24 January 2019

Benson & Clegg: Crafted in London Since 1937

Masters of their craft and pioneers of their time, Harry Benson and Thomas Clegg together created a truly unique tailoring profile built on the philosophy that bespoke tailoring should be accessible to all, complemented with a welcoming and relaxed approach to building longstanding relationships with their clients - an ethos that encapsulates the spirit of the company today. But how did it all begin? We take a closer look at their story...

BeThomas Clegg and Harry Benson in their club lounge tailoring shop

Harry Benson and Thomas Clegg, two long established West End cutters and tailors to the Royal Family, had made their name at Jermyn Street shirtmaker, Hawes & Curtis, where they established a reputation as pioneers upon the landscape of British tailoring. In fact, it was Harry Benson who, during the early stages of his illustrious career, was integral in the design and development of the backless evening dress waistcoat. This innovation in tailored menswear was popularised by the royalty and aristocracy of the time, becoming a mainstay of gentlemen’s formal dress which continues to be worn across the world.

After more than 30 years mastering their craft, Harry and Thomas made the inevitable decision to go into partnership. It was on the 20th September 1937 that the eponymously named Benson & Clegg first opened its doors for business from its club lounge tailoring shop at number 34 Bury Street in London's St James's. From here, Harry and Thomas offered their celebrated style of tailoring to the great and the good of London’s high society, for whom a well-tailored suit was the mark of a gentleman…

“Mr Benson and Mr Clegg are known to many prominent film, stage, political and literary figures for whom they have cut clothes.”

The new premises was defined by its warming ambience and unique sense of style – more private members club than a traditional tailors shop, as noted by Men’s Wear magazine…

“The premises in Bury Street are exceptionally well-appointed. There are two fitting rooms, each in light oak illuminated with shadowless lights. Cosy armchairs in the reception room suggest the club lounge rather than a tailors’ shop.”

Among the first customers was His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent who, being so beguiled by the new shop, commissioned an order in the first week of business...

"The Duke, hearing of it, drove up with a cheerful "Hello, you two."...Gave the lads a flying start with nice orders for the royal wardrobe. Tailoring fraternity think it rather nice of him. In Savile Row business is business and competition's competition...but they like to see their enterprising youngsters make headway."

Other notable clients of the firm included the Duke of Gloucester, King Haakon VII of Norway, and Maurice Chevalier. But possibly the most famous customer in the Benson & Clegg ledger was His Majesty King George VI. Our earliest records show that the King had been a customer to Messrs Benson and Clegg as early as 1930 while holding the title of His Royal Highness The Duke of York.  The relationship between the King and the tailors was such, that Harry was appointed as his personal dresser on the morning of the coronation, for which he was awarded the Coronation Medal. Following his accession to the throne, Benson & Clegg were formally appointed as his bespoke tailors.

"The influence of the reigning monarch over men's clothes is considerable even in these days, when there is so much else besides dress to occupy the public mind... In explaining his technique, Mr H. Benson, of Messrs Benson and Clegg, who make his Majesty's mufti, emphasised the fact that all modern systems of cutting produce the comfort of the draped effect and pleasing appearance of balanced proportion."" Men's Wear; July 1938

It was in 1944 when we were granted the first of our Royal Warrants. In being given this honour, Harry and Thomas were responsible for the creation of the King’s formal attire as well as a large proportion of his military uniform, including his famous Naval jacket which he is often seen wearing in historical photographs. During his reign, King George VI epitomised classic British style, with his suits admired by well-dressed gentlemen across the globe. His clothing represented the very best of British tailoring...

"King George VI shows us that he likes to be dressed suitably on all occasions without the slightest ostentation or eccentricity. He chooses his clothes with great care, and one notices a scrupulous neatness in every detail of his appearance."  Men's Wear; July 1938

In 1976 Benson & Clegg moved to its now iconic premises at number 9 Piccadilly Arcade on London’s famous Jermyn Street – an epicentre for men’s style and fashion. Throughout our history, we have grown to become one of London’s most well known and respected tailors. Our exemplary service and exacting standards were recognised in 1992 by HRH The Prince of Wales from whom we were awarded the Royal Warrant – an honour we still hold to this day. The granting of the Royal Warrant on two separate occasions recognises Benson & Clegg’s ongoing commitment to achieving and maintaining the highest standards of service, quality and excellence.

Throughout our 83 year history, we have established ourselves as a brand that is rich in history whilst continuing to be innovators in the field of British craft. Today, under the leadership of Mark Gordon, Benson & Clegg remains committed to the ideals and values first established by our company founders over 80 years ago, as we continue to define British bespoke tailoring for a new generation.