If you can picture Covent Garden, London in the mid-1980s, you can easily imagine a group of young floppy-haired Barboured Sloanes, perhaps the worse for wear for drink, entering the J.Simons shop for a first look round.
The preppy window display along Russell Street was enticing enough, but the interior of the store was filled from bow to stern with a magnificent collection of tweed jackets, loafers, OCBDs, grey flannels, and multi-coloured jumpers. The two or three crop-haired, vaguely foreign-looking employee-chaps milling about inside the store were approachable and helpful. If the Jazz-pose and Negrophilia for which the shop was famous were on display, we certainly did not notice.
Much of the merchandise looked second-hand, and I'm sure some of it was. One impression that remains with me even today is that many of the clothing items, especially the jackets and trousers, seem to have been designed for men short of stature and small of limb.
Over the years J.Simons became our source for Sebago loafers, Sperry Topsiders, and the odd jumper. And that's about it. The rest of our kit we acquired elsewhere, from Blazer, Thomas Pink, Hackett, Boden, Gieves & Hawkes, Barbour, Façonnable, Polo, or second-hand musty shite picked up at Camden and Kensington Markets. Sam Walker in Covent Garden offered for a time a large selection of authentic clothing items, including retro leather jackets, blazers, and cravats in glass cases in the cellar.
The J.Simons boutique, one soon realised, was in a particularly odd position, but one that made a bit of sense. Representing Ivy Style in the UK, it was an English interpretation of American collegiate style which in turn itself was derived directly from English sartorial traditions. All roads lead back to England. There's no getting past it. And rightly so.