I slipped off the leash on the eve of our departure from London for a pilgrimage down Jermyn Street. It’s the real reason we stay in Mayfair on recent visits.
In the Thatcher years Jermyn (pronounced “german”) used to be a mere cross street for me, a LSE student on his way from a to-go pastry at Fortnum’s down to the The London Library for some research and a snooze. But since I have returned as an American, and as a consumer, a tenuous link has grown with the more distant past of the late 60s, as a little boy accompanying my smart father down the street. This was where posh men came to buy good shirts and shoes.
Good shirts are less in evidence these days. Catalog brands compete with some older names for tourist dollars in the three-fer trade. A welcome exception at the west end of the street is Emma Willis (no. 66, photo below at left), a newer venue with a feminine touch for men’s high-quality readymade and bespoke shirts.
Across the street are some of the nicest shoes I have never worn. J.M Weston (no. 60, photo above at right), is a French manufacturer of well-made shoes with stylish Gallic flair that sets it apart from the Northampton makers dominating the street. The trouble is that my feet don’t fit into them quite right. If the shop attendant is unfamiliar I might pop in for another try, in the hope that the passage of time has made my feet more French.
Next door is a culinary interlude, Wilton’s (no. 55, photo below at left), genteel mecca of seafood. Last time I was here on my own I took the best seat in the house, at the oyster bar. It is quick service with the ability to observe all comings and goings. A recent visit saw a stooped older man who dropped by for a large order of oysters to go. I didn’t catch his name, but, as he passed by, the staff and the patrons alike nodded with respect, volubly addressing him as ‘Your Grace” … except the Yank at the bar.
On the same side of the street to the east is Favourbrook (also no. 55, photo above at right). It’s not just party clothes for ladies and gentlemen. For years I’ve had my eye on their cream gabardine single-breasted waistcoat with lapels. I wonder if it will be too dandy for the office.
Then there’s New & Lingwood (no. 53, photo below at left), which slinks around the corner into the arcade. All kinds of high quality, hard-to-find clothes and haberdashery. Best to know what you are looking for before going in here.
Across the street again, to Paxton and Whitfield’s (no. 93, photo above, middle) comprehensive selection of cheeses and accessories, overseen by knowledgeable and patient staff.
For another kind of smell there’s Floris (no. 89, photo above at right).
And then there is my favorite, most dependable Crockett & Jones (no. 92, but also a smaller shop at no. 69, photo below), makers of main-collection and hand grade Northampton shoes. They have caught some recent good publicity for shodding Daniel Craig in the James Bond movies, but my action-packed work week in Houston rides almost exclusively on their black 10E Merton loafer (five pairs in current circulation.) From the chilly and gray pavement I look into the warm light of the shop to watch the till being closed down for the day by the kind Japanese lady who handles my orders by email.
So, there will be no shoes bought today, and certainly no shirts for I am handsomely clad in a perfectly tailored narrow butcher’s stripe spread collar with single French cuffs (no monogram, thank you) from our own Hamilton Shirt Company (photo below) on Richmond Avenue in Houston, Texas. Est. 1883.