The story of the world’s most famous shirtmaker

Sean Connery with Michael Fish

There aren’t many brands to come around that have as much history and legend sewn into their seams as Turnbull & Asser. A true icon of British style, and a brand that has worked tirelessly throughout its existence to receive incredible accolades such as its royal warrants. Turnbull & Asser, gentlemen, is the stuff of legends.

Founded in 1885 by Reginald Turnbull and Ernest Asser, a hosier and a salesman respectively, word of Turnbull & Asser spread thick and fast and 130 years later they are known all over the world for making some of the most incredible bespoke shirts, suits and accessories in British design.

The story of the world’s most famous shirtmaker
Inside Turnbull & Asser's Gloucester factory

Rewind back to 1903, when, after continued success following the opening of the first store on St James’s in London, the brand moved to the corner of Jermyn Street and Bury Street, the very same spot they still occupy today. And while their success might have come quickly, and for good reason, they weren’t always known for their shirts – that was an accolade that came later. During World War I, they developed a first-of-its-kind raincoat that doubled as a sleeping bag for the British Military, and as trends moved and changed and gentlemen starting dressing more and more smartly, Turnbull & Asser slowly grew from a luxury haberdasher to the world-famous shirt-maker that it’s known as today.

The story of the world’s most famous shirtmaker
A craftsman hard at work

While the brand were undoubtedly making waves in menswear by creating incredible, perfectly made shirts and suits for the sartorially sophisticated gentleman, there were definitely a couple of pinnacle points in their long history that positioned them at the forefront of the illustrious industry. First came the ultimate compliment: being called upon to dress none other than James Bond himself. In 1962, Bond, played by Sean Connery in Dr No, started being dressed by Turnbull & Asser in their signature turn-back shirts, where the sleeve is fastened to itself with a button, rather than a pair of cufflinks. The relationship between these two great British exports carried on for years, with Turnbull & Asser featuring in almost every single film in the Bond franchise, and probably most recognisably to you for limited edition dress shirt and bow tie, worn by Daniel Craig in 2008’s Casino Royale. In 1980, the moment he was given the chance to do so, HRH Prince Charles presented the brand with their royal warrant, the first he’d ever given.

The story of the world’s most famous shirtmaker
Sean Connery with Michael Fish

Famous fans of the brand spread further than even the likes of Bond and the Royals though; in Jack Clayton’s 1974 version Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby played by Robert Redford had boxes and boxes of shirts in his extravagant wardrobe, and only wore Turnbull & Asser shirts throughout the entirely of the film. Michael Caine wore the the White Royal Oxford shirt in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Colin Firth wore shirts and pyjamas by the brand throughout. Heath Ledger wore designs for his Oscar-winning role as The Joker in The Dark Knight. Then there’s David Niven, Charlie Chaplin and Donald Sutherland, a few of the icons who have witnessed some of the greatest bespoke designs of our time.

The story of the world’s most famous shirtmaker
Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby
The story of the world’s most famous shirtmaker
Michael Caine in Kingsman: The Secret Service

Gentlemen, Turnbull & Asser are a force to be reckoned with, a brand with so much unbelievable history that it’s hard to pinpoint one exact moment in its incredible lifeline that defines exactly how much of an impact it has had on the world of menswear.

Visit Turnbull & Asser here

Further Reading