Dressing an Olympian
Olympic gold-medal-winning rower Lieutenant Pete Reed, OBE talks to Richard Mellor about tailored suits, Royal Navy caps and his enduring love for Gieves & Hawkes.
Lieutenant Pete Reed, OBE may have just announced his retirement from rowing but the Olympian still has an athlete’s physique. It’s perfect for rowing, but entirely troublesome when it comes to ready-to-wear clothes. 'I've really struggled to find suits that fit well,' admits the athlete, who has won gold at three successive Olympics: in the men's coxless four at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and in the coxed eight at Rio 2016.
'It's because I'm a typically shaped rower: broad shoulders, 44-inch chest, very long arms and a slim waist,' he continues. 'Off-the-peg items therefore tend to mean lots of excess material, no defining shape, overly short sleeves and restricted shoulder movement – and that's the best-case scenario.'
As such, a bespoke service such as Gieves & Hawkes' Made-to-Measure is, Reed enthuses, 'a godsend'. 'Everything, including the royal welcome I receive in their Savile Row shop, is an uplifting, and classically British experience. Nothing is left to chance; the only excess here is in attention to detail.'
While he might no longer be training for the Olympics, Reed’s schedule is full on and clothes perform a key role. 'When I come home,' Reed explains, 'it's important that I step away from rowing physically and mentally. Changing into something casual like cords or a thin knit is how I do it.'
As a successful, OBE-honoured athlete, he must also maintain a smart wardrobe for formal functions – hence those sporadic but essential visits to Gieves & Hawkes. 'You don't want to be thinking about your clothes at events. You should simply feel great. A well-tailored suit is the magic wand for that.
His most treasured Gieves & Hawkes creation? 'A double-breasted, peaked-lapel, gold-lined blazer with member buttons of the Leander Club – the world's most successful Olympic sports club,' he describes. 'Leander is celebrating a bicentenary this year, so I'm especially proud to be an old boy.'
Heritage also lies behind Reed's enduring loyalty to Gieves & Hawkes. The company has a long military history, originally catering to British Army commanders. Reed joined the Navy aged 18. 'Gieves & Hawkes had a small store in Britannia Royal Naval College back then,' he recalls. 'When my dad bought me my military cap as a gift for passing out in 2000, it was the first time I'd visited a tailor. That was over half of my life ago, but I still have the cap, the meaning, and the proud relationship with Gieves & Hawkes.'
Gieves & Hawkes would like to extend our warmest wishes to Pete Reed for his retirement and huge congratulations for a truly outstanding career in rowing.