January 24, 2005
mr anderson's shears
Mr Anderson's shears (of Anderson & Sheppard, the most respected tailors 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.
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.
Posted by tom at January 24, 2005 2:45 PM
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I love to hear stories about craft and artistry - two items I find absent in my own life in the US. To read about a quiet workplace with no distractions from the work at hand - well, it just makes me nostalgic and self-pitying. I would fancy myself someone who would be able to flourish in such an environment then realize i haven't the patience nor fortitude. Sad really. Glad to know that you've not only endured a formal education in a select trade, but you've come out happy and adjusted on the other side. I wish you continued success in all that you do.
Posted by: Jim Hill at January 10, 2009 2:46 PM