Fashion: Trading places

The men pictured on these pages run vintage clothing stalls and shops, but they usually wear jeans and T-shirts to work. Here they try on modern British suits, and give their verdicts
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The Independent Culture
Neil Starr, 39, has a stall in Portobello market. 'Paul Smith was here on Friday, and Jerry Hall,' he says. Starr sells vintage Burberry, Daks and Aquascutum for men or Chanel, Hermes and Courreges for women. If he dresses up, he says, it is in a 'Georgian-style eight-button suit with drainpipe flat-fronted trousers'. So, what does he make of his pounds 495 windowpane check suit by Mulberry? 'It's great. Lightweight and well-cut. I'd buy it, but not the shirt. I'd go for something less ... umm ... colourful.' And if money were no object? 'I'd take my favourite Georgian suit to Savile Row and have it copied'

Dave Carroll, 34, is usually decked out in motorbike gear, but the former Portobello stall holder still loves a good suit. 'I've got a Fifties Teddy Boy suit, another suit in mohair from the Sixties, but my favourite is a 1977 tartan bondage suit by Vivienne Westwood,' he says. Is there anything that he wouldn't wear? 'Pegged trousers with double- breasted jackets look dreadful. So Eighties; so naff.' Carroll liked this pounds 995 navy

'whistle' by Gieves & Hawkes,

although 'it's more likely to be worn by an overpaid graphic designer, someone who designs wrappers for chocolate bars'

Chris Russell, 34, says he only ever wears suits - of the Sixties three-button variety - for special occasions. Despite the fact that his shop, Shaft (71 Camden Road, NW1), sells suits from every decade since the Forties, he prefers to wear low- key jeans and T-shirt. 'This isn't really my style. It's double-breasted,' he says. 'If I was to wear double-breasted, it would have to be Forties, with a higher break and baggier trousers, like a real gangster look.' Would he ever wear designer suits? 'No way. Wearing a label doesn't automatically make you look good. And I can't see any designer's stuff lasting until 2030. Vintage is best, those suits are built to last.' Russell says that if he were to get married he would have a suit made for him. 'I know a couple of blokes, tailors, who'd do me one for pounds 400.' But he won't reveal his sources

'I would never buy a suit off-the-peg,' says Tony Bennett, 45, whose market stall specialises in vintage handmade suits. 'Modern designer suits are so expensive for what they are. If you're going to spend pounds 800, why not buy one from Savile Row?' Bennett laments the fact that most men never really got over the Eighties suit-code, pioneered by the likes of Armani, which was all about quarterback shoulders and baggy trousers, pleated at the waist for yet more width. Now it's all about sharp, slim lines, which is probably why his favourite acquisition is a Sixties mohair suit- 'really light, very

sharp'. What does he make of the pounds 395 Hackett suit he has been photographed in? 'I'd definitely buy it if I was working in the city, but life on a market means old warm jackets, boots and jeans for me'

Purple linen shirt, pounds 69, by Thomas Pink, 85 Jermyn Street, London SW1 and 1 Royal Bank Place, Glasgow, enquiries 0171 498 2202; navy windowpane check suit, pounds 495, Mulberry, 41-42 New Bond Street, London W1 and 23-25 Swinegate, York, enquiries 0171 491 3900

Multicoloured striped jumper, pounds 225, by Paul Smith, 41 Floral Street, London WC2 and 10 Byard Lane, Nottingham, enquiries 0171 379 7133; denim suit, pounds 995, by Gieves & Hawkes, 1 Savile Row, London, W1 and 20 Old Bond Street, Bath, enquiries 0171 434 2000

Grey pinstripe double-breasted suit, pounds 495, by Aquascutum, 100 Regent Street, London W1 and 24 St Anns Square, Manchester, enquiries 0800 282922; blue gingham shirt, pounds 79, Alfred Dunhill, 48 Jermyn Street, London SW1, enquiries 0171 290 8720; purple tie, pounds 59, by Gieves & Hawkes, as before

Pink gingham shirt, pounds 59, navy chalkstripe suit, pounds 395, both by Hackett, 137 Sloane Street, London SW1 and Limeys, 58 Bridlesmith Gate, Nottingham, enquiries 0171 730 3331