S.E.H Kelly HQ

On a crisp Thursday evening a (good) few weeks ago, I paid a long overdue visit to S.E.H Kelly’s Boundary St HQ. I was welcomed into a warm and cosy studio-cum-showroom complete with cosy lighting and some soothing jazz that perfectly matched the mood of the evening. Paul (one of the two partners) took the time to take me through the Autumn Winter 13 collection they were about to send off to Japan, while Sara (the other partner and the brand’s namesake) worked away upstairs on the mezzanine floor above.

Their studio is situated in Cleve Workshops; East London’s sort-of answer to a Mews terrace, albeit a lot more (charmingly) ramshackle.

If you asked me why it’s taken so long to write something proper about S.E.H Kelly here, I couldn’t tell you. I’ve been a big fan of their brand for some time, but for one reason or another I’ve never gotten around to checking out their clothing in person. Laziness plays a big part in that, but mainly because I’ve got stuck in my ways over the past few years and edited my clothing choices down to the offers of a handful of brands. It’s hard for a new brand to enter the stable as I get older as there are so many boxes I need to see ticked to kindle my interest. With age comes particularity!

Attention is first caught by an excellent product; a garment designed with a solid point of view and vision. A fetishistic love of detail is also a must. The cut needs to be spot on; classic and unaffected by trend; fitted, but comfortable. Materials need to be chosen with an inventive, but careful eye. A point of difference is great, but it needs to suit the garment seamlessly. Manufacturing should be of an exceptional standard; crafted with skill, experience and integrity. Where patterns are painstakingly cut, but corners not at all. Once that’s all in place the rest should follow: a great story, a solid and consistent voice, and a great visual stance; none of which are simple to achieve in their own right.

Autumn Winter ’13 garments

To satisfy all the above criteria would be to describe the output of S.E.H Kelly. Their garments have been quietly building up a fan base over the last few years with dedicated customers looking for a superior product from an outsider brand. Keeping a low profile in the UK and selling purely through their own showroom and online store has allowed them to a keep a Kung-Fu grip on production, keeping it small, but to an exceptional high quality. Sara and Paul hold these relationships with factories and producers close as its the key ingredient to creating the garments to the standard they demand. Factories also provide a collaborative role, providing crucial advice about production (“don’t use stitched eyelets, they’re rubbish; use metal ones!”) and years of experience from the makers gives great insight into the accurate use and function of many pockets and details (“that hand warmer pocket isn’t too shallow, it’s not for hands; it’s where you keep your cigs!”).

Details from various garments including the subtly quilted blazer from AW13 and the beautifully sized A4 pocket on this season’s reversible linen over-shirt

To find the right partner and being able to lean on their expertise is key to many successful creative partnerships. It’s telling that Sara used the word ‘family’ a number of times when talking about the factories as she spends as much of her time there as she does at the studio.

The production of garments is kept loosely seasonal, but many items arrive as and when. It’s clear the guys believe in garments that can be worn year round as new outerwear items are starting to feature Melton wool detachable liners that can be removed in warmer months or swapped with cotton liners.

Contentment in pricing
Playing by their own rules and sticking to the aforementioned points means that the pricing of the garments is also honest and fair. Their mac which is made from the magical, but notoriously expensive material Ventile is a good example of this. Ventile is a natural cotton cloth made from extra long fibres that’s difficult and time consuming to manufacture, but has incredible water repellency. It’s a natural cloth so it’s breathable, but it’s also warm, and incredibly comfortable with a soft hand. Their Ventile mac retails at a very reasonable £350. Expect that price to be £500+ were it any other brand operating with typical overheads and fighting against wholesale prices.

S.E.H Kelly also stand by their pricing year round; a rare and unexpected quality in today’s market place. If garments are offered at a fair price all year round then they don’t need to enter sales. If customers understand this, they feel comfortable paying a good price for a good garment and won’t hesitate to purchase worrying that the item may appear on sale next week; a mentality that is spreading through consumers these days as a side effect of menswear stores offering countless flash sales, mid season sales, free shipping etc.

Aside from the UK market S.E.H Kelly has been picked up by a clutch of key stores in Japan including Beams, Nanamica, etc. The Japanese menswear market has a feverishly nerdy interest in Britain and the hunger for quality is most certainly satisfied by S.E.H Kelly’s clothing. The level of careful curation those stores have and the close scrutiny that garments under go in that menswear sphere is intense, so it’s testament to S.E.H Kelly that their clothes have been selected and are out there flying the flag for British style, design, and manufacturing.

Warmer pockets in the upcoming Tour Jacket

A key characteristic of S.E.H Kelly’s approach is details. Many of the garments are misleadingly simple on first appearance, but most are loaded with details – from construction to functional intricacies. Take their new Tour Jacket for example; a garment I feel epitomises their approach. It’s a seemingly simple and stylish jacket designed for cycling. The jacket is made from Ventile, so it’s waterproof, breathable and comfortable. Use of corduroy adds texture to the collar. Vents at the shoulders add movement and flexibility in the arms – a detail borrowed from hunting jackets.

The adhoc backpack strap featured on the inside of the cycling jacket

It features warmer pockets, inside pockets, and cable loops to keep headphone wires in check. But the defining detail is a special strap that buttons internally just under the inside of the arms and over the coat loop, creating two carry straps to place your arms through. This allows the jacket to be shrugged off whilst riding and worn as an impromptu ‘backpack’. This level of innovation and practicality, but balanced through a traditional approach and execution, defines their approach throughout the collections. I’ve always been sceptical about ‘phone pockets’ and ‘cable loops’, but seeing the S.E.H Kelly approach has really changed my feelings about such things. Clothes have always been designed to deal with the practicalities of life at the time; from cigarette pockets to ticket pockets, so adding features to deal with modern items isn’t betraying tradition, but rather carrying on the same approach. Working it all up in fine and natural cloths helps keep it all rooted in class.

Deadstock Corduroy shirt
Donegal Tweed Peacoat

Which brings me finally on to S.E.H Kelly’s special relationship with cloth. One of their specialities is finding ‘outsider’ fabrics. Pea coats appear in a chunky and memorable Donegal Tweed wool, reminiscent of tweeds of old. Jumpers are made from some of the thickest wool I’ve ever seen – you won’t find a warmer material. Their ‘Tetris’ tweed (named by the guys after the blocks of the video game) gives standout to a classic sports coat. Things take a further obscure twist when you throw things like their deadstock cord into the mix salvaged from an abandoned Mill in Cottonopolis and used to great effect on their new shirting. Then come the bespoke materials they’re working on with weaver extraordinaire Daniel Harris. It’s this intrinsic connection to the fabric that sets S.E.H Kelly apart from many other brands and almost places them in a world that’s closer to Savile Row than it is to the casual menswear market. And one of the many reasons I’m going to have to start making some more space in my wardrobe.

The ‘Tetris’ tweed three button blazer
My favourite garment from this season, the reversible herringbone linen over-shirt

A final note
This isn’t fashion. These aren’t clothes to titillate the fickle and trendy. These are clothes for the wearer’s joy and fulfilment. Designed, woven and stitched together with the man in mind for whom the garment is intended; the man who appreciates quality, design, style, comfort, and the very quietly extraordinary.


Tricker’s Keswick in C-Shade with a Commando Sole

Somewhere between a Tricker’s Keswick, Bourton, and Ilkley, you’ll find the quintessential English country shoe. Tricker’s may not be the veryfinest shoemakers in Northampton (although they’re certainly up there), but they can certainly lay claim to producing the most iconic English brogued Derby shoe and boot. The super round toe of the 4444 last, the overly heavy graphic broguing of the wingtips, the chunkiness of storm welted soles, and the iconic colours of C-Shade, Acorn, and Marron Antique: these all add up to a shape, colour, and style that many produce, but none quite match for the overall feel of sturdiness and robustness that the Tricker’s option offers.

The pair photographed here belong to the man who first introduced me to Tricker’s – my Dad – and were a 70th birthday gift to him from my Mum, Wife and myself. He chose the style himself on a trip to sunny Doncaster’s Shoe Healer. There he was sorted for a “6” width fitting which The Shoe Healer carries in stock in both this style and an attractive Matlock. It’s worth noting that the 4444 last is pretty generously sized and my Dad had to size down from an 8 to a 7 to get the right fit.

The differences between the three styles are small as they all feature identical uppers and a storm welt, but are offered with differing options on the sole, leathers, and colours. The Shoe Healer explains the differences here. This Keswick features a Commando Sole which is the chunkiest sole on offer, but is very robust especially for the Winter months.

As always Richard, Michelle, and the team at The Shoe Healer offered sound advice and help along the way. You really couldn’t ask for a better customer experience and I’d encourage anyone fancying a pair of bench made shoes to make the trip to Doncaster in person to check out what The Shoe Healer has to offer. My Dad was so impressed he was back buying a second pair of shoes two days later. You can’t get a stronger recommendation than that.

Detail of the chunky, but robust Commando Sole


Mr. Noisy wears a Tricker’s Keswick with Storm Welt in C-Shade.

Some people call him the loudest person in Wobbletown, but I would call the man a purist. They say any great structure starts with a solid foundation and an outfit is no different. A strong footwear choice should set the tone for any outfit.

When it comes to Mr. Noisy, his unwavering belief in his choice of footwear* is so strong that he sees no need to dress the look any further. Why complicate matters with clothes when shoes alone can do the job? This obviously requires supreme self confidence in one’s body, but for those of us who don’t share this quality, we can take inspiration from an approach of simplicity. Let stand out items do the work and dress simply around them, because if everything is talking at once, things can get a little… noisy.

Mr. Silly deserves an honourable mention sporting an Acorn Antique Tricker’s Bourton. For me though, he somewhat over cooks his outfit with the addition of an orange top hat. As William Blake once said: “You never know what is enough, unless you know what is more than enough”.

* I would identify Mr. Noisy’s shoes as a C-Shade Tricker’s Keswick with a Storm Welt; ideal for tramping around the Fells and Munros of Happyland.


– Monday – Coat: Engineered Garments / Down Jacket: Moonstone / Pants: Used / Shoes: Alden

The March issue of Popeye Magazine landed on these shores recently and it focuses on street style snaps of ‘City Boys’ in their day-to-day gear. One such ‘City Boy’ is Engineered Garment’s Daiki Suzuki with a feature on his week in outfits. I’m always interested to see how a master of styling such as Daiki takes to actually dressing himself. There’s a couple of surprises in there; stone washed Levi’s (good), Ugg Boots (bad – not even Daiki can sway my mind on these!). I’d go Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday for my favourite looks here. Tuesday’s Truman Jacket teamed up with some sad old Dad jeans is an especially corking look. And Wednesday’s Over Parka with the adjustable skirt is a big favourite of mine. Great wardrobe inspiration…

– Tuesday – Jacket: Engineered Garments / Vest: Engineered Garments / Shirts: Used / Pants: Levi’s
– Wednesday – Jacket: Engineered Garments / Down Parka: Mont•Bell / Pants: Used / Shoes: Birkenstock
– Thursday – Jacket: Engineered Garments / Down Parka: Mont•Bell / Pants: Ralph Lauren / Shoes: Brooks Brothers
– Friday – Jacket: Engineered Garments / Shirt: Engineered Garments / Down Parka: Western Mountaineering / Pocket Square: The Journey Begins With A Single Stitch



– Saturday – Jacket: Engineered Garments / Vest: Engineered Garments / Pants: Used / Shoes: Alden
– Sunday – Jacket: Used / Shirt: Used / Pants: Engineered Garments / Shoes: UGG


Alden Tanker Boots: The thinking man’s Indy boot? They’re not nearly as iconic as cinema’s most famous work boot, but I’d like to think they’re what Junior might favour for a Marshall College Ball if he were to put a little more thought into it. I certainly thought long and hard enough about them. I saw a few restocks come and go at Context and Leffot, always feeling annoyed that I’d missed out. So when I paid a visit to NYC’s classiest shoe store last May – the aforementioned Leffot – I decided to put my name down for a pair already in production. Almost ten agonising months to the day I ordered them (a year since Leffot placed the production order) and after an egregious shafting from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, they arrived at my desk. I opened the box to a gloriously muscular Cordovan boot in that deepest and richest of colours; Horween’s Color 8.

Here’s some info about them lifted from Context’s website…

“The Tanker Boot is made on the Barrie last which was supplied to the US military from WWI through WWII. The Mock and Norwegian skin stitch toe detail is done completely by hand (Alden is the only American shoemaker skin stitching by hand) using two needles and two threads- no more than 6 boots are completed per day.”

Quite how they managed to keep up with War demands at a completion rate of six per day I don’t know, but what it does mean is a lengthy wait for those keen enough to purchase a pair these days. They’re by far and away the nicest shoe/boot I own so I can certainly say they were worth the wait. I can also say they were worth the cost… *just* (minus Her Majesty’s sneaky cut). Would I do it all again? Maybe not. But then that’s what makes them so special…

Ski/Speed hooks

The Norwegian Split Toe: A detail that sets the Tanker Boot apart from the classic Indy.


Here’s some lovely pictures of S.E.H Kelly’s beautiful Two-way Irish Linen jacket from Japanese retailer Acoustics. The fabric choice makes this a stand-out piece for Summer – a wonderful Irish Herringbone Linen – laundered by S.E.H Kelly for a nicely crumpled and worn-in look. The jacket is reversible, with different pocket detailing on either side making this feel very much like two different jackets for the price of one. The lighter side features odd pockets (one of which is generously A4 sized – the detail which sold this piece to me) and the darker side features a breast patch pocket. Both sides feature comfortable handwarmer pockets. Already available in store at S.E.H Kelly, and arriving online very soon.


2 Year Wash Standard 5 Pocket Jean

I rarely get excited by denim. I understand what the fuss is about, but I would rather focus energies on other parts of my wardrobe – mainly shoes – and choose simple denim in a classic cut that I know can go the rounds and won’t cost the earth. That said, The Bureau’s latest drop from Japanese denim aficionados orSlow got me pretty excited. I don’t normally go for stonewashed denim (I prefer to make it ‘stone washed’ myself through wear and laundering), but as it takes on average 3 or 4 years to get my New Standards in to this shape, I’m becoming increasingly willing to take a short cut. The ‘2 year wash jean’ looks absolutely perfect, and unlike my New Standards which are just about shot at the ‘stonewashed’ phase, these will be stonewashed at the start of their journey. The US Navy Utility pant in a lighter weight denim also looks a treat for Summer too.

Indigo One Wash US Navy Utility Pant


Mr. Suzuki loves a detail, and he’s packed a lot into this seemingly simple field jacket from Engineered Garments SS13 collection. Amongst many details of the High Count 60/40 Field Jacket are a detachable hood, a wrap around game pocket, a zippered skirt (to extend the length of the jacket), throat tab, umpteen pockets, reinforced elbows, and (what I like to think is…) a Binoculars chest tab (although I’m almost certainly wrong). I’ve rarely been tempted by a summer parka (my only other one is an Engineered Garments field parka from years back), but this new addition has got me staring down my credit card. Also check out Engineered Garments Japanese blog for a wealth of detail shots.


Deco Yacht Print Cotton Handkerchief

As the expected Spring Summer flush of on-trend floral patterns – both big and small – washes in to stores, one brand that continues to march to the beat of it’s own drum is Drakes of London. Yes, once again Drakes turns up to the party with a plethora of unexpected and unusual patterns; from the audaciously geometric to the eccentrically pictorial. Here’s a selection of my favourite patterned pocket squares they have on offer at the moment. I have a particular hankering (pun unashamedly intended) for both ‘Deco’ prints; they’re just swell. I urge you to cast surf culture aside this Summer and smash some left field patterning in to your breast pocket.

Lightweight Geometric Deco Print Silk Habotai Handkerchief
Madras Cotton Handkerchief
Lightweight Paisley Print Silk Habotai Handkerchief
Dance Step Print Cotton Handkerchief
Navajo Print Cotton Handkerchief