In the old days one never arrived at a house without a jacket. I never once saw my father take his off. I always wear mine with a handkerchief; it must not match my tie – that is the absolute pits – and it is for display purposes only. I have a saying: "The handkerchief in your top pocket is a show-er and not a blower". One can tell an awful lot about a man by his handkerchief.
At 17, I went from boyhood to manhood in one pair of grey flannel trousers. Before that, it was always corduroy shorts, grey or cream flannel shirts – long-sleeved in winter, short-sleeved in summer – with little corduroy zip-up tops like the character Biggles, but without pockets. Trousers were worn with stiff collars and detachable shirts. We'd have to wear a clean collar every day at boarding school, but laundry came round just once a week.
I wound up working in insurance in the City, which meant a three-piece suit every day from the age of 17. I had my first tailored suit made for me that year and haven't had a piece of clothing off-the-peg ever since. My father had taught me that when you go out to work, you arrive on time, work as hard as you can and only leave once you're told to go home. I was told by my line manager: "We don't work like that here." I was showing them up, so I left the company, and never worked for anyone else again.
In 1964, I met a Frenchman who'd set up a factory in the East End. We went into business. We did well, too well. One day he cleared the bank account and disappeared. The company had to be wound up; the liquidator was joined by a man who bought all our stock at 10 cents on the dollar. I thought: when I get out of this mess, I'm going to become a 10 cents on the dollar man – and I did. I've now been in the clothing business for 35 years.
Classic clothing never goes out of fashion. This orange corduroy cap by my label, Alexander Boyd, was inspired by the 1950s racing driver, Mike Hawthorn, who wore a bow tie even while he raced. The knitted tie is a throwback to the days when people would wear knitted ties with Tattershall checked shirts for lunch in the country – a time when a City tie on the weekend simply would not do.
The Alexander Boyd tailoring house is at 52-54 Artillery Lane, London E1; 020-7377 8755; alexanderboyd.co.ukReuse content