Best Of British
Profiles of 14 British manufacturers that have been making menswear for over 100 years.
The sumptuously illustrated book, with photography from Horst Friedricks, includes makers such as Lock & Co, Barbour, Sunspel, Dunhill, Lewis Leathers and John Smedley.
Simon provides stories of each, old and new, from Nelson's taste in hats to dogs that eat Barbour jackets.
"Best of British was wonderfully fun to produce," says Simon. "Not only were [designer] Toby Egelnick and Horst great to work with (a long car journey up to Barbour in Horst’s old VW springs to mind) but the focus on stories meant I could both bury myself in the archive, and interview current employees about their work and experiences."
Examples include, at Barbour, discussing the origins of the wax jacket on the one hand (sailors had previously used liver oil from fish or tar from the ship itself to waterproof their jackets); and the modern stories of how Barbour jackets are repaired on the other (the day Simon visited, one customer had sent in a jacket that had been ripped apart by a dachshund. With an apologetic note from the dachshund).
At Lock & Co, there are the repeated commissions of a bicorne hat by Horatio Nelson (one pretty much before each major battle) and Nelson’s descendant today, who rides around London on a bicycle wearing a homburg.
John Smedley is bound up with the industrial revolution. Lewis Leathers has its long wait for a phone number. Corgi has a lovely tale about connecting its new, young workers with the fashion shows of Paris. They are all great stories, and often tie in closely with events through British history.
If Simon's other recent book, The Finest Menswear in the World, is about product and quality, then Best of British is about brands and provenance.