Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of attending the legendary Oxford Cambridge Boat Race as a guest of Hackett menswear. Jeremy Hackett was the perfect host and to describe him as dapper is beyond an understatment. Friendly, easy-going and great fun, his impeccable style has spawned a global business from humble beginnings running a second-hand clothing store. Naturally I was intrigued and wanted to know more about one of the UK’s most stylish men…
You’re one of the most well-respected British menswear designers. Take us back to how it all began for Hackett?
JH: I started Hackett in 1983 with a partner. We had previously had another business which was in his name and for the first few months after we opened we traded with no name above the door as we couldn’t decide what to call the shop. We eventually chose the name Hackett as it was my turn to have my name in lights. I would like to say we had a business and marketing plan but we didn’t, we just had a passion for clothes and for the first three years we sold second hand clothes which today is called vintage and commands huge prices and the business just took off.
Hackett is a fairly classic brand, how has the brand evolved and changed over the years?
JH: Actually evolve is the right word because in menswear change happens slowly unless you are in high fashion. So a change in tie widths or trouser length can be quite a departure for many men. Today there has been more emphasis on casual dressing but we are also seeing a return to formal styles but with a more modern silhouette and the preppy style is proving to be very popular and we still stock the old favourites such as tweeds and corduroys.
You clearly live the brand and always look dapper beyond belief. What is your ultimate style rule?
JH: As Cary Grant once said the key to dressing is to keep it simple and I wouldn’t argue with that sound advice.
Tom Ford spoke out against the wearing of shorts saying “A man should never wear shorts in the city…shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach”. Would you agree?
JH: Pretty much, most men just don’t have the legs for them, including myself.
On that note, dressing for winter is one thing but looking well turned out in hot weather is something many men struggle with. What are your fashion tips for summer dressing?
JH: Climate change has made cloth manufacturers consider lightweight materials much more seriously and there are some fantastic cloths now available for suits and jackets that are cool to wear and crease resistant. To keep cool and smart, wool is still the best, made from extremely light panama cloths. Natural fibers are the only fabric to wear in hot weather so cotton batiste shirts and fine cotton chino’s are an easy choice worn with an unstructured blazer which has very little shoulder padding. Linen and cotton jackets in Khaki tones are always a key summer look and white trousers are popular; just don’t wear them too tight. As I am writing this it has just started to tip down with rain so a British Summer wouldn’t be complete without an umbrella.
In women’s fashion we hear a lot of talk about what’s age-appropriate. In your opinion, does the same apply to menswear?
JH: Very, as it has been said it’s fine for your Grandson to dress like your Grandfather but not the other way round. I always think that trying to dress younger invariably makes you look older and believe me, it is not cool. So grow up.
As 2013 approaches, do you think there is still the same appetite for the traditional rules of fashion?
JH: Today I don’t think it is so much about rules as guidance which men appreciate particularly if they are attending a formal occasion or worse still a smart/casual event. I just think they don’t want to stand out too much or end up looking ridiculous.
How would you describe your own personal style?
JH: Classic with a little touch here and there.
What are the most important things a man needs to consider when buying a suit?
JH: Buy the best you can afford. Better to have one good suit than three inferior ones. And if you only have one suit make it a single breasted navy blue two button number. It will take you anywhere and you have the option to wear it as a separate blazer. The shoulder is the most important part of the suit so make sure it fits properly and make sure the sleeve length is correct nothing looks worse than sleeves that hang down by your knuckles.
I’m very fussy when it comes to footwear and feel the wrong shoes can ruin a suit. What’s you favourite shoe style?
JH: So often I see men who have patently paid a fortune for their suit and ruin the effect by wearing cheap shoes. My Father once said to me ‘I am too poor to buy cheap shoes’ and taking his advice to heart I now have a closet full of shoes. I have a passion for shoes and probably my favourite are the first pair I had made by George Cleverly about thirty years ago and they are still going strong they are black punched oxfords. It is well known that women always notice men’s shoes, so if you want to make a good impression…
Jeremy you’ve a penchant for a tie clip, even finding a use for one when you’re not wearing a tie! Tell us more…?
JH: Yes I do have a few tie clips, one which depicts my Sussex Spaniel Browney and one of a Oar which I wear to the Boat Race and Henley. And if I am not wearing a tie I sometimes pin it to the lapel of my jacket. There are so few accessories that a man can wear but I think a tie clip is one.
Your flagship London store on Sloane Road is equipped with a wonderfully simply traditional barber’s room. How important is a man’s haircut in terms of his overall style?
JH: It’s very personal but I would say if you are losing your hair then keep it short, don’t be tempted by a comb over and if you are going grey enjoy it.
What do think will be the next big thing in men’s fashion?
JH: If I knew I would be a rich man!
Finally Jeremy, you always look so well groomed. What’s your morning routine and how long does it take you to get ready?
JH: You are very kind, I think. People often think that I have a huge wardrobe but I don’t, which makes it easy to dress in the morning as my choice is limited and having been involved in the clothing business I know what works for me, well most of the time. When I make a mistake I give the item to a charity shop which brings me full circle because that’s where I bought all my clothes thirty years ago.