This week’s episode of “The Making of a Coat” covers the basting of the pockets and front edges on the bespoke coat tailor Rory Duffy is making for me. Considering his proudly old-school technique in most other regards, I was surprised to see that Duffy prefers the use of French curves to the “rock-of-eye” method used by other Savile Row-trained tailors (notably English Cut’s Tom Mahon), and inquired about it. Duffy explained that his former master Paul Frearson had indeed taught him to shape his edged and lapels by rock of eye as a means to express his own personal style as one of many coatmakers at Henry Poole & Co., but that since striking out on his own, Duffy has preferred the use of curves to help maintain a consistent look for his brand.
Perhaps because edge basting is itself rather mundane, my conversation with Duffy during the process drifted, eventually alighting on the well-burnished distinctions between English and Italian tailoring -- i.e. heavy and stiff English structure vs. light and soft Italian ease. Despite having little to do with edge-basting, I found Duffy’s mythbusting observations on this subject well worth keeping in, if only to show that, wittingly or otherwise, tailors are not above perpetuating misconceptions about their peers’ practices to better promote their own.
If it is the subtlety of men’s tailoring which appeals so deeply to the initiated, I suspect that it is also this subtlety which gives rise to such exaggerated distinctions. I’m personally somewhat nostalgic for a time when regional accents were a bit stronger and a man’s citizenship could be read in the cut of his coat, but for better and for worse, we live in a sartorially smaller world today, where national traditions have swallowed some of their pride to oblige an evermore homogenous international taste.