The Gentlemen’s Outfitter

There was a time when every British high street had a gentlemens outfitter. Now they are a dying breed. Dying? Almost dead actually.

Suits, tweed jackets, blazers, old regimental ties, caps and Trilby hats, checked viyella shirts, formal shirts, white mens underwear………and sometimes at the back a school uniform department that cast a dark cloud over an August afternoon.

Hunt carefully and can still find them, there is a wonderful outfitters in Lewes, Sussex that has slipped though time (See it here, I think street view will allow me to link to Hugh Rae Ltd). Step through the door and you enter a world where Dad has a Rover or Morris Oxford in the garage and Mum is dressed in a Horrocks frock.


I came across Parkin’s outfitters in Durham recently. It’s not quite as time warped as some but maybe the clock had stopped at 1980 rather than 1950? I nipped in and bought some wooly socks. Not that I needed them but when the last gentleman’s outfitters shuts we will feel so sad and  my purchase was a one man affirmative action to keep outfitters from being extinct, like the Haberdashers and the TV rental shop.Outfitters1Outfitters3

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. lundygirl

    Love that line about the school uniform dept casting a cloud – how very true. My mum’s little town still has a shop like the one you describe. They also sell wool which is why I have been inside!

    • The old fashioned woolshop is another disappearing treat from the high street too! We came across one recently and the wool colours were unbelivable. A window full of bright yellow and bright pink acrylic. No judging going on here as they clearly knew their customer otherwise they wouldn’t have survived but sunglasses whilst knitting would have been the only way to go!

  2. hmmm…what is haberdashery?

    • Ah todays ‘vocab’ challenge! Ribbons, cottons, buttons, cloth all the things you need for dressmaking. There is even a Worshipful Company of Haberdashers in the City of London which was one of the senior guilds and so Haberdashers must have been well respected folk at one time. (I have written this from memory so I hope Ive got the ‘worshipful company’ bit right!!)

      • ahh, thank you , I sure have a bit of that myself ;-)), now that really makes me wonder if there is a German expression for that …I´ll try to find out, made me curious…

  3. I love a good haberdashery!

  4. Susan Bruce

    I remember in 1969 my husband to be was taken to a Gentlemans Outfitters to be fitted for a suit and a sports jacket for his 21st birthday .Was there a chain of outfitters called Duns , or have I dreamt it ? He also got a signet ring with his initials engraved on attaining his majority .

    • I have a couple of items from Dunn’s in my vintage clothing collection – a rather super Mod car coat and a suit too. I remember them because when they had stained glass crests of the counties above their windows – at least the one in Brighton did and the shop front didn’t change for many years after Dunn’s had gone.

  5. ann perrin

    Lovely post, brought back memories, Some of our family were in ‘the rag trade’ another name for dressmaking, tailoring etc. Granny and I would go to the January sales at Bourne and Hollingsworth in Oxford Street, rush up to Haberdashery for fabric and trimmings etc.. Then to the hat department for Gran’s new hat, ready for the honour of opening the Spring Fair at the Church.. Our family also had a fruit shop in Goodge Street, Parkin and Son, which meant she could afford to put a ‘note’ in the pot for the Church Funds. Not that influenced their choice of course!
    Last week noticed the well worn signs for an Outfitter and Hosiery above the Beacon Charity Shop in St James’s Street, more remnants of a soon to be forgotten age.x

    • Nice story – thank you.

      Ah all those big London stores! There is a lovely quote by Hemione Gingold trying to convince a friend to visit from the country with the line ‘ But my dear you simply must come. Its corset week at Swan and Edgar!’.

      My grandmothers idea of great fun was to visit the hat department in a large store and try on exceptionally impractical hats suitable for events she would never attend. She recognised the fun kids have in dressing up and watching adults being silly.

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