FIT FOR A KING
A LETTER FROM PATRICK GRANT, COMMUNITY CLOTHING FOUNDER
Whatever your views on the monarchy, one thing is for sure: the coronation has been a fantastic boost for the business of some of Britain’s longest established clothing manufacturers.
I was lucky to be asked to present a one-off BBC documentary going behind the scenes at the making or updating (EIIRs need to be changed to CIIIRs) of uniforms for the many servicemen and women who will be taking part in the celebration.
We’ve followed the stories of four servicemen, one servicewoman, and one four-legged participant (Seamus the Irish wolfhound, mascot of the Irish Guards, who needs a new tunic, too). I also got to find out a bit about the uniform of my great-grandad, who was the Bandmaster of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.
We’ve seen beautiful scarlet Melton for the guards’ tunics being woven and dyed at AW Hainsworth in Leeds. It’s a factory I know well, as it makes the wool we use in our men’s peacoats. We’ve also seen Firmin & Sons of Birmingham, which was founded in 1655 (between the reigns of Charles I and Charles II). It makes metal buttons and hat badges for the military, as well as cavalry cuirasses and helmets that are still made on a blacksmith’s elm first used when the business was founded.
We spent time with Kashket & Partners of London, a fourth-generation manufacturer of ceremonial uniforms. The team of about 50 staff make and update everything from Beefeaters’ tunics to the velvet and gold State Coats worn by Drum Majors who will lead the bands during the coronation parade. I know dozens more companies that have been working flat out to get everything ready for the day, including Try & Lilly in Liverpool, which has been running at full capacity for months in preparation. We know this because it was supposed to be making hats for us, but we’ve been bumped months back down the queue.
I love factories, especially unique ones like these, and it has been an enormous privilege to meet the staff and see the incredible work of these businesses. They form a rich and vital part of our manufacturing heritage, and they must always be supported and preserved.
You can see the programme on BBC 2 on Wednesday 3 May at 9pm. Or on the BBC iPlayer here.
Image courtesy of Jonathan Stow.
AW HAINSWORTH WOOL PEACOATS
We are proud to use Hainsworth wool in our peacoats. AW Hainsworth has been producing quality wool in West Yorkshire for 240 years. Its wool is used to make the uniforms for ceremonies and the King’s Guard. A royal pedigree indeed!
Like many modern menswear staples, the peacoat was born out of practical necessity. Since the 1700s the style has been adopted by some of the world’s greatest naval institutions due to its hard-wearing nature.
Originally created for the Dutch Navy, the name “peacoat” originated from the word “pije” which described coats made from coarse wool.
Looking stylish was not a priority for the Dutch sailors who first wore it – nor, later, the British and US Navies. In fact, peacoats were originally worn by low-ranking sailors, as the length of a military coat reflected hierarchy. These days, however, the peacoat is a modern classic that’s perfect for the changeable spring weather.
Take a peek behind the scenes of the AW Hainsworth factory with Patrick below, or shop Men's Peacoats here.