Getting to Know Darren Tiernan - 30 Years a Cutter
Spring 2018 sees our ever friendly Senior Cutter, Darren Tiernan celebrate 30 years in the business. Darren is one of the most respected figures within London’s shirtmaking community and a key member of the Budd team. When he joined our cutting room above the shop at the start of the decade, it didn’t feel so much as he was a new boy, more that he had taken up his rightful place. His laugh is infectious and his style and eye for a good shirt, impeccable.
To celebrate Darren’s thirty year anniversary as a cutter, Budd has commissioned a new, exclusive shirting, designed by Darren himself, in collaboration with his fellow cutting team and our good friends at Swiss mill, Alumo. It is borne out of nostalgia for a cloth that was popular at the inception of his career and a pattern that has endured through the years.The colourway has a vibrant, versatile pop that translates perfectly into many styles. Learn more about the shirting on our Thirtieth Anniversary Cloth page.
Darren recently featured in our short film on bespoke shirt making at Budd and we feel it perfectly encapsulates his reassuring nature and mastery of his craft. Affable and cheery as he is, Darren is not one to shout from the rafters or blow his own trumpet, so we thought we would throw some questions at him to learn a little more. Watch out for his love of Soyella...
How and why did you become a shirtmaker?
I started my apprenticeship 30 years ago at a shirtmakers called Bowring Arundel on Savile Row. I didn't have a great relationship with school, and didn't do great academically, however, I did hone my stand-up comedy skills there! Back then, if you weren't university bound, there were careers officers who would help you find training or apprenticeship schemes. As I excelled at art, they thought a job in tailoring or shirtmaking would be perfect for me. I arrived for my interview an hour early, before anyone else and got the job on the spot.
What was different about the trade then? What were/are advantages of then/now?
The main difference is the trade. The shirtcutters’ circle in London has become much, much smaller. When I first started, I had to go and visit the different shirtmakers and introduce myself. I remember coming to Budd and meeting Mr Chalmers (John Tucker called him "Charming Chalmers" in light of his no nonsense approach), John and Andy. There was a much bigger pool of knowledge and people you could go and see back then.
Has anything changed in terms of approach/methodology?
I don't think anything has changed in our approach or the way we cut and make the shirts. It is one of the reasons why people still come to us. We cut all of our patterns from scratch and don't use block patterns. We still cut using shears and knives. I think it is these old school traditions of cutting and making that people like.
Whose style do you admire?
I think Cary Grant was the best dressed man, but also think Fred Astaire looked great. I always love black and white tie, so simple but so elegant. I still love old James Bond movies and looking at Connery and Moore’s shirts; there are some really old, classic cloths and styling that are unbeatable even now.
Whose style do you loathe?
I don't loathe anyone's style. We are all individuals. One man’s meat is another man’s poison!
Have customers changed over time? How?
Yes. We are seeing a lot more young people now which is encouraging.
For legal reasons, no comment!
I can’t specify one. I am incredibly fortunate that all of my customers are very nice and very kind to me. I seem to have a good relationship with all of them and several friendships too.
Favourite shirt to cut?
My ideal afternoon would be spent cutting a dozen white 170s Soyella cotton shirts. That is like therapy to me!
What are your five favourite shirts that you couldn’t live without?
My plain white soyella shirt, a pale blue soyella shirt, my new white Alumo seersucker, and my casual Dunluce linen shirts. I have loads of them. As you can probably tell, I am also a huge Soyella fan.
Soyella by Alumo is the Rolls Royce of shirt cloths in my opinion, but their new seersucker is becoming a favourite as well. I sound biased towards Alumo, but I really do love their cloths and ethos.
What shirt best works for you?
I always say the best shirt you'll have in your wardrobe is a plain white one.
Preferred collar and preferred cuff?
I think less is more, so a straightforward square double cuff works best. I have developed the perfect collar suitable for our hedge fund gentlemen who come in and rarely wear ties, yet still want their collar to sit up under a jacket or sweater. I practised on my own shirts to try and get this right and have now got a good, fairly deep, semi-cutaway collar which does just the job but still works well with a tie too.
How do you see the future of the trade?
I think it looks healthy. At Budd we have a great young cutter in James Macauslan who has an appetite to try new things and who can also sew, something that is quite rare in a cutter today. There are also a lot more young people wanting to come into shirts as opposed to tailoring today which is encouraging and gives a small bit of pendulum swing in our favour.
Who would be your dream person to cut a shirt for?
I would love to have met and made something for Muhammad Ali and George Best as they were idols of mine.
Worst customer experience?
There hasn't been one. Yet.
What do you most love about your job?
I have met extraordinary people from all walks of life, travelled to and stayed in places that I would never have had the opportunity to do in any other job. Seeing a finished product that someone is happy with and enjoys wearing is the major payback.
What most annoys you about today’s menswear?
Slim fit shirts. So much of the time they are not slim, they are tight!
What do you love most about Budd?
We are the last bastion of the old West End shirtmaking tradition. Head Cutter, John Butcher has been with the firm for 50 years and store manager Andy, in the trade for 40 years. The wealth of knowledge that they pass on to us means that it will continue and won't be lost, as is so often the case with old trades.
The camaraderie amongst our team is an energising thing. We are friends as opposed to just work colleagues and that counts for so much.
How is the experience of working at Budd different to working for other houses?
What is your 30th Anniversary cloth of choice? Why have you chosen it?
I have worked on a lovely check with our friends at Alumo. It's a real classic that I remember cutting absolutely loads as an apprentice. A clean, fresh pattern useable under a suit but also worn casually at the weekend. It is a small scarlet and blue tattersall check on a white ground, woven as a 2 ply superior cotton. It is the perfect crossover cloth if ever there was one.
What makes you tick? E.g Football team, family, gym, food etc…
My family has been my biggest achievement. My wife has given me two great kids who are both at university now. My next love is Chelsea football club; I still try and play vets football as much as my old knees will allow. I also go to the gym 5 days a week, more for health than beauty now, it also allows me to partake in my other loves which are cooking and wine! If I wasn’t a shirtmaker, I would probably have become a chef.