As you probably know, we at PG have a great respect for John Hitchcock, the legendary head cutter at the no less legendary Anderson & Sheppard bespoke institution in London.
Today is a very special day for Mr Hitchcock — not only is it his birthday, but it’s his first birthday as a retired cutter and tailor. After more than 50 years working at the same tailoring operation (1963 – 2014), starting as an apprentice and finishing as the director, John has given his last shears-cut these days, and is now ready for a greatly deserved retirement.
With his leaving, a piece of the legend of Savile Row is going away as well. In these days of deep changes for the British Tailoring scene, we thought it would be a great moment to pay homage to him and thank him for what he brings to the legacy of British Tailoring and to the craft in general.
Today, we are thus happy to publish a piece written by his son, and bespoke tailor, Steven Hitchcock as a simple but vibrant homage to his father, along with some images that Steven has chosen to share.
My Father, John Hitchcock started working for Anderson and Sheppard, one of the world’s most iconic tailoring firms, when he was 16 years old (the same age as when I started working for Anderson and Sheppard in 1990). My father worked for A & S for 52 years and I can think of no other tailor in any other Savile Row company that has loyally and earnestly worked for the same firm for as long as he did.
John, aged 16 at Anderson and Sheppard
My father started off with a traditional apprenticeship, learning to make trousers in 1962 with trouser maker, Frank Naylor.
My grandmother bought him a suit from the church jumble sale to wear to work. She told him that if he was going to work in London’s West End, then he must wear a suit!
John, aged 17, having a quick sandwich on his board
My mother, Margaret, also started working at Anderson and Sheppard in 1962, working for an Irish coat maker called Con. My mother and father met in the work room and married in 1970. I was born in 1974, and as a child I could remember my father bringing home trousers to make. On one occasion he brought home a rather large pair. My brother and I took it upon ourselves to stand inside either leg!
After many years of being a trouser maker, my father was invited to leave the work room and join the cutting fraternity, to be a coat cutter.
He was taught by Mr Bryant, the most stylish cutter that Anderson and Sheppard had. John was taught how to cut and was influenced by Mr Bryant’s elegant way of dressing. Mr Bryant coined the phrase, ‘thoroughbred’, as a characteristic (and perhaps criteria) of the person to whom he wanted to pass on his tailoring knowledge.
The term was to describe the new cutters coming up the ranks who had started as apprentices in the workrooms and made it to the cutting room. Mr Bryant only wanted the best, and those who had only worked for Anderson and Sheppard, and no one else.
My father often tells me about the day that Mr Bryant told him with a stern face, “If I am to teach you, you have to promise to stay at Anderson and Sheppard.” To be invited as a cutter was very much an important leap in terms of making a strong career. The invitation to be a cutter meant that your fellow cutters had been watching you work and considered you to have the skill to adapt to taking on the responsibility of “cutter”. I remember my father being very proud of this achievement, and when I used to visit him at Anderson and Sheppard during the school holidays, he would invite me to cut along his chalk lines. Even from the age of 10, my father was encouraging me to become a tailor!
My father was made a director of the company in 1983 as well as being introduced to HRH, Prince of Wales. In 1989, John Hitchcock was made the sole bearer of the Royal warrant. This cemented his already long standing loyalty to Anderson and Sheppard. I remember when my mother and father first went to a Buckingham Palace garden party, as my mother picked me up from Scout camp in her party dress! My friends thought she was very glamourous!
John and Margaret Hitchcock on their way to their first Buckingham Palace Garden Party
John’s Royal Warrant’s Commemorative Plate
I was always aware of my father’s profession, but did not understand exactly what he did.
He had as it seems, decided that I would be interested in tailoring if I knew more of what being a tailor meant. He organised for me to spend a day in the work room of Anderson and Sheppard. I was put under the watchful eye of one of the trouser makers, Michael Arter. He still works there to this day!
As that day progressed, I became more and more enticed with tailoring and with London. I remember going for a walk at lunch time with one of the coat makers, and he showed me Piccadilly. I couldn’t believe the bustle and the lights! As we walked back to Anderson and Sheppard, there was a noisy crowd of paparazzi on Savile Row trying to snap Elton John. At the time, I knew then that London was the place for me and that being a bespoke tailor was going to be my career.
One week later in 1990, I was fully employed as an apprentice coat maker at Anderson and Sheppard. I was expected to learn to make a coat in four years.
My father’s business card he gave me on my first day of work at Anderson and Sheppard
The map my father drew on the back of his business card to make sure I knew my way to work !
I was apprenticed to Patrick Davey, a generous Irish coat maker. I achieved the goal of becoming an accomplished coat maker in the allotted four years. My progress was noted by the cutters, just as my father’s was when he was an apprentice. Mr Halsey, the managing director approached me and asked me to consider becoming a cutter, just as my father had been approached all those years ago. I said yes!
I now joined my father John, in the cutting room. I was watching him progress as he was watching me progress. I remember being in the fitting room with one of his notable shoe designer clients, and was promptly told that, “your father is the best trouser cutter in the world.”
John and Steven Hitchcock
The day Hugo met John at Anderson & Sheppard in 2011
In 2003, my father was made managing director. By this time I had left Anderson and Sheppard to set up my own bespoke tailoring business in 1999. I left because I had a vision of what I wanted to accomplish, through gradually building my own prestigious bespoke tailoring company.
My father’s retirement has been well earned; he has made suits for the very rich and the very famous, film actors, members of different royal families, musicians, and fashion designers. I know he has enjoyed every minute of meeting all of them, including making friends from all over the world.
Clients came to Anderson and Sheppard to see Mr. John Hitchcock; he will be missed by his clients, fellow cutters, tailors and apprentices. My father’s loyalty, his unbroken promise to Mr Bryant, his work ethic and rise to fame is inspiring to me…and is the inspiration that keeps driving me to become better, to improve and to create beautiful clothes.
Steven Hitchcock, August 27th, 2014
Steven Hitchcock’s Website : http://thesavilerowtailor.co.uk