“We have a real symbiotic relationship with the college,” says Product & Marketing Director of New & Lingwood Simon Maloney, poking his head out of the shop’s door and gesturing down the street at Eton College.
“We wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for them, and to this day we take our inspiration from their eccentricity.”
In 1865, New & Lingwood opened as a uniform shop for Eton. Since then, the tailors have outfitted generation upon generation of students, dressing some of Britain’s most elite pupils in their tailcoats, wing-collared shirts and, in the early days, top hats and gloves.
“The uniform has changed a little over time,” says Maloney, “but the traditions have stayed largely the same. And that’s what we’ve tried to celebrate with this refurbishment of our Eton store.”
Last year, the original New & Lingwood store was refurbished, and the result is a quaint yet undeniably luxe boutique on Eton’s quiet High Street. What’s more, the front of the spruced-up store is a veritable celebration of the brand’s academic ancestry.
“The school traditions are what have inspired and informed us throughout the years,” Maloney continues, “so that is why we have, quite literally, put them in the window.
“One such tradition is the uniform’s waistcoat. Once you become a prefect, you are allowed to have your waistcoat made from any material you want. So we have boys coming in with all sorts, it could be a fabric they’ve found themselves or one of their mother’s old scarves, for instance, that they want to be made into their waistcoat. These are called ‘Pop waistcoats’ and every single one is unique.”
Maloney picks up a couple of waistcoats off the back of a chair, designed with different buttons and materials on every panel to indicate just how individual the garments can be.
“These days, we still dress some students in their uniforms, which include any of four approved pairs of shoes,” says the Managing Director, moving over to a rack of boldly striped blazers.
“These are just just some of the jackets worn by those in rowing, shooting and boating clubs. Of course, we’re not allowed to sell the official colours to anybody who walks in, but we’ve created some designs of our own which resemble the real striped blazers should anyone want to emulate the style. And some of the students come in with their father’s and grandfather’s jackets that they want altering or sprucing up.”
The jackets, however, have nothing on the socks. The refurbishment, I’m told, wanted to put the brand’s connection to the school at the fore – and a floor to ceiling shelving unit, covering the entire right wall of the shop does just that.
“These are the colours,” explains Maloney, arm sweeping over the expanse of socks stacked in neat wooden boxes. “From sporting to social, every house and society has a different pattern – even down to the more obscure groups like the Cheese Society and Brewing Society.
“Every student comes in to get their own pairs of socks – and it’s a nostalgia thing for old students too. We have alumni coming in to pick up pairs quite a lot.”
Maloney numbers Eddie Redmayne, Daniel Day Lewis and Hugh Laurie amongst returning customers.
“We’re a flexible company, and we love that people come back. In fact, the initial reason that we opened a Central London store in St. James in 1922 was to serve old Etonians who were now working in the city.”
And that, in a nutshell, is why New & Lingwood are unique – even among tailors. Large swathes of their customer base were literally raise on – or should that be in – New & Lingwood clothes. The outfitters to a school eccentric enough to bring the world the ‘Wall Game’, the unique spirit of the brand is evident in both the garments and the refurbishment (bright, bespoke and blue tartan carpets run throughout the new shop.)
But the company has, especially in recent years, pushed their designs past their collegiate roots. At the rear of the refurbished store, a large room showcases the tailor’s Autumn/Winter collection. From elaborately patterned dressing gowns, to one of the largest selections of braces in Britain, this is tailoring at its best. But, with made-to-measure suits for under £900, this isn’t Savile Row expense.
“You can play it safe here, or push yourself,” explains Maloney, holding up a vivid green overcoat. “We hope that all of our clothes work with each other, and give you the opportunity to build a wardrobe. Our go-to palette would be rich, autumnal English shades, and we tend to gravitate towards colours which will play well off each other.
“In the main, that’s very easy – but sometimes it requires a little more thought to achieve our signature sophisticated clashing look.”
Whatever you do, Maloney says, you shouldn’t be frightened. He says that New & Lingwood’s primary purpose is to clothe you in confidence – “because if there’s one thing Eton does,” the Managing Director elaborates with a smile, “it’s instil confidence and self-assurance in its students.”