Call me a London snob, but I am rarely optimistic about shopping in the shires. It’s not that the shopping establishments outside the capital are poor, it’s just that I never seem to find anything. Shopping in large county towns is bad enough, but when it comes to country villages and tiny market towns, I lose any hope of seeing something worth my while. Though shopping is never the reason for my visits to these places, I feel slightly dismayed by the sight of a quiet, near-shopless village street.
You can imagine my delight then on encountering The Tetbury Tailor in the Gloucestershire village of the same name. A tiny market town near Cirencester, Tetbury is in the heart of the Cotswolds. Like many other places in this vicinity, it is a smart and well-kept place. There is, like many Cotswolds towns, a chocolate box character to it, although I mean that as a compliment and not pejoratively; after all, it’s fair to say considering property prices and the demographic of the area, ‘chocolate box’ is pretty desirable.
I stayed for a wedding held nearby, but I wanted to have a wander around to ensure I got my weekend’s worth. A Highgrove shop dominates one of the main streets (Prince Charles’ country retreat is not far from here), catering for the tourism in the area, though not distastefully. Antique shops are also here too, good ones, and there is an excellent cheesemonger (with a royal warrant), not to mention a splendid rug merchants with Indian artefacts and antiquaries from the sub-continent and elsewhere.
Plenty of the smarter stores here have photographs of HRH wandering around on a previous visit. There is a sense of quiet grandeur in this place, which is palpable when the shopowners holler friendly greetings in tweed three-piece suits; miles better dressed than their ‘sophisticated’ metropolitan counterparts. The Tetbury Tailor is no different. In a covered arcade, the Burlington of the Cotswolds, Keith Leaver – formerly of Gieves & Hawkes – runs an extremely smart shop.
Greeting with a smile and a handshake, Keith took us to the menswear side of the arcade (the other is dedicated to womenswear). As should be the case, the shop was filled with the sort of garb essential to country living – exceptionally smart country living. A rainbow of shirts, moleskin trousers, luxurious cords, glorious Bladen tweed jackets and paisley ties. There were Cheaney shoes, D.R. Harris toiletries and Corgi socks. This wasn’t an outfitter for country bumpkins; this was a store to rival most in the centre of London.
Offering ready to wear and made-to-measure suiting, you cannot quite believe you are still in the tinyness that is Tetbury as you flick through the swatches, admire the displays and chat to the affable Keith, who was keen to test his guest’s knowledge of style. “Who made your jacket?” he asked of my tweed check. “Well, it’s Ede & Ravenscroft…” I began. “It’s too short” he cut in confidently. Like all good tailors, he did acknowledge when I told him I was warned of the cut by the tailor but wanted it to be that length; “I understand. If that’s the way you wanted it.” In my experience, tailors all have opinions (and sometimes, they are very similar) but the best recognise when a customer won’t listen to their aesthetic edicts, despite the tailor’s superior experience.
Keith is not only a man with an eye for cloth, he is building a brand. Some of the merchandise is branded, tastefully, with two dolphins; the town crest of Tetbury. When I asked him about his business, his success with building custom, he seemed a man content but also showing great ambition. He knows tailoring, and he certainly lets you know how much he knows; anyone who was in the shop with me would have witnessed his keenness to impart knowledge, explain terms and offer advice. As the website states, The Tetbury Tailor “brings a taste of Savile Row and a flavour of Jermyn Street to the Cotswolds.” If there was one emporium to encourage my view of bucolic living, I think this is it.