to go it alone. After making enquiries about a third generation tailor's shop in Walworth Road he bought it. Fourteen years on George Dyer is now well and truly established as The Threadneedle Man.
The name came from when he travelled to work as a young man and used to pass Threadneedle Street: 'I always thought that would make a good name for a shop if I ever had my own…Now I sometimes get called Freddy Needles,' he laughs.
The shop walls are covered with signed, framed photos of sporting, theatre and film stars: Boxer Amir Khan writes, 'The Best Tailor in London'; World Champion and Bermondsey Boy David Haye (pictured right) claims George is, The Undisputed Champion of Tailoring. Haye also sent me a message through the ‘News’ office, saying Schwarzennegger once asked him where he got his suit from when he met him at a fight in Las Vegas.
There are photos of musicians such as Suggs and Dennis Greaves in their suits. Local artist Ed Gray told me his ThreadneedleMan wedding suit got more comments than his bride's wedding dress.
I contacted past client Robert Elms who wrote that George makes 'Very fine suits'. The plaudits came from everyone and everywhere. I learnt of customers from Scandinavia and Bermuda. Mod revivalists from all over the country seek him out for a bespoke suit.
Over more than thirty years George Dyer has evolved his own signature suit that takes on influences from many styles but still has a distinctive Mod feel to it. He wants a look that stands out as a ThreadneedleMan suit.
He modelled his own to show me. It stood out.
He then paraded another more dressy suit that he keeps for big nights out and this would definitely attract attention: 'If you're out with customers and they tell people you're their tailor, you've got to be able to prove yourself, ain'tcha?' Future plans are to put his signature suit into the big stores along with the Paul Smiths and Jasper Conrans. Right now he is happy putting smiles on people's faces as they don the finished article.
He gave me a long explanation of the difference between made-to-measure and bespoke. Along with using the traditional bespoke tailoring techniques George Dyer fits a suit to the mind as well as the body. 'Fashion labels dictate their own styles and do not reflect the client's personality; I do.' Nuff said, innit?
I had a great time at ThreadneedleMan's. George Dyer is full of charisma and generous too - I came away with signed books by two of his clients (Mark Baxter and Paolo Hewitt). I also left with knowing I had been in the presence of a man that had a passion for good cloth and good clothes.
ThreadneedleMan, 187a Walworth Road, SE17
0207 701 9181.
Suits start at £650 and can go up to £2000+
RAILTON ROAD SE24,
Leasehold, For Sale
TEA TRADE WHARF SE1, £1,295,000 , For Sale
TOWER BRIDGE WHARF E1W, £550 , per week, For Sale
PROVIDENCE SQUARE SE1, £1,600,000 , For Sale