Suitably retro, grandfather style

I’ve had this suit for a while now, after inheriting it from my dear, departed grandfather. I’ve never really fitted it before, but on a whim tried it today and find I must be quite close to the height and weight he was when it was made for him back in 1945. It gives me an odd feeling of connection with my grandfather, and also what significance it had that the suit is dated 03/05/1945. In celebration of the ending of WW2? At the time my grandfather worked at the Jaguar car factory in Coventry and had spent the was on fireman duty there. He worked at Jaguar in the experimental dept. until into the 1970s.

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While I can’t lay claim to knowing much of the history of the suit, it would appear to be a properly bespoke item, and Hector Powe certainly throws up hits on Google. Hector Powe of Regent Street, London, tailor to RAF pilots during WW2 and it appears to dapper gentlemen for at least 30 years onwards.

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These last two images have been borrowed from another blog (The Serendipity Project), many thanks to them!

While I’m not totally sure I wear the jacket well, I think the trousers and waistcoat fit me properly. I have a feeling I’ll be wearing this again sometime soon!

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21 Responses to “Suitably retro, grandfather style”

  1. Des Risdon

    I worked for Hector Powe 1952 -57 first in their Bournemouth store and from 1954 as head of their credit Department in London. I wish I could buy a suit from them now!

    Reply
  2. Rita Shoulder

    My father wore one of your suits for his wedding in 1922. I remember him saying
    that he felt very smart and he certainly does in their wedding photographs.

    Reply
  3. Janet Knox

    My father was first a rep. and then a manager for Hector Powe in the 50s, 60s and 70s, managing shops in Hull, Dundee & Sheffield. The suits were expensive but the work that went into making sure they fit exactly right was incredible. They had a complicated set-up of joined up tape measures – referred to as “the device” which was worn by the customer and carefully adjusted to get every measurement just so. The order charts produced as a result seemed incredibly complicated to me as a child and I know my father spent many hours writing them all up, prior to dispatch to the workshops. One thing for sure, my dad was the smartest, most dapper looking dad for miles!

    Reply
    • Jerry Hogg

      Was your dad’s name Hughie Knox? My dad, Chris Hogg, was an Area Manager for Hector Powe and that name rings a bell from when I was a kid…

      Reply
      • Janet Knox

        My God – yes! And I remember your dad, he used to come and visit us and he sent Christmas cards to my mum and dad for years. My mum just died this Christmas – wish I could have told her I’d been in contact with you, she would have been thrilled!

      • Jerry Hogg

        Wow! Sorry to hear about your mum. My dad died about 15 years ago now. I think they seemed to have a good time at work in those days and we’re certainly dapper or “natty” as I think they called it in the 60s/70s. My biggest memory as a kid was seeing our garage full of cases of White Horse Scotch Whisky which dad would deliver to all the shops for Xmas for the staff…

      • Janet Knox

        I think they all took great pride in their work and in their own appearance. I also know that both my parents were very fond of your dad – my mum thought he was a lovely man. Sad that they’re all gone now. Vince Powell (who went on to write scripts for Harry Worth, Coronation St. etc) was a sales rep. and used to visit us too. His name was Smith in those days – changed it to Powe(ll) when he got his big break.

      • Jerry Hogg

        Interesting! The other one I remember dad mentioning was Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills etc) who worked in Manchester as well.

    • Graham Holmwood

      Dear Janet,
      The name Knox certainly rings a bell with me too, but not the Christian name Hughie, I’m afraid. Perhaps your Dad had a nickname too? Was your Mum Joyce? My Dad was manager of the Hull, Manchester and Glasgow branches in the 40s, 50s and 60s before being posted to Dagenham and Regent Street in 1963. We left Hull in 1955 – perhaps your Dad was his successor?
      Vincent Smith was the window dresser for the Manchester area, I think, before he went full-time writing scripts for Coronation Street, Harry Worth (the starting sequence where Harry stands half-behind a shop window and raises his arm and leg was filmed at Powe’s Manchester branch) and “Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width”. He visited us at home too.
      Dad got fed up with Graham Nash coming in late to work and being tired out and advised him to give up music if he wanted to make a career at Powe’s. Nash resigned and the rest is history.
      Small world!
      I certainly remember the “device” (aka “iron maiden”), a skeleton jacket of tape measures. Hector Powe registered a patent on it in the 30s. Dad always said that a good fitter didn’t need it but the psychology behind it was brilliant. The customer simply knew the jacket was going to fit before it had even been made – he had never been measured up so thoroughly.
      A shame Hector Powe has disappeared, absorbed into Burberrys. You can’t buy kit like it nowadays.
      Sincerely,
      Graham Holmwood

