With the close of the final episode of the Great british Bake off in its present form ends something quite special. Now, I’m not one of those boring people who think that just because the programme is moving to a different channel it won’t be as good, but the prospect of the show losing what I see as its key lynchpin, Mary Berry, could definitely weaken its prestige. No matter how much people bang on that it’s all about the cakes, the contestants or the presenters, there is a danger that without Mez Bez, the show will lose that powerful sense of British tradition that only she, with her towering fame and understated, yet unrivalled prowess, brought to the show.
Anyway I could bang on about this for a while, especially the fact that Paul Hollywood only ever wrote a single book before the series begun and yet is heralded as the “bread expert”, but I won’t. What this post is about is a new idea.
As far as I could see, the GBBO was all about (other than baking) technical skill, time-management and, above all, creativity. Some of the cakes presented were stunning. From the more try-this-at-home stuff like like blood orange drizzle cake, chorizo sausage rolls and savoury scones, to the more extravagant grapefruit and ginger meringues, floral tea cakes and the sumptuous, final round, no-holds-barred chocolate cakes.
This is actually the first time I’ve ever watched the programme all the way through. Some might laugh, but seeing everything come together on the plates at the end was absorbing and I can see why people obsess about it. At the end of the every programme I was genuinely inspired to have a go and bake something.
Anyway my idea is to take those points of technical skill, organisation and spellbinding creativity and apply them in a new situation - tailoring! Let’s call it The Great British Make Off.
The show should take place in an old warehouse somewhere in East London (just to get that old British vibe). We’ll bring in Eddie Piller of the Modcast as the presenter. He’s got a bullish, larger-than-life personality and is used to presenting on radio, so he’s the natural choice.
The first judge can be tailor Mark Powell. Powell is the Mary Berry of the show - a bastion of the tradition, a legendary pedigree with a knowledgeable presence. He’ll know his Prince of Wales from his dogtooth blindfolded and with his hands tied behind his back. The other judge can be Bradley Wiggins or someone young and flash. Comparisons with Paul Hollywood won’t be made.
Each week our six contestants would show up at the warehouse to be presented with two separate tasks. I visualise this as a “technical” and a “signature” each week and maybe a “showstopper” during the final week.
Each contestant will be assigned a “client” for whom they have to tailor. I say male here simply because I think it would be unlikely for a tailor to possess both suitmaking AND dressmaking prowess, plus I want to keep the show on the side of classic Mod side simply because of my own personal taste. I don’t usually do women’s clothes on this blog so I won’t bother on the show. But I do think the option could be retained for a female equivalent.
So, on to the tasks, which I see as generally covering suitmaking and maybe shirtmaking, but not a lot else.
For the “technical” part of the programme, the contestant would have to listen carefully to what the judges instructed them they wanted and follow the brief given with as little deviation as possible, measuring up their clients in the usual way and putting together the requested item in the correct size and shape. The item would be ideally from some vaguely relevant Mod picture or image, like an old Ivy League photo, Steve Marriott’s suit from the Small Faces first album cover or even just a classic early Jam suit. The contestants would have to get to it, judged in the end not only how well the suit fitted their client, but also how well it matched the source material.
The “signature” would be a bit different. By having a chat with the client and understanding their tastes (as well as incorporating a bit of the contestant’s own ideas) each contestant would have to make an unusual or smart Mod suit in their own style they think their client would like. This would be judged again on quality and creativity but also on how much each client was seen to like the creation. This could be the truly creative area - where any number of fantastic designs could be come into being before our eyes.
Other than this, I suppose the show would continue for several weeks as contestants are voted off and there is one surviving winner!
Alright, so it might not be a complete show as yet. But you’ve got to admit, I’ve got you thinking...
I mentioned a while back about a suit I had tailored for me back in about 2007-8 kind of time, so here are a few pics regarding that.
The suit was a sort of petrol blue, with four buttons on the cuffs, central vent at the back and slanted jacket pockets, including a ticket pocket and a flap breast pocket.
So far, so relatively ordinary (for a Mod suit at least).
The main thing of interest is the double-breasted front, which as I mentioned in that previous post, has two columns of four buttons, set about two inches apart. This is pretty narrow by double-breasted suit standards and looks absolutely sick. I pretty much copied the idea from Ronnie Lane in a video which I now can’t find anywhere. If anyone does find it, post it here will you? It’s the one where the Small Faces are driving around in a jeep to the tune of All or Nothing. It could be a documentary, it could be something else. There is this picture of Ronnie Lane wearing a similar suit which I assume must have become a bit of a trademark. That’s the best I can do for examples for now.
The second point of interest is that the bottom of the trouser has a vertical epaulet and button on the outside. I don’t know where I got this from, but it looks awesome and is one of those less flamboyant details that only Mods really appreciate.
I’ll post some pics, but this is certainly my favourite of my suit wardrobe and it only cost me about £550 back in 2007-8. Not sure if this was cut-price because I was only 17, but it does seem like I was earning more disposable income back then. Either way… a great deal.
For years I have searched for this photo. For years, people thought I was completely bonkers. I would describe a double-breasted suit, whose jacket buttons were an inch or so apart, rather than the usual five or six.
My dad (at one time a veteran skinhead) was sceptical.
My friends laughed.
My tailor said he had never heard of such a thing.
People doubted my memory, but I insisted that I had seen this style on Ronnie Lane and that he had pulled it off exceptionally well.
Distinctive without being outrageous. Unusual without looking ridiculous.
