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.