Charlie Chaplin, 1924, the image of effortless style.
The operative word is effortless.
In truth, Chaplin’s style was only achieved through the superlative tailoring of the English Savile Row firm, Anderson & Sheppard.
As the new book, Anderson & Sheppard: A Style is Born, edited by Graydon Carter and Cullen Murphy, makes clear, the venerable British tailors shunned actors and other show-biz types as vulgarians. But soon enough, the vast wealth of Hollywood’s elite broke down the walls of class snobbery and a who’s who of male Hollywood royalty—more apt to pay their bills than the increasingly impoverished British aristocracy—became life-long Anderson & Sheppard clients.
Here are just a few of the Hollywood males who beat a path to No. 30 Savile Row for the painstaking, detailed craftmanship of this exclusive firm.
An early client, Rudolph Valentino spent a fortune on exotic cars and even more on his wardrobe.
One of the best dressed men of his generation, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., nearly outshines his wife Joan Crawford in sartorial spleandor.
Gary Cooper's aw shucks image was bolstered by the superlative Anderson & Sheppard tailors whose soft drape complimented Cooper's six-foot three-inch frame. Cooper's reference to A&S—a requirement—was the Countess di Frasso, his lover, who, after Coop, moved on to Bugsy Siegel.
Fred Astaire field-tested his clothing right in the A&S shop. The dancer would slip on his dancing shoes and then bust a few elegant if strenuous moves. If the new suit did not permit ease of movement, and if the collar did not lie perfectly flat even under the highest leaps, Astaire would send it back for alterations.
The great director Victor Fleming, a man's man who was a role model for Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and Clark Gable, looks splendid in his A&S jacket and trousers, as he directs Vivien Leigh on the set of “Gone With the Wind.” Fleming got fed up with Leigh's constant demands for rewrites and told her to take the script and shove it up her you know what.
Of course, the most elegant man in Hollywood, Cary Grant, was a devoted A&S client. With Rosalind Russell in 1942, Grant wears a beautiful and understated A&S pinstripe. Notice that the suit does not wear him.
Anderson & Sheppard were and are exclusively men's tailors. But Marlene Dietrich was having none of that and convinced her lover of the moment, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., to blaze a path to A&S as her reference. After a few brandies, the stiff-lipped British tailors agreed to work with Dietrich—as long as she ordered men's suits. Which is just what she did.
Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a well-tailored and inspirational Shabbat.