      Reply
      • Janet Knox

        Hi Graham,

        I remember your dad well. Yes, my father (Jock!) took over from yours at Jameson St. The Harry Worth opener was well known to us too but I never knew about Graham Nash until Chris Hogg’s son told me! I have Vince Powell (Smith)´s autobiography, ‘From Rags to Gags’ as I wanted to see if he mentioned Hector Powe (which he did) but not how he canvassed everyone to vote for him (and Harry Driver) in the radio talent contest. They also wrote some of the scripts for the early Coronation St. episodes and, of course, the notorious Love Thy Neighbour.

        Really good to hear from you. Just sorry that Mum passed away 18 months ago and didn’t know you had been in touch – she often spoke about your dad, and Tommy Matthews (who also moved to Glasgow and then sadly died), with great fondness. I think that was the last time I saw your dad, as we went to Glasgow during one of our summer trips to my father’s home town of Kilmarnock, so that my dad could go with yours to see Tommy in the hospital. Was your mum’s name Rosa? Tommy’s wife was Rose – they were our neighbours in Hull and Pat Matthews and I were in the same class in school.

        Thanks so much for getting in touch.

        All the best

        Janet

    • Arthur Duff

      I was measured for a suit in the early 60s by Hector Powe tailors when they were a franchise in Leonards of Rochester, the man used the complicated tape measuring device, that I thought was quite amazing. Unfortunately Leonards were declared bankrupt, just a short time after, and I never did completed the purchase. Their suites were quite unique.

      Reply
  4. Richard

    I’ve seen better looking tramps – try to make an effort with yourself !!

    Reply
  5. Sarah

    I googled Hector Powe because I am wearing a ladies jacket by him. Beautiful dark grey with pink satin lining, bought over twenty years ago in a charity shop and still in service as my posh meeting jacket. Great to find some of the history. Mine has a label saying it was made for a Mrs Bach in March 1959

    Reply
  6. Stuart Elliott

    I worked for them at the Middlessbrough branch in he 70’s.
    Chris Hogg was my area manager. Dapper chap.

    Reply
  7. Richard Barnett

    Iv’e just had a Hector Powe suit , back from my local seemstress, after a bit of TLC. I am the same size as my Grandfather and the suit fits as if it was tailored for me! He had it made, tailored for himself in 1959, Charcoal grey, but the cut and quality of cloth is out standing and after dry cleaning is as good as new!! Thanks Hector! richsb@ btinternet.com

    Reply
  8. Mel Singleton

    I recently bought a Hector Powe three button sports jacket at a thrift store here in Melbourne, Australia. According to the label it was made at the Regent Street, London store on 9.4.62 for one R E Smith Esq. It is a dark-ish green with red/brown and tan threads in the fabric. It has single buttons on the sleeve and real button holes. I usually only buy 100% wool jackets or suits and generally try to avoid synthetic fabrics. This jacket has no label indicating the fabric but I expect(hope) that given it is a bespoke Hector Powe it would be 100% wool. As it smelled slightly musty and was crumpled I did wash it in cold water and carefully pressed it and it came up well. The fabric is quite thick but does not feel scratchy to touch and is nice and warm in winter. It looks to be in excellent condition with no shine.

    I’m wondering if the number codes indicate the fabric that was used. The label codes in this case are:
    1/4755
    9.4.62
    166
    EW

    Reply
  9. stuart elliott

    The number after the 1/ (Regent St) is the branch stylists I.D. number.
    The other ones probably indicate the work room where it was made (either Dagenham or Blantyre, nr. Glasgow) an the cutters initials

    Reply

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