At the recent London Collections: Men fashion week I spotted a guy wearing a 1974 “Nutters of Savile Row” suit. This is the Holy Grail of vintage menswear; not in all my years scouring second hand shops have I come across a genuine Tommy Nutter. Even in museums they are scarce. To make matters worse, he paid just £100 for it on eBay – even back in 1974 it sold for £385.
I once sat next to Hackett founder Jeremy Hackett at a dinner; he started out as a second-hand menswear dealer in the early 1980s so I asked him if he’d ever come across any Tommy Nutter. He said Andrew Lloyd Webber owned some, but it wasn’t in the classic Nutter style (he sounded a little disappointed). Suffice to say finding the perfect vintage item is far from easy. This hasn’t discouraged us, though – interest is rocketing, fuelled by the continual cycle of retro styles we keep seeing in contemporary fashion. In fact, the chase is part of the thrill; finding something in decent condition, in your size and at a price you can afford can feel like a higher sartorial power is playing a serendipitous part in your purchase.
Kerry Taylor, one of the UK’s most prominent vintage auctioneers, says, “Good menswear is hard to find. A lot of male dress offered to me is just plain boring. I only take things which excite me and my buyers. Tommy Nutter, Granny Takes a Trip, Mr Freedom and the Carnaby Street boutiques are all highly sort after. And the vintage tweedy Savile Row style suits are always popular for the Brideshead Revisited look.”
She says the majority of her vintagewear comes from “Deceased estates’, usually ex-cool dudes of the 60s who are now more into slippers and an armchair.”
But there is no guaranteed way to hit the second hand jackpot; there are vintage shops, which tend to pass off the best stuff to loyal customers; online stores, where it’s hard to check the condition (not to mention the smell); and charity shops, which are now well versed in sifting out the prime pieces and selling them on for extortionate prices.
While this Tommy Nutter/eBay story offers hope, those classic items from yesteryear are becoming increasingly rare, and carry increasingly hefty price tags. Maybe it’s worth taking a look in your parents’ wardrobe.
Marcus Jaye is the founder of TheChicGeek.co.uk. Tweet @thechicgeekcouk or find him on Instagram at thechicgeek.co.uk