Throughout my life, I have sought out the best, most interesting, exquisite and often colourful garments. There is so much choice and history to clothing that it constantly amazes me how many people limit themselves to a white bread and butter diet of textiles and attire. Tweed, one of my favoured fabrics has attributes like no other cloth, hardy, sporty, colourful and often entertaining, but like so much in life you have to take the rough with the smooth and the most authentic tweeds can be a little scratchy sometimes. You certainly would not want to be without a shirt when wearing them.
Ever since my school days, I longed to have clothes tailored for me. One of my enduring aspirations was to rise above a mass-made average and wear one-offs. Cash, earned as a bicycle courier in holidays, did not quite stretch this far, but it did enable me to buy some beautiful cotton and start experimenting on the family sewing machine. The result of my first sewing foray was certainly original. It vaguely resembled a shirt but the line of the French seams was more slalom than schuss, the gussets a little wobbly and the yoke, lumpy. Nonetheless, I wore my creation with pride, my desire for skilled tailoring now intensified.
Jump ten years forward and my chosen career as a photographer was on a roll. Now with cash in my pocket, it was the time to look smart and original. A little asking around led me to Budd and although I must have passed by its premises hundreds of times before, I had no idea that the unassuming shop in Piccadilly was the home to shirt makers of the utmost skill, cutting shirts right there, on the very premises. The shop, with its dark wood Solomonic column display certainly appeared to be a rare find, the shirting paraphernalia definitely piqued my interest. Like finding a sole surviving species, stiff collars and studs stood alongside mitred cuffs and as I gazed in awe, the most charming staff inquired as to my shirting requirements. I wanted it all from piqué dress shirts to tab and bar collars.
Over the years I experimented with all possible shirting features, the patience of Mr Levitt, matched only by his skill. The choice of house, cotton fabrics was ample, yet, I sourced linens and shirtings in a whole array of designs and colours and had each one made up into a different shirt cut. Double cuffs with extra long gauntlets and curious shapes, wide collars, narrow collars, removable collars, dart seams, pleating, there was simply nothing to faze the chaps at Budd. Each shirt arrived beautifully made up, with superlative seams that I could only dream of sewing myself.
Over the years I developed my own small round soft Penny collar. I found this great for wearing both turned up in a devil may care manor, with a silk scarf chucked around my neck or looking rather elegant when worn with a tie. I requested a pocket for my light meter and sleeve gauntlets just the right depth to roll my sleeves back when work required. One cuff was even made slightly bigger to accommodate a birthday watch.
Mr Levitt retired several years, although Mr Butcher, a Budd stalwart (with over 50 years service) remains and new cutters have been taken on. Amongst these is “young” cutter, James Macauslan. James came from the tailor Huntsman several years ago and has excelled in the art of shirt making. With a new perspective and an eye for detail, James continues to adapt patterns to my whim. My original card patterns are still used but folded or added to with a ‘Rock of Eye’ skill enabling them to spookily shadow my physique.
Above the shop floor, in the eaves, patterns are laid over shirting and each separate piece cut with extreme accuracy, using razor sharp knives regularly honed on a whetstone. As cotton does not have much give, the room for accuracy is vitally narrow. Cotton strips are used to neatly tie up the bundles before sending them down to Andover. Leafy Hampshire is home to Budd’s own workshop and where you can hear the gentle hum of concentration and sewing machines, as the sound of a dozen shirt makers mingles with the working of local honey bees, both in their own way creating something highly desirable.
Today, my photography career has given way to my own clothing and cloth house, Dashing Tweeds and my early dreams are a flourishing reality. The weave based business bears fruit. My wardrobe grows, yet my shirts are still Budd.
Guy Hills is both a photographer and menswear maverick. He co-founded cloth house, Dashing Tweeds just over a decade ago and his designs both in cloth and tailoring ever since have seen him become one of London’s most prolific, menswear visionaries. Guy combines street style with Savile Row, his experience as a keen cyclist ensuring that a good dose of practicality is also added into the mix. If you are looking for a good definition and embodiment of the word Dandy, then look no further that the esteemed and insouciant Mr Hills.