Turnbull & Asser the true story of an iconic shirtmaker

    With three stores in London (71-72 Jermyn Street, St. James; 23 Bury Street and 4 Davies Street) and two in New York (50 E 57th Street and Westfield World Shopping Center) Turnbull and Asser is thriving in the modern age while promoting itself as one of the world’s best traditional gentleman outfitters.

    In 1885 a hosier, Reginald Turnbull and a salesman, Ernest Asser, opened a shop under the name “John Arthur Turnbull” in London’s St. James’s. It has always been the area where British gentlemen have equipped themselves with fine wine, paintings, cigars and clothing, staying as they did and do in the private member clubs of the vicinity. Jermyn Street (the home of their flagship store) is in its very heart and is still the main destination for gentlemen to buy their shirts. The name was changed to “Turnbull & Asser” in 1895. Then in 1915, during World War I, they developed a raincoat that doubled as a sleeping bag for the British Military. Dress codes had relaxed by 1920 and clothing had become less formal.

    Men’s dress shirts had become more noticeable articles of clothing. And this was the angle that the shop focused on and for which it is best known today.

    For the next fifty years they developed from a haberdashery to a clothier. They expanded into sportswear, clothing (both bespoke and off-the peg), and off-the-peg shirts. They still have their very own symbol. It’s a hunting horn with a “Q” above, called the Quorn (which is also the name of an old and prestigious hunt in England) and the “Quorn scarf” is especially popular. During the
    1960s the shop even kitted out the Swinging London set, employing vibrant colours and their modern designs. In 1962 it provided the outfits for the James Bond film involving Sean Connery).

    Prince Charles for years he bought his shirts from the shop and granted them his ‘royal warrant’ in 1980. This enables them to promote the fact that they supply to the royal family, He also wears Turnbull & Asser suits

    His dress shirts had turnback cuffs fastened with buttons were referred to as Portofino, or cocktail cuffs, or James Bond cuffs. In the subsequent decades they revived their more traditional image. Americans were keen buyers and they responded with outlets in several New York department stores. In 1974 The Great Gatsby film displayed a shirt collection using their shirts (with the boxes and name clearly visible).

    Ali Al-Fayed, the younger brother of Mohamed Al-Fayed, the former owner of Harrods, bought Turnbull & Asser in 1986 and set himself the task of updating the interior of the Jermyn Street shop. Turnbull & Asser still make their shirts in the UK, from their factory in Quedgeley, Gloucester, which employs over 100 people. Shirts are what gave Turnbull and Asser its reputation. The ties can be woven, printed or knitted. There are pocket squares arranged in colours and patterns, new season tailoring in silk, cotton and wool and outerwear cotton macs and wool coats. There are also sleepwear (pyjamas, boxer shorts and nightshirts), accessories (leather belts, silk bow ties, wool and leather gloves, cummerbunds and silk braces) and clothing consisting of Merino wool jerseys. It even stocks it’s own limited editions of Larke Roark sunglasses and a colourful silk teddy bear, in stark contrast to their Rolling Stones ties.
    As for bespoke, they have a selection of over 1000 fabrics. They take 18 body measurements taking due account of the customer’s posture.

    There are regular frames those, those with a slim fit, double and marine island quality shirts. They arrive like slim stretch or multi strip, with the classic T+A or regent collars.

    “There are few experiences”, the shop argues, “more satisfying than pulling on a crisply laundered shirt that’s been made for you and you alone”.

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