The Spencer Hart Silhouette
Across from Claridge’s in London’s Mayfair, a corner boutique glows in soft off-white through the pouring rain. In the storefront, the crème de la crème of bespoke suiting quietly look out to the street, each poised with a cool edge and awaiting the right kind of man. The black elegant letterings of Spencer Hart grace the top of this lineup. If it were the 50s, you’d imagine Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, or Dean Martin suiting up inside; today it would be Bond.
The Spencer Hart Silhouette
The purveyor of this stylish vibe is Nick Hart – founder and Creative Director of London’s tailor house Spencer Hart. Setting himself up on Savile Row in 2002, he’s not only been inspired by, but champions the same understated bespoke look of those mid-century jazz cats and gentlemen rock stars of the show biz. As of today, this designer of humble beginnings is clothier to the contemporaries of film and music including Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch and James Bond aka Daniel Craig as well as Jay Z, Kanye West and David Bowie.
Recently extending his design boundaries beyond fashion, he wrapped up a collaboration with Mercedes-Benz in styling the CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake. Intrigued, I skip over to London for a peek inside the Spencer Hart world on Brook Street. While the ground floor oozes Palm Springs chic and old Hollywood glamour, the basement to this former bank building is the true epicenter of the bespoke tailor house.
Shaded darker and textured softer than black night, “the Vault” is old-school slick. Lit by spotlights, this is where you get measured up for a new suit while sipping on a martini and listening to Miles Davis. Try a classic fedora on for size? As I stand in front of a midnight-blue dinner jacket, the pointed remarks of Vesper Lynd come to mind: "There are dinner jackets and dinner jackets; this is the latter. And I need you looking like a man who belongs at that table."
An invitation to "that table" is what Nick Hart offers with his bespoke suiting. His artwork is a cooling relief of eloquent details and clean silhouettes. But don’t assume austerity is his game either. Though subtle, jazzy rebelliousness and a heady measure of romance and glamour is what he threads together. Spencer Hart men are nothing short of independent spirits cloaked in sinister mystery; anything but one-liners.
Having felt the fiber of his fabrics, it’s a Wednesday afternoon when I speak with Nick. What strikes me first is his voice, as even and confident as the stitching of his suits. Yet not without the lustered charisma of a self-made man who’s bent life to his will. Given his love for jazz and bebop, I start with music to talk inspiration, design ethos, and personal suiting with this tailor to the stars.
Nick, how does music translate into your designs?
Bebop musicians like John Coltrane or Thelonious Monk, their looks were paired down, sharp, crisp, clean and simple, but at the same time quite rich. And that’s within the aesthetic perimeters of what Spencer Hart represents, so it’s about less-is-more and sometimes throwing in a surprise detail to give things an edge.
What kind of detail?
For instance, Thelonious Monk would dress monochromatically, pared down. But he often wore interesting rings. Because he was a pianist, there was an enormous amount of emphasis on his fingers.
I’ve always been fascinated by this relationship between musicians and clothing. They would take traditional clothing and lend it a subversive edge. They might wear the tie-knot slimmer, or wear the hat tilted at a certain angle, or wear sunglasses 24 hours a day. It’s about slightly upsetting the norm and the viewer not being able to put their finger on why the person has that edge. It’s a game of playing with people’s perceptions.
These inspirations are taken from a past era so how do you reconcile that with what’s contemporary?
I was at Glastonbury a few weeks ago to see Arctic Monkeys. If you look at Alex, he wears his hair in a quiff type style that’s 50s. And look at the huge influence David Bowie has on style today. I think the past does relate to today. The Stones were into Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters; it all connects.
But you must have other inspirations outside of music.
Architecture. I love the modernist, mid-century type architects like Hoffmann, A. Quincy Jones, and Neutra. I like things that are pared down and simple but I also like things that are rich and decadent as well. So I’m not obsessive, I just like things that are executed well.
Is that the kind of world Spencer Hart men live in?
Nick can’t help but chuckle. As he pauses introspectively, I realise his response is a self-reference: A Spencer Hart man is a maverick. He recognises that the biggest luxury in life is having freedom and inner peace. A lot of the people I love in music and film are people that have created their own universe, people that were larger than life coming from impoverished backgrounds. They’re independent men, not followers. They enjoy clothes and play with it for their own entertainment in this funny little universe of Spencer Hart.
How did your own universe start Nick?
I started working in the clothing industry when I was 13, working shops on holidays. I left school when I was 16. I’m 50 now and I’ve worked in all sides of the industry. I think in design houses, when you get behind the curtain, you find that a lot of people who head these companies don’t have traditional design or tailoring backgrounds. They might be dyslexic or very creative, but they’ve had to create their own world. They’ve had to find different ways of getting to a certain place, and I’m definitely that person.
What’s your personal style?
Obviously I wear a lot of suits when I work. I tend to wear a jacket with a peculiar bunch of details that we call the “Travel Jacket”. It’s a bunch of details that were made on a jacket in the 1950s for this rather eccentric billionaire. There’s a cigar pocket, there’s a peculiar pocket for a newspaper, for pens, but they’re all subtle details you hardly notice unless you look very carefully.
There’s a grey one sitting inside the Brook Street store, it’s a gorgeous piece.
Thank you. I suppose I like putting those slightly eccentric and unnecessary details and mixing them with something that’s extremely minimalist, so it’s putting those two worlds together. You know what I do? I like to make a big statement and then completely contradict myself!
Text & Photography: Mr. Vagabond