LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM [JANUARY 12, 2015] – Tall, handsome, articulate, and urbane (not to mention in possession of the best posture in menswear), Patrick Grant is a fearsomely persuasive style cipher. The man behind the five-year-old revival of E. Tautz is now famous, too, thanks to his sideline job judging a popular BBC series centered around competitive sewing. Only in England.
So, as Grant beamed backstage after this rapturously received collection, it felt almost churlish not to be left entirely convinced by it. Especially when he noted: “This is the most personal collection I have done [at Tautz]. They are all clothes that I would love to wear, and there is nothing in it that feels far away from where I feel we ought to be. All very English: tailored, gray, and textured—but there is an easiness to it.”
As well as some wonderful 50-year-old photojournalism shot in Hartlepool and Lancashire, this collection was informed by a critically acclaimed 1967 volume of poetry by the Scottish-born Douglas Dunn that scrutinized the minutiae of life in the Northern English town of Hull. To underline that we were witnessing an evocation of the Northern, working-class masculine uniform from the 1960s (and earlier), the models wore Christian Louboutin adaptations of a pair of 1890s clogs Grant had unearthed in a Lancashire charity shop. Because yes, before there were sneakers, there were clogs. “Lowry painted clogs,” observed Grant, “and the first line of The Road to Wigan Pier mentions the sound of clogs on cobbled streets.” None of them had scarlet soles like Grant’s, though, and Orwell’s noisy clogs were worn by “mill-girls.”
Back when men up North also wore clogs, they favored generously proportioned jackets and trousers cut in the materials with which these English mills used to clothe the world. Grant reproduced these silhouettes—if anything, ramping them up a bit—as well as the shades-of-gray palette of his photographic inspiration. Pleats and cuffs gave his not-quite-Oxford bags structure, and the broad hems of his magnified Fair Isle pattern knits definition at the waist. The jackets, Grant noted, are all un-canvased, which, combined with the super-roomy cut, allow the wearer total freedom of movement.
It was all deeply easy on the eye—especially if your eye was set to runway mode. Fashionese tells us that the volume of the masculine silhouette is expanding once more, and this was consistent with that. Yet given that these clothes were drawn from a very real, very gritty milieu scant decades behind us, you wondered how they might fare on Dunn’s now very differently attired Terry Street in 2015. Would an oversize car coat in gray instantly transmit progressive nostalgia, as Grant made it seem here? How friendly a reception would you get if you wore this in today’s equivalent of the pub Michael Caine monsters in Get Carter? (YouTube “Get Carter thin glass” for a little moment of genius.) On Grant, these clothes would be perfect. The question is how many men there are in the world who are quite like him.