One would think that naming a formal clothing hire company after hardy labourers would be a misstep, but Yardsmen – the newest startup backed by the enfant terribles of Savile Row, Cad & The Dandy – is anything but.
Formal hire is a long-forgotten and underserved area of clothing. Although ‘hiring’ clothing rather than buying it has never been as glamourous or exciting – not to mention hygienic – it is currently an area of enormous importance on the giant cutting table of formal menswear for three main reasons.
The first reason is occasion wear. Formal clothing is required less and less these days. I know of many events that only ten years ago carried a black tie dress code, now only ‘encourage’ a jacket and tie. Despite the fact that men are duding up daily in natty suits and waistcoats with decorative pocket squares and buttonholes, the truly formal, regimented culture of dress codes is fast receding. In 1925, it made sense for a gentleman to own both white and black tie ensembles; 90 years later, it’s debatable whether he needs to own any.
The second reason is that hirewear in the UK is dominated by a very small number of brands. These brands are not exactly raising the bar for sartorial standards. In fact, I have penned some pretty pernicious pieces on the rotten world of wedding wear, castigating brands such as Moss Bros for their stack-em-high cynicism, lazy and extremely negligent approach to the provision of morning dress to the grooms of the land. Shoddy morning coats with poor fit have been reported, trousers that are too long are pitched as ‘absolutely fine’, truly hideous ‘cravats’ that look like scrunched napkins are flogged as a ‘classy accessory.’ Similar reports of polyester faced lapels on evening jackets and clip on polyester bow ties pollute their reputation in evening hire. Where, one asks, is the pride in such a trading practice?
It has got to such a point that anyone with half a care about their attire is forced to buy. With increasing numbers exposed to sartorial elegance via portals like Instagram and Pinterest, bars are being raised. “Can you help?” they have written, pleadingly “I need to find a good evening jacket, maybe velvet? I can stretch to £100. I just can’t find anything decent to hire!”
Vintage is a possible avenue, if you can find things that aren’t too tatty or overpriced (vintage is getting a little above itself in that respect). Cheaper brands have been good in the past. I have managed to get some good velvet jackets from the likes of H&M and Zara when their blocks were good and manufacturing costs were lower. Now, with margins squeezed, everything feels cheaper and far less deployable for formal occasions.
Yardsmen is a godsend. Only British fabrics are used, and they are all natural. Evening jackets are in beautiful, fluffy Barathea wools from Yorkshire; morning coats are in elegant mid-weight wool herringbones. Not only this, but the details are all suitable. Waistcoats are elegant colours like dove grey or sand, come in wools and linens, and the trousers for morning dress have the choice (gasp) of houndstooth or striped. Lapels for evening jackets are faced in silk.
There’s also an array of small accessories like fine silk ties and bows and pocket squares. These being items selected by the Savile Row-savvy, they are in a different league to the tat peddled in other rental stores.
Not only this, but the store is a welcoming environment managed by elegant, tailoring-trained professionals who can not only dress themselves, but also help you dress too. You won’t get any ‘It’s fine mate, you’ll be pissed anyway’ from these proprietors. There’s also a workshop in the back of the store that is packed with seamstresses and tailors cutting and stitching cloth all live long day. This is vitally important when one considers the potential ‘temporary’ minor alterations required to make your rental attire a little more personally flattering.
Please note: Yardsmen’s website isn’t yet up and running.