130 years of British tailoring history: Turnbull & Asser

British Fashion Council

Explore the timeless style and exceptional quality shirts favoured by the most stylish men in the world.

130 years of being the world’s top gentleman’s shirtmaker
Turnbull & Asser is renowned as one of the world’s top gentleman’s shirtmakers since it was founded in 1885. Taking up premises at 71 and 72 Jermyn Street in 1903, it has dressed royalty, world leaders, entertainers and captains of industry, as well as silver screen heroes such as James Bond. When HRH The Prince of Wales was given the power of bestowing royal warrants in 1980, his first issue was granted to Tunrbull & Asser. It was accepted by head cutter Paul Cuss before being handed to the now retail director Steven Quin upon Mr Cuss’s retirement; the firm has been Prince Charles’ personal shirtmaker ever since. Today, with three London locations and two stores in New York, the name Turnbull & Asser stands for timeless style and exceptional quality. Each shirt is individually handmade using the same method of manufacture as 130 years ago, a reason why T&A shirts are favoured by the most successful and discerning men in the world.

Made in England

Introducing Turnbull & Asser: 130 Years, Made in England

The history of Turnbull & Asser


Hosier John Turnbull and salesman Ernest Asser open John Arthur Turnbull, a hosiery shop in Church Place in the prestigious St James's area of London.


John Turnbull dies and Ernest Asser takes over the running of the shop, which is renamed Turnbull & Asser.


A sartorial landmark is created when Mr Asser opens a store on Jermyn Street. The shop becomes known as the 'Hunting Hosiers' when the business expands into hunting clothes, both bespoke and ready-to-wear.


A year into World War l, Turnbull & Asser creates the Quorn trench coat for the British military. Known as the 'Active Service Coat', the innovative garment doubles as a sleeping bag.


World War II is at its height and Jermyn Street is partially destroyed by German bombs. Turnbull & Asser remains standing however, and Sir Winston Churchill commissions the brand to make the 'siren suit': a pull-on one-piece.


Pablo Picasso, Charlie Chaplin and Twