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Opinion on Gieves

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Opinion on Gieves

Old 10th Dec 2019, 17:14
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Question Opinion on Gieves

I am doing some research on Gieves and I realise that Gieves used to be a prominent RAF tailor! I wish to earn more and gain insight on Gieves from the veteran legends of this PPRuNe forum's military aviation section. I am currently a student in the RAF cadet force and I have a lot of historical interest in the clothing aspects of the RAF. I would love to hear why you chose Gieves, who were the main outfitters, how much it cost to afford the kit? or any other interesting stories to go along with it.

Thanks a lot and I look forward to hearing from you!
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Old 10th Dec 2019, 18:31
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In 1960 at No1 ITS South Cerney an officer cadet was issues with £10.0s.0d. With this he would have to buy an SD cap, shoes and a pair of brown leather gloves. His No1 uniform was issued by stores and corrected for fit by a resident tailor.

On my course there was a bunch of University graduates whom had already received the initial No1 at their University Air Squadron so they could pay for another one. Some of them did and some had red linings put in them (strictly unofficial), that set them back around £22 10s. 0d..

There were two main RAF tailors. Gieves and R E City. Both supplied hats made to Air Ministry specification but they were crap compared with Bates, who made a hat with a heavy crown that with encouragement could be persuaded to touch ones ears Luftwaffe style. Their shoes weren't a patch on Poulsen shoes so the ideal trio was a Bates hat, Poulsen shoes and Gieves gloves. That would set you back £12 or so.

I have been reminded to include Moss Bros, Alkit maybe.

I bought my next No1 when I was older and fatter after a tour in Singapore so it was made there just before I left. Having a natural ability to dodge parades and suchlike that lasted until I left the service ten years later.

Last edited by Fareastdriver; 11th Dec 2019 at 09:36.
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Old 10th Dec 2019, 18:41
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Were not Alkit and Moss Bros on the scene at South Cerney then? The best bit of tailoring I encountered was my No 6 by Au Wai Lam at Kai Tak.
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Old 10th Dec 2019, 18:44
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All I know is that they were very smart and well tailored but way too expensive for most of us. We got our uniforms from Moss Bros or Alkits. Only senior officers or those with private means could afford Gieves prices. The same went for hats from Bates. Other than No 1 Saville Row they didn’t have “shops”, a gentleman tailor would visit you by appointment in the Mess.

Good luck with your project.
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Old 10th Dec 2019, 18:56
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Gieves and Hawkes? Otherwise (rather cruelly) known as 'Thieves and Sharks'. We were 'encouraged' to open an account with them as Flight Cadets and I did so until I found better ways of spending my salary.

Bates SD cap, Poulsen and Scone shoes, RE City No.1 SD were fine for me. Plus the 'off the peg' no.5 jacket I bought from Moss Bros in 1972 and a secondhand 1981 RE City blue waistcoat (after those awful pale blue cummerbunds were binned) lasted unti 2003! I never did bother to buy any mess kit trousers as the No.1s were 'high cut' - a top tip from a chap who knew such things.

There was a little military tailor's shop near the Junior Mess at RAFC - was it Gieves or RE City? They sewed on my Wings after the graduation parade in 1974 - back in the days when the RAF did things properly.
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Old 10th Dec 2019, 19:09
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This is all very interesting. So Gieves was too overpriced? If so, how was the quality compared to Bates?
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Old 10th Dec 2019, 23:09
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I can not remember from whom I bought what except a couple of pairs of black nylon socks from Moss Bros. Memorable because they were indestructible.
Herbie Johnson's S.D. Caps were top of the pops then (1957). did they bend easier than Bates'?

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Old 10th Dec 2019, 23:48
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Funny, I don't remember Gieves being any more expensive than City, Alkit, etc, and my recollection is that Moss Bros were a bit dearer than most. My first hat was a Gieves, and it wasn't a patch on the Bates one I bought later. I also had Poulson and Skone shoes as mentioned by Fareastdriver - haven't heard that name in years.

We had a chap on my OCTU course who had a Burtons No 1. Of course all we brand new would-be officers were very snobby about this and looked down our noses at him. He didn't care, before joining the RAF he had worked for Burtons where he was learning the trade. He said they had a contract with Moss Bros whereby Burtons cut out the uniforms ready for stitching and Moss Bros finished them off and sewed in their labels so the only real difference was that the Moss Bros uniforms were about double the price of Burtons.
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 00:41
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Originally Posted by Tankertrashnav View Post
Funny, I don't remember Gieves being any more expensive than City, Alkit, etc, and my recollection is that Moss Bros were a bit dearer than most. My first hat was a Gieves, and it wasn't a patch on the Bates one I bought later. I also had Poulson and Skone shoes as mentioned by Fareastdriver - haven't heard that name in years.

We had a chap on my OCTU course who had a Burtons No 1. Of course all we brand new would-be officers were very snobby about this and looked down our noses at him. He didn't care, before joining the RAF he had worked for Burtons where he was learning the trade. He said they had a contract with Moss Bros whereby Burtons cut out the uniforms ready for stitching and Moss Bros finished them off and sewed in their labels so the only real difference was that the Moss Bros uniforms were about double the price of Burtons.
Thanks for the input! What would you say were the main differences in between your Gieves or Bates SD Cap?

P.S. Do you still have your Gieves hat?
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 05:49
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Originally Posted by Godwinson324 View Post

P.S. Do you still have your Gieves hat?
Of course: but the Senior Service looks after their kit




The Gieves kit was very popular in the RN back in the 60s and 70s, Mess kit and caps especially. Mine was a replacement in 1972 after the original was nicked during IntSAR at Lee, most awkward to have no cap the next morning until I was able to get into town and purchase this one!

I even have my Gieves account card, there should be a couple of quid in there gaining interest


Last edited by John Eacott; 11th Dec 2019 at 05:59.
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 07:39
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When I joined the RAF, the fashion was to 'bash' one's SD cap to give it something of this look about it:



However, while a Bates SD cap could be suitably bashed, the Gieves version resisted all attempts and retained its rather North Korean General's look.

Of course there were other styles which suited the wearer rather well:


Last edited by BEagle; 11th Dec 2019 at 09:14.
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 08:19
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Ah, Section Officer Harvey! Well done Beagle, never far from our thoughts! As to the Junior Mess tailor's shop at Cranwell, it was Thieves. Or it was in '59 at least. Bates for hats, and Samtani's in Nathan Road HK for all tailoring (beat all UK tailors both for cut and price!).
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 08:32
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Originally Posted by Fareastdriver
In 1960 at No1 ITS South Cerney an officer cadet was issues with £10.0s.0d. With this he would have to buy an SD cap, shoes and a pair of brown leather gloves. His No1 uniform was issued by stores and corrected for fit by a resident tailor.
Interesting - No 1 from Stores!! OCTU Feltwell, 1965, one received an Officers Initial Outfitting Allowance of £115 to cover the lot: No 1, SD Hat, Shoes and No 5 jacket. I took the cheaper route via Messrs Alkit, on tick, and spent the money on a better car. I was still paying off the bill several years later!

Back on topic, I never 'Gieved' at all.
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 09:48
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...and don't forget Ernie Bedford's in Newark!
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 10:31
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Yes, the "bashed hat" Beagle refers to was definately de riguer for many years - what happened there; a shift in fashion or possibly an edict from the uniform and badge police, can't recall. Not everyone did it but it was always a good early marker for those fine chaps destined for Spec Aircrew
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 11:07
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Samtani on Nathan Road is still going strong. I’m picking up some trousers from them tomorrow. It’s many a year since they did uniforms except the odd airline uniform though
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 11:59
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This thread reminds me of the comment by one of the ‘Few’, on one of the History Channels, when he was asked how he felt when he heard Churchill’s speech about ‘never owing so much to so few.’

Our hero was reputed to have said that; ‘we all thought that Churchill was talking about how much we all owed to our tailors’.

I wish I could remember which one of them it was.
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 12:13
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Originally Posted by Fareastdriver View Post
There were two main RAF tailors. Gieves and R E City. Both supplied hats made to Air Ministry specification but they were crap compared with Bates, who made a hat with a heavy crown that with encouragement could be persuaded to touch ones ears Luftwaffe style. Their shoes weren't a patch on Poulsen shoes so the ideal trio was a Bates hat, Poulsen shoes and Gieves gloves. That would set you back £12 or so.
Does anyone know if Bates still do SD hats? Regrettably my current one is on its last legs and is unlikely to see out my remaining years in the Service, and its certainly not fit for any formal events!
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 12:36
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Being obviously much younger than the respondents above I caught the tail end of the uniform allowance when I joined in 1986, it being £300 as I recall to purchase SD hat & No 1s. As a university cadet I had to do a 2 week course at the RAFC to learn how to deport myself (aka masquerade) as an officer during which I went to one of the three tailors in the East Camp, Snaiths, and purchased a uniform that had been tailored for another cadet that had failed to graduate for £100. I also bought a Bates hat for the princely sum of £50. As I recall my pay rate at the time (Acting Pilot Officer) was circa £8 per day. That left me with 150 beer tokens to take back to university, a poor long term investment as it turned out, several years of wearing the No 1s as interim mess kit and numerous games of mess Rugby rendered it unfit for graduation from IOT (I might have got away with it had it not been Her Majesty as Reviewing Officer), ditto the hat which other posters have described as being suitably pliant to make it look 'operational' but too unsightly for her royal eyes. I went down to the Tailors to get a new uniform and hat to graduate in but whilst I was able to find another No 1 belonging to a chopped cadet of similar shape to myself there were no hats, when I reported back I was told that unless I could obtain one I would not be allowed to graduate. I eventually sourced one which was a bit tight but did at least allow me to grad, being back-coursed on account of my hat would have been too painful!

Post-IOT my original hat did me many years of fine service, despite having the lining chewed out by one of my Labradors during flying training, and was eventually replaced in 2012 by one purchased from the tailors in Cranwell whose name I do not recall. This was vastly inferior to my old trusty Bates and was already wearing thin by 2019 with the cardboard showing through the peak and headband, nasty modern rubbish but still better than what is issued by stores these days. With only days to go to retirement my old Bates has been brought out of the cupboard, a millenary version of Bagpuss, battered & stained with the rigidity of a beret, but as long as I can avoid the gaze of the SWO should last me until I walk out of the door for the final time, having been in daily use for most of my 34 years of service - a testament to the quality of uniforms of old.
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 12:37
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Life on an SH squadron meant our uniforms had a very hard life. After ten years in that role I transferred back to FW. On my first morning in my new job I received an unexpected “invite” to go and say hello to the Station Commander, pronto! I put on my SD hat and trotted along. The welcome was much as expected but the last thing he said to me was along the lines of: “Next time you come into my office I expect you to be wearing your smartest flying suit and your best hat!

I truthfully replied “These are my best flying suit and hat, sir!”

His answer was: “They might be acceptable on a helicopter station but NOT on mine!! Get yourself over to safety equipment for a new flying suit and buy yourself a new best hat!”
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