The world’s best-dressed film producer has written a book about menswear! Jonathan Sothcott, known for recent British gangster films like The Krays: Dead Man Walking and Nemesis, wrote a book called The Jermyn Street Shirt. While there are excellent books on Savile Row, the famous street of tailors, this is the first book written about London’s second-most famous street of menswear, Jermyn Street. Jermyn Street is where most of London’s most famous shirtmakers operate.
The Jermyn Street Shirt is published by The History Press, who sent me a copy to review.
I found the book to be informative and entertaining. Sothcott breaks down the details that make a Jermyn Street shirt what it is without telling you how to make a shirt, he provides background on shirtmakers, he discusses how to care for a shirt, and he tells much more. The book is not just for those who wear bespoke shirts; it’s about dressing well on any budget. Sothcott offers tips that anyone can learn from. The book is very well researched, but it is also full of Sothcott’s firsthand knowledge that comes from decades of wearing fine shirts.
Sothcott’s personal style takes its cues from Roger Moore’s. Like Moore, Sothcott usually wears a jacket and tie in his day-to-day life, but on occasion he’s more relaxed in a safari shirt or a jumper. He wears clothes from many sources. Thanks to Moore, Sothcott is a longtime customer of shirtmaker Frank Foster. Sothcott used Moore’s tailor Douglas Hayward when he was still alive. He also wears Bond-inspired blazers from Bond-clothier Brioni. While he is inspired by Moore’s and Bond’s styles, he has his own but quintessentially British way of wearing his clothes.
As someone who knows Sothcott personally, I can tell he has put a lot of himself into the book. He’s qualified to write the book, but he includes certain references to people that I don’t imagine many others would mention. So it’s not a book that anyone could have written. The book is coloured with Sothcott’s decided and often amusing opinions. Sothcott’s own views come from the traditions of Jermyn Street and are not out of place. There’s little in his own ideas that I take issue with. His personality is present throughout the book, sometimes making it read like an editorial.
There are histories on all of the shirtmarkers in Jermyn Street and in the Piccadilly Arcade, which is essentially an extension of Jermyn Street. The only shirtmaker outside of Jermyn Street to be detailed is Stephen Lachter. Other great non-Jermyn Street shirtmakers like Sean O’Flynn and Sothcott’s own shirtmaker Frank Foster are only mentioned in passing. Frank Foster are not in Jermyn Street but aredown the hill from it in Pall Mall. I have owned shirts (or ties) by more than half the brands mentioned in this book, and knowing more about the brands behind the clothes makes wearing them a more meaningful experience.
Most importantly, Sothcott mentions James Bond throughout the book at any chance he gets. There’s a chapter on Bond’s shirtmaker Turnbull & Asser, who are the best-known shirtmakers in Jermyn Street, and there is plenty of the necessary talk of their involvement with Bond as well as with other iconic films. There’s a history of James Bond and his favourite cuff, the cocktail cuff. Sothcott even introduces us to a rather obscure name for the cuff: the ‘penis cuff’.
The spreads of beautiful photos of shirts, fabrics and more by Rikesh Chauhan makes this a splendid coffee table book, and his photos are supplemented by the occasional photo or vintage advertisement from some of the shirtmakers featured in the book. I need to go back through the book and pay closer attention to the imagery. The book is worth having for both the words and the photography.
I wish the book went into more of the finer details that make Jermyn Street shirts special. A number of Jermyn Street shirtmakers, including Turnbull & Asser, Hilditch & Key, Harvie & Hudson and others, stitch their plackets further from the edge than they stitch the collar and cuffs, which visually anchors the centre of the shirt. Many shirtmakers on Jermyn Street place the link holes of their double cuffs close to the cuff’s fold rather than in the centre so they can better show off cufflinks and prevent the cuff from sliding down the wrist. These are details I love about Jermyn Street shirts that are not mentioned in the book, though I can understand if these details are too specialised for most people to care about.
I also wish the book had an index. I feel that it’s needed because this book serves as a reference book.
The book is a must-have for any fan of classic menswear. Reading the colourful history of Jermyn Street makes me long to return there. I’m thankful to have a Turnbull & Asser store where I live in New York, but I miss the history and the immersive experience of Jermyn Street itself.
The book is now available from bookshops in the UK, including Amazon. The book is not officially available in the United States until February 2022, but it can be shipped from Amazon UK for roughly the same price as the US price, if not less.
I hope Charles Tyrwhitt gets a mention. I’m not a customer there anymore but I think they did a lot to improve the options and accessibility of a Jermyn St shirt (though not made in England) at the budget end of the spectrum. Certainly true in the US. Similarly priced competitors like TM Lewin don’t even really have a presence here. I find their never-ending discounting/sales a bit distasteful, but even so….
If money is (virtually) no object and a reasonable production time is desired, T&A and Emma Willis are probably the tops.
Yes, Charles Tyrwhitt is mentioned. TM Lewin may not be in the US, but Sothcott also discusses what they’ve done for accessibility on a very large scale.
One must add Budd and New & Lingwood too….
Hilditch & Key and Harvie & Hudson are also up there for shirtmakers, and there are others too, all detailed in the book.
Charles Tyrwhitt is/was great for the price. They were the first place I bought a lot of dress shirts when I started working and having to wear them on a daily basis. They lasted long enough, and while their fabrics weren’t luxurious, I have never cared for luxurious fabrics. I wanted business appropriate and durable, and they were both. In fact my only real complaint about them was cuffs were way too big on me. I still have several in my closet (French cuff shirts which I don’t wear regularly) and one white twill double button cuff that is in my regular rotation although it will be replaced soon. I did extensive research when I first graduated and I couldn’t find a better option during my first five years working for the price. I haven’t bought one in years and I don’t know what their current quality and competition is, but circa 2009-2014 they were my go-to for business dress shirts.
Jtkuga – where do you normally get your shirts nowadays?
The “penis cuff” eh?
I was confused for a moment, then understood. Don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at my wardrobe of cocktail cuff shirts the same again!
“Yes I’d like to order a shirt with the Doctor No Penis cuff”
I hope they have equivalent cuffs for women…
I find it ridiculous by the author to draw that parallel and print it in the book. I fail to see any interest in that.
You must be fun at parties. It’s actually a phrase bandied about amongst Shirtmakers on Jermyn Street and beyond… they have this wonderful thing called a sense of humour…
Hi Jonathan, look forward to reading the book.
It’s always surprised me some of the more mainstream/lower tier Jermyn St brands have not tried to cash in on the Bond connection and offer cocktail cuffs on their RTW shirts. Do you have any thoughts on that?
I’d always thought Bond was the epitome of masculinity, but now we know why…
From a deleted scene in Diamonds are Forever… “Oh James, how many hands do you have?”
Well now I can’t unsee it…
Back in the day I recall one (not very good) cheaper shirt shop called Crichton opposite where Kent Haste is now on Sackville Street which offered cocktail cuffs off the peg and M2M but what they were attached to was not great! I think the truth is though that the majority of people who shop at Lewins et al do so because they *have* to wear a shirt for work not because they want to – so simple whites and blues with buttons or cuff links is where its at… similar to what is offered in Marks & Spencer but with that Jermyn Street hallmark of quality…
Personally I like the fact that they’re under the radar…
The book is terrific. My copy came from “The Book Depository”. The discounted cost was $38.40 (versus $45 on Amazon), with free shipping to the US, and no tax. About eight to ten business days for delivery. I have been “told” that the Book Depository is owned by Amazon. Not sure how this all works business wise.
I have considered buying this book from my local waterstones, but I haven’t done so. Your review has helped me to decide a firm yes. I follow The Bond Experience and a few other Bond related websites. I am also looking to purchase your own recent book. Thanks