To the sartorially fluent, those fellows who seek to populate their wardrobes with clothing of dignity and polish; their finest wishes can often cause the deepest sorrow, if they fail to see the day’s broad smile. For Hope is a formidable habit, and in the mind’s eye of a wayward Chap, awakening dream’s existence struggles to match. Seductive, hungry dreams of apparel cut to such a sparingly elegant ratio one would wish to spend each waking day, and dreaming hour, with them. It cannot last.
And neither does one’s apparel. However well made or resilient the cloth, time will come a-calling, and renewal will be in the offing. The day of disappointment arrives for all one’s threads. Yet, of all a Chap’s outerwear, none is so intimate, yet workaday, as one’s trousers; though still special for all that. A garment worthy of investment. Not simply in capital, but in time, in seeking out a pair of southern necessities that are a perfect execution of your sartorial expression. ‘Off the peg’ will not do.
But do not despair. The distance between a Chap and a pair of suitably cut leg coverings is not so great as one might think. Nor so expensive. And the answer is at hand: Spencers Trousers. To those of a northern disposition, whose schooling fell in the 1970s or 1980s, Spencers were the kegs of choice. To those who followed Northern Soul, Ska or the Mods, Spencers led the way. Stylish trousers for northern shanks, now there’s a thought. And they were big, selling a pair every second minute in their pomp.
But what’s important to me, and you. Yes you, with the stick thin pegs and disheveled leg coverings, and you with too tight trews, muffin top and builder’s behind, and of course you whose bag was more stylish than the trousers it contained (and probably a better fit) – what is important is that Spencers Trousers offers a made-to-measure service that is more reasonably priced than your average pair of fashion jeans. And infinitely better quality. Affording you the opportunity to leave behind the days when indolent salesmen slowly drowned your dreams in loose-lipped promises of sartorial glory.
A Fitting Fitting
Plain faced and frank, Spencers sits on an unassuming road, set in the hamlet of Friendly. An apt location, for friendliness underpins each facet of the process – from owner Alan Oldfield’s engaging chat on company history, to my stroll upstairs for the fitting with Nigel. Nigel Walker has cut and measured whistling breeches for men worldwide for 25 years. Should you drop by, or send in your dimensions, Nigel is the man who carries the tape, employs the chalk and wields the scissors, before sending them downstairs for sewing. His are a safe and friendly pair of hands.
In an airy upstairs, replete with cloths of every type and hue, the fitting occurs. Having flirted with the idea of choosing one of the regular made-to-measure Spencers styles – trousers, breeks, plus twos or plus fours – I decided to take along a pair of fish-tailed favourites, to be reimagined in another cloth. Nippily measured, I was informed that this could almost have been done by eye, so familiar is Nigel with the male hindquarters. There was then only the matter of picking the material. A responsibility in itself, in the very best way. Cloths browsed and decision made, the die was cast and seven days were all that separated me from a pair of strides the equal of any in my entourage.
An Unexpected Path
Reach-me-downs were not on Reggie Spencer’s mind when he instituted the company that bears his name. In 1922 his dream was loftier. The production of components for the fledgling aircraft industry, at a time when aircraft had cloth parts in their skins. But this niche was dying even as he sketched the designs, with aluminium taking the floor. A stumble on the path, a misadventure, but not the end. And so he put his pencil to another task: trousers.
And he was in the right place. The Calder Valley, or Fustianopolios as it was colloquially known, due to the quality and amount of fustian cloths the area manufactured (and still does, though now produced in limited amounts). Spencers still use the world famous Brisbane Moss fabrics, one of the UK’s last remaining producers of corduroy and moleskin, who reside a short hop, step and jump along the valley floor in Todmorden.
Reggie ploughed a singular and successful furrow, with gasmen’s and other working trousers preeminent, until his death, when his widow sold the company to its current owner, Alan Oldfield, in 1977. Things quickly changed. And the Gas Board’s loss was the Trouser world’s gain. A local man, Alan’s heritage was in the tailoring trade, having worked at such Savile Row luminaries as Henry Poole & Co, and he had a hankering to produce stylish trousers for men. Spencers provided the tools, business savvy the rest. Sound in wind and limb, the business sallied forth and rapidly grew. They opened a factory outlet before the UK knew what they were, did business seven days a week, supplied 800 retailers, sold by mail order and flourished. But Fate had other ideas for the whole industry as the 1980s petered out. India, then China, began a manufacturing rise that would kill the trade stone dead. Almost.
Yet Spencers didn’t whither away. They had the skills and found their niche – high quality made-to-measure legwear for the discerning Chap. And those Chaps reside world wide – returning year after year for a service and experience they thought had disappeared with the passing of their grandparent youth.