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Henry Poole - Founders of Savile Row

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Throughout the world 'a Savile Row suit' is universally understood to be the very best one can possibly buy. Henry Poole, a bespoke menswear tailor and the founder of the Row, is in a large part responsible for this international reputation. It prides itself in having a truly bespoke experience, where all items are made on the premises until today. Additionally, Henry Poole's can be considered a true symbol of British national identity, starting from the very beginning of its long history.

In 1806, James Poole, Henry Poole's father, opened a linen drapers in Everett St., Brunswick Square. By the time of the Battle of Waterloo, Poole's was making tunics and had set up as a military tailor. Afterwards, he opened an emporium in Regent St. in 1822, then later made his headquarters at Old Burlington St. Upon his death in 1846, his son, Henry, enlarged the premises and built a palatial showroom with a new entrance opening onto the adjoining street of Savile Row, thus beginning Poole's era on the Row.

With a characteristic British interest in art, Henry Poole's showroom was filled with ornate bronze, mirrors, sculptures and vases, in addition to rich carpeting, leather armchairs, frosted glass roof-lights and open fires in winter - everything conveyed discreet opulence, effortless elegance, with the highest distinctions the least showily displayed. Henry himself was present in the shop from half past three to five o'clock as the most suave and genial of hosts, providing claret, hock and cigars to clients, without direct charge. With his hospitality, it is not surprising that a contemporary newspaper said that 38 Savile Row was 'a great rendezvous for gilded and sporting youth', who treated the premises 'more like a club than a shop'.

With his love of anything to do with horses and his network of friendships in the sporting world, as well as his skill in cutting, sewing, trimming and fitting, Henry Poole began to make the name of Poole's into one of international renown. When his good friend 'Dandy' Jem Mason won the first Grand National horse race, his victory, fame and friendship with Henry offered the business all-important publicity. No doubt the nickname 'Dandy' was thanks to the tailoring skills of his friend's company. Wherever he went, Jem was kitted out in the best that Poole's could provide, and other young sporting men saw him and followed, buying their clothes from Poole's.

In addition to all of Henry Poole's acquaintances, as well as to British aristocracy, royalty from all over the world flocked to Poole's. Over the years, Poole's were granted 40 warrants of appointment as court tailor by royalty all over the world, starting with the French Emperor, Napoleon III in 1858. Other crowned heads included the Belgian King, King Amadeus I of Spain, Tsars Alexander II & III of Russia, as well as King Umberto I of Italy and the German Emperor Wilhelm I, among many others from Europe, the Middle and the Far East.

Among their many accomplishments, the emergence of the tuxedo could also be attributed to Henry Poole's. In 1860, Poole's made a short evening or smoking jacket for the Prince of Wales, which was later admired by a Mr. James Potter of Tuxedo Park, New York, who then had one made by the Prince's tailors, Henry Poole. After returning to New York, the jacket was soon copied by other members of the Tuxedo Park Club, thus it became known as the Tuxedo.

Upon Henry Poole's death in 1876, he was described by The Tailor and Cutter as 'head of the most noted tailoring firm in the world. He was tailor by appointment to all the crowned heads in the world of any note...'

By the early 1900's, with Henry Poole's cousin, Samuel Cundey, at the helm, the company was the largest establishment of its type in the world, employing 300 tailors and 14 cutters. In 1961, redevelopment led to the demolition of their original building and Poole's were forced to move to nearby Cork St. After a 20-year exile, they were able to return to their traditional home and in 1982 moved to a Victorian building at number 15 Savile Row, which they occupy until now.

Keeping in mind their long British heritage, several things stand out as being especially clear indicators of Poole's strong national identity. The first of these are the continuous ties they have had with the British royal family. Their connection with the British royal family started in 1863 with an appointment by Queen Victoria's eldest son, 18-year-old Edward, then the Prince of Wales, and subsequently King Edward VII. This event took place with a night at the theatre, where the Prince was in the audience of a play, where one of the characters was in the role of an adventurer. Many years later, Edward's grandson the Duke of Windsor told the outcome of the theatricals simply enough:

The acute royal eye caught quickly noticed that the adventurer's coat, in the piece, was well cut, and at the end of the play [Prince Edward] sent for the actor and asked him for the name of his tailor. The answer was Poole...

From then on, Poole's became the Prince's chief tailor. This was followed by warrants from most of Britain's crowned heads, including Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra, Kings George V and VI, as well as currently Queen Elizabeth II.

From the reign of Queen Victoria until now, Henry Poole's have been responsible for making Shrieval court dress for both men and women. In 1869 the Lord Chamberlain's office issued new guidelines governing the wearing of court dress, and in an effort to standardise the appearance of gentlemen attending at court, prescribed for the first time a suit of clothes cut from black silk velvet and trimmed with cut steel buttons. This new, more restrained style of dress became the regulation uniform for high sheriffs and retained some of the elements of dress from a previous age. Today, Poole's make the court dress to much the same standards set a century or more ago. Each suit is fully bespoke, cut and handmade from velvet, and trimmed with a choice of buttons and shoe buckles in the correct court patterns.

In addition, since receiving a royal warrant in 1869, Poole's has had a livery department, making garments for coachmen, footmen, chauffeurs, etc. They supply te eye-catching scarlet and gold livery worn in state occasions by the royal household's coachmen, walking grooms and postillions, and each piece is made almost entirely by hand. In recent years, they have re-introduced the livery department to continue the making of the state liveries, court dress for high sheriffs and ceremonial uniforms.

Many historically eminent British figures were also



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