Match fit: the appeal of made-to-measure
Bath Rugby captain Matt Garvey tells Josh Sims why having a made-to-measure suit inspires off-pitch confidence in players
It's bad enough being a professional rugby player, what with the bangs, scrapes and cauliflower ears. Then you have to go clothes shopping. Wide shoulders, big thighs and small waists make finding dapper suits off the peg almost impossible. It was this, combined with Gieves & Hawkes love of rugby and home in Bath that inspired the beginning of a new partnership, which will see the Savile Row tailor become the ‘Official Formal Wear Partner’ of Bath Rugby Club.
Gieves & Hawkes have sized up the squad and backroom staff to produce 80 made-to-measure suits, shirts and ties to make sure everyone at Bath Rugby Club looks sharp both on and off the field. Each suit is customised for the team with a Bath Rugby crest embroidered on the breast pocket, while the ties, designed exclusively for Bath Rugby Club, are made in England from the country’s finest woven silk.
It’s an experience that Bath Rugby captain, Matt Garvey, relished. Finding clothes that fit properly 'can be a bit of a nightmare,' Garvey complains. 'You put on trousers that fit at the waist but then you can't get them over your thighs. Or you put on a shirt that will fit you across the shoulders and chest and it's all baggy in your mid-section. You get into the habit of sizing up but it doesn't work; most XLs fit a rugby player more like a medium. It's not so bad for those who play in the backs but for the forwards, the bigger guys, it's not easy at all.'
Small wonder then that acquiring a Gieves & Hawkes suit came as a special treat, as the team members found out on a recent visit to the tailoring brand's Bath store to be fitted out with their made-to-measure post-match attire.
Distinct as it is from fully bespoke (in which a suit is made completely from scratch for an individual, to meet their every particular measurement and whims) and from ready-to-wear (a suit wore straight from the rack), Gieves & Hawkes' made-to-measure service offers a happy compromise. The service provides a selection of template suits, in different styles and cloths and with a variety of details. Then the customer's choices are made up into a suit using his measurements, which matters when, like Garvey, you're a 125kg powerhouse, or, like one of his player colleagues, you're 6'11". Some of the detailing is hand-finished too, with a couple of fittings usually being required for final fine-tuning.
'Knowing you look good in a suit gives you a lot of confidence, the kind of confidence in being well-dressed that many rugby players don't often experience because of the problems with sizing,' explains Garvey. 'A lot of the players are young and their only experience of wearing something tailored was probably their school uniform, so it's especially great for them to understand the boost you can get from wearing something that fits properly.'
Garvey – perhaps set to be Bath Rugby Club's style leader off the pitch as much as he is team leader on it – is something of a convert. So it's just as well that now he’s used the made-to-measure service, his measurements and preferences will be kept on file, allowing further tailored garments – from blazers to shirts, trousers to eveningwear – to be made, from design to finished article, in just eight to ten weeks. Indeed, he's now considering returning to the Gieves & Hawkes Bath store for his wedding suit – Garvey is getting married next year, and he won't be any smaller by then.