The Legend of Chester Barrie

Who Was Chester Barrie?

If you didn't know it, Chester Barrie was quite a pioneering company. After the post on the maverick cop sports jacket, I thought we should look into the story a little.

The company was founded in 1935 by Simon Ackerman, an Englishman who made his name manufacturing clothes in New York. He returned to England to combine an address on Savile Row with a suit factory in Crewe in order to develop an export market for English-made suits. He also combined the city of Chester and the writer of Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie) to create the name. He liked combining things.

Positioning his factory in Crewe, Simon was in the best geographic position to utilise the mills of Yorkshire and the docks of Liverpool to ship his suits to a US thirsty to look like English gentlemen.

Out of Crewe, Chester Barrie's template of  quality and logistics made it the predominant maker of ready-to-wear suits in the 1960s. To bear testament to this fact, Chester Barrie suits were worn in Dr No and The Thomas Crown Affair.

The agility of the Chester Barrie model was soon copied on the continent, in Italy particularly. Through increased competition and a shrinking demand for smartness, the suit factory reduced in size in recent years. The Ackerman family sold out in 1978.

I remember visiting Crewe for a sample sale. At that time, they were making white label suits and jackets for many high-end brands, including Ralph Lauren's Purple Label. Very good quality stuff. I bought an Ozwald Boateng suit from there, then sold it almost immediately because I thought the fabric was too shiny and ostentatious. You win some, you lose some.

I put operatives on the ground to dig up intel on the Chester Barrie of today. Report below. For your eyes only.

The Brand Today

The Chester Barrie brand name and the Savile Row 'semi-bespoke' tailors is now owned by Prominent Europe, based in Nottingham, which is a subsidiary of the gigantic Itochu Corporation of Japan. The current owners have spent the last several years investing and working hard at restoring the brand.

The Current Look

The legendary tailor Edward Sexton was drafted in as a consultant in 2011 to help the company define a new look. His approach was to take his vast experience as a bespoke tailor and seek to achieve the best results from ready-to-wear, with good fabrics and classic proportions that fit well.

I'm not sure how much of an influence he's had on the current crop of clothes. That's the Chester Barrie Kingly jacket (above and below) in brown linen from the top drawer Gold collection. They say of the jacket: 'The double-breasted and peak lapel style is cut in our signature ‘Kingly’ silhouette, and is arranged in carefully considered proportions to elongate the figure, whilst the lapel draws your eye to the chest and shoulder line.'

The jacket is half-lined. Expect crumples from the linen. I'm a fan of crumples. I know some chaps can't abide the crumpliness of linen. I don't know where the jacket is made, I'm afraid.

I appreciate the combination of the jacket with Barrie's Cream Wide Leg Trousers in the top photo, again from the Gold collection.

The trousers are a made from a wool, silk and linen blend, with side adjusters. They are rather agreeable. Nice to have a choice of trouser with more leg room. I do fancy a pair of those for the summer months.

You can see the chap from the top photo moving about in the clothes in the video below. Wonder where it was filmed? The modernist gaff looks rather nice, with some smashing coastal views.


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