But, in about 2007, I had a blue suit crafted to a similar design by an Italian tailor off Carnaby Street. Dad was impressed. Friends were stunned. The tailor seemed proud of himself.
I’ve not worn it for a while… but it might be time to get it out again…
In the meantime, enjoy this gem.
Not sure when I first got interested in Adaptor. I think someone bought be an MA1 or something and I noticed the distinctive crosshair logo on the label and thought “hmm”.
Anyway, for some reason I visited the website, faffed around a bit and, because my old work suit was looking a bit tired, I bought a new black suit.
Frankly, I was blown away - Adaptor suits are fucking great. I genuinely thought the one I bought looked better than the one I’d had tailor made only five years before. Okay so this might be because I was still a noob at the time. It was essentially based on a Merc suit.
But still. With covered buttons, a very short “bumfreezer” jacket and a great-feeling material, Adaptor suits are fab. I might even go as far as to say they’re the best I’ve bought. I liked them so much I bought a second one. Within six months.
Plus they’re only £220.
Anyway, continuing this saga, the guys from Adaptor invited me up to their showroom for a more general look.
And in summary, the place is epic.
It took me a while to find, being hidden in Unit 13 (un/lucky for some?) on the Mead industrial estate, but once I did find it, Phil and Paul gave me a tour.
If you’ve ever seen the film of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there’s a scene where Arthur Dent gets shown around the planet factory. It felt like that. Like “this is where the magic happens”.
The place is choc-full of Mod goodies. Shelves of shoes, rows of suits, as well as pegs of all kinds, covered in a vast array of multicoloured scarves, ties, jumpers and shirts.
So far, so much what you’d expect from a clothes shop.
But there is something striking about Phil and Paul’s attitudes to the business.
Of course they were all into the 1960s style clothes. But, Paul was adamant that Adaptor was not a vintage shop. Having worked in the more mainstream fashion world, Paul’s plan at Adaptor is to run it like any other modern menswear brand.
Everything is new. It’s not used or second-hand. The guys work hard putting together new looks and styles to keep things fresh. Paul himself takes a role in designing some of the stuff, always striving to emulate the essence of Mod, rather than literally replicate. The business looks forward, not backward, taking the spirit of Mod to new heights.
And, while this may not be to everyone’s taste, it was totally in line with what I and many others think about how Mod ought to be. As Paul himself said, the style has always been open to new concepts and it seems like Adaptor reflects that well.
I’ll continue my story in the next few posts!
Frequently lampooned, popularly unpopular, Sting's portrayal of the Ace Face in Quadrophenia is legendary.
But what do we think of his look?
Love this video from Jump The Gun in Brighton. Their shop really is one of the greats - it might not be on the same scale as PG but it's cool boutique store and I've always found something I like when I visit. And they're still coming up with original ideas they have created and put on sale themselves.
"As you can see in this small video we made, it is possible for us to transform a specimen of the world today into a sharp, Jazz and soul loving, man about town."
Btw apologies if this embed hasn't worked - to see the video on the page go here.
Our fortnightly piece on our favourite bands...
The Small Faces are on the spectrum. I don’t mean that in the health sense, but in the sense that they are on the far end of the Mod Spectrum.
Quick explainer: the Mod Spectrum is a handy tool I’ve made up to organise all the different strands of Mod style that have been used by bands and public figures from the Sixties to the present day. It basically arranges them by how smart they look. Oasis and bands similar are on the scruffy, Madchester end. The Small Faces are on the opposite end, what I call the “Ultras”. I will have to explain more about this in a later post I feel.
Anyway so the Small Faces are the blueprint for Mod. It was the Jam that got me into Mod, dragging me in via their music. And from Paul Weller talking about his influences, there I discovered the Small Faces. Strong music and an even stronger look. They are one of the few bands that seem to look as good off-stage as they do on-stage.
There are plenty of examples of how good they look, but their style can be summed up from a few specific sources.
The first is a photograph of the band in one of those massive Sixties egg chairs in the middle of a street, with Marriott at the front, grinning. Not the one where he’s lying across his bandmates but the one where he sits up straight. They’re all in sharp black suits and coloured Oxford shirts, repping that style. Any of these shots from their early days before they all became hippies are great - perfect exemplars of the early Sixties style.
"the Small Faces are the blueprint for Mod."
The second is a little-seen clip in a documentary called My Generation. The band drive around London in a jeep while ‘All or Nothing’ plays in the background, again in suits and just effectively messing about on the street with an accompanying cheeky swagger practically invisible in music videos or photos, but that is more reminiscent of Oasis than the Small Faces. Also featuring in this short bit of footage is Ronnie Lane’s suit that was the inspiration for one of my own - double-breasted (though the button rows are very narrow, only an inch or so apart) and with flap on the breast pocket. I’m not sure where that footage can be found now, but it does occasionally turn up in other documentaries. I’ll add in a screenshot of what I’m on about somewhere here.
The third is another anecdote I read at one point about Ronnie Lane - that he never wore the same shirt twice. Apart from being hilarious, this is also so Mod. Like Ronnie Lane, I do occasionally wish part of my salary was paid literally in clothes so I could pull off this very same feat.
Very few bands have been a personal inspiration for the Mod style and that’s what the Small Faces bring to the table here. A classic Mod band through and through (with the added bonus of actually being a Mod band before they started), they bring the look to life like no other band and have the attitude to match, both on and off the stage.
Other sites you should check out:
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