22 September 2010

J.Simons: Traditional American Clothes

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.


Tabitha said...

"Second hand musty shite," with that "e" on the end spoken like a true Englishman! I'm laughing away here, I used to go to both those markets and pick up "musty shite." My mum used to go crazy when I came home with something from either of them, those were the days when with my Saturday pocket money I could buy a single and a bar of Dairy Milk - ah those halcyion days.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe I ever went into J Simons in my Barbour, but I certainly often used to visit after a good lunch and made many purchases over the years as a result, none regretted. I still have a pair of Walkover dirty bucks from 1983 and a grey and white stripe seersucker suit from a couple of years later (John saw me coming that time). Last thing bought, just before he closed, was a pair of Bills khakis. Salve atque vale.


P.S. Sorry you didn't like my French.

John Wesley said...

Thanks for giving us a bit more background than simply posting an image. A few words of commentary from your perspective make it more meaningful.

Silk Regimental said...

I like the vintage advertisement - it conveys longevity and trust.

Anonymous said...

Darling why not be your self and just say NIGGER MUSIC

A.E.F. said...

Admiral, a fine list of purveyors - you and your chums must have looked pretty smart. You must remember when Boden used to use his friends and relations to model the clothes in the catalogue. I remember my brother-in-law who was at Eton with him calling up and urging 'You must buy something - Johnny's working so hard!' I duly obliged and bought 14"collar shirts, my favourite was were a Brunswick Green Aertex i used to wear with a former bf's Guernsey.

Jean-Paul Séculaire said...

Interesting article. As someone said, a fine list of purveyors indeed! John Simons is actually working on a new range of clothes now, with a heavy 1950s/1960s Ivy influence. Should soon be available to buy in his new shop and online: www.johnsimons.co.uk