mr anderson’s shears

mr anderson’s shears

Mr Anderson’s shears (of Anderson & Sheppard, the most respected tailor in London).

These shears were given to me by head cutter, Mr. Hallbery on his retirement, after forty years with Anderson & Sheppard. They were the original shears used by Mr. Anderson of Anderson & Sheppard, which first opened its doors in 1905. Before that, his teacher, Mr. Cameron gave them to Mr Hallbery, decades ago, when he retired. And before that, Mr. Anderson gave them to Mr. Cameron, when he retired. And doubtless I’ll hand them over to some young turk when my turn to step down arrives. The torch is passed on.

Mr Anderson
[An old photo from circa 1990: My teacher, the great Dennis Hallbery. ]

I was very fortunate to work at Anderson’s with Mr. Hallbery and the two other senior cutters, Colin Harvey and Brian Russell.

I was Mr. Hallbery’s striker (undercutter), and my future partner, Edwin was striker for Mr Harvey. Although this was comparatively only a few years ago, the company was still very much old school. Ed & I had to address the cutters as ‘Sir’ or ‘Mr.’… The use of first names was far too informal.
It may look as if I’m painting a very austere atmosphere of the company, but although it was quite Dickensian at times, it was a great environment to be part of. Mr. Hallbery was every bit your Swedish expat cutter, silver hair & steel blue eyes. His attitude to the profession was as sharp as his shears, he didn’t suffer fools gladly; neither staff or customer.
On a red hot August day in early 1990, I sneaked out of the side door of Anderson’s to a cafe, no more than 50 yards away, for a sandwich to go. Unknown to me I had been spotted by Mr. Hallbery.

To go out at lunchtime was not a crime, however I had committed a cardinal sin. Not only was I without a jacket, but I was wearing braces (suspenders). For this I was summoned and duly berated for my sloppiness. As Mr. Hallbery said, cutters of A&S do not go out in their shirt sleeves, let alone their underwear.
When I write of my time with A&S it feels as if I worked there in the 1950s , not the 1990s. But you got used to such a formal atmosphere- no idle conversation, no whistling, no music or anything that could distract.

You remember how unique it was to just hear the clipping of shears into endless privileged clients’ clothes (Royalty, movie stars, that sort of thing) and the soft drone of the overhead fans. We had no air conditioning, and the fans were kept slow or they’d blow the patterns off the boards, if they were turned up to any worthwhile level. Comical really, but who’s complaining, we would’t have dared.

Mr Hallbery is well and living in Harrow. We send Christmas cards and talk from time to time, but he’s never been back to check on the old place. Mr Harvey sadly died in 1995 and is greatly missed. Brian Russell left A & S and I still think he has a sitting within Tom Brown’s (they’re the tailors that cut the school uniforms for Eton College). I‘m not sure, so don’t quote me. If you can find him, he’s a good cutter. Very fastidious.

Edwin came to Cumbria with me and we started Steed together. We parted company a while ago, though we had a great time while we were together. We’re still pals and he’s doing well.

  • Nicholas Gomez
    Posted at 05:52h, 29 August Reply

    Nice shears! My late father worked in a tailoring shop briefly and had a pair of shears shaped much like this one. I must look for it.

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    Posted at 13:24h, 20 February Reply

    […] arrival of ‘Apprentice’ John Mahon at the weekend, I feel my chances of taking over the famous shears may be […]

  • Derek Welling
    Posted at 18:32h, 20 February Reply

    I worked for A & S from 1960 { I was 15} through 1975, I started as an apprentice coat maker with Bill Prior who paid me the enormous weekly salary of 10 shillings, I asked Mr Prior for a raise in 1962 which he refused so asked Mr. Bryant to allow me to start on my own which he did, my first weeks earnings as a tailor was 36pounds 16 pence, I still have the brown envelope. My first client was J.B. Priestley.

    I worked for a while with as a striker with Dennis Asbury when they opened the women section, I knew Colin very well, I remember him taking his Daimler Dart and going to South Africa for while.

    I moved to Spain and used to call in when I was back in the UK

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