Some years ago Kim, a deft touch with a needle and thread, made me a shirt for Christmas. For a pattern she used a shirt – on it’s last legs, sort of. The replacement was lovely; a rich tangerine silk, with a classic point collar and button cuffs. Oddly, the sleeves were a good four inches too long, but Kim had allowed for this by wrapping with it a pair of expanding armbands.
A good few years later and I have just taken delivery of the first shirt – since my school days when I suspect my arms were longer in relation to my shirt sleeves – of a shirt that fits, beautifully; in a textured pale blue cotton, tailored to my shape in every way, my name printed on a small silk label sewn into the hem, and with cuffs that stop, as if by magic, just above my thumbs. It arrived folded around and clipped to a piece of card, plastic studs in the cuffs, an embroidered silk band holding it all together, and inside a white drawstring pouch a pair of collar stays.
It was made by Regent Tailoring, a small independent retailer in Salisbury. The sort of fashionably manly emporium I didn’t think existed outside London. Perish the thought. Regent, a thin, narrow shop on three levels, on a red brick high street, a modern man’s outfitters that takes the silhouette of country casuals very seriously. Mixing and matching jean cut cords, penny loafers and roll neck cable knit sweaters, with hacking jackets, stout Cheaney boots, and flamboyant waistcoats (aka vests). That’s right, we’re into that sublime sub-culture of men’s tailoring where Connery’s 007 meets Steve McQueen’s Thomas Crown. In fact, the James Bond connection is more palpable than that.
Owner Jason Regent’s grandfather, Frank, a handsome man with a dash of actor Nigel Green about him, had been butler to 007 author Ian Flemming.
Grandson Jason, who cut his bespoke teeth at London’s Ede & Ravenscroft, has an eye for detail. Next on my shopping list is Regent’s covert coat, with four horn buttons, and a ticket pocket, and I was pleased to discover no velvet collar. “Instead,” proclaims the website, “we have put a black alcantra leather under the collar, a detail you will see on a cold day when you put your collar up.” It’s little touches like that, that underplay male elegance, that set Regent apart.
Among the accessories on the ground floor is a selection of Cuban cigars and single malt whiskys. Ascending the stairs took me past racks of sweaters, tweed and wax cotton jackets, fur lined boots and the sort of luggage you’d expect to be strapped to the boot of an open topped MG. There is a women’s department on the top floor, the cause of some complaints from women customers objecting to having to climb so high.
Assistant Will Tattersall, possibly named after the sporting check (I forgot to ask) oversaw the measuring up. Under his guidance I opted for a fashionable – with a nod to the sixties – short point collar, and single notched cuffs. Finally, Will shortened the length so that I wouldn’t (as is the norm with billowing dress shirts) have the feeling that I have a pillowcase stuffed down my trousers.
I had planned for cream, but worried I would make a mistake I opted to return home with a selection of swatches. Among them a textured pale blue cotton that Will said he had himself recently had a shirt made up in. It proved to be a no brainer. Without hesitation Kim chose Will’s pale blue and a month later, almost to the day, my shirt arrived special delivery.
I love it, although I am having difficulty adjusting to sleeves that fit. When I look along my arms, where there used to be folds of unnecessary fabric, I can see my hands.
Regent Tailoring, 73 New Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP1 2PH. 01722 335154. Bespoke shirts from £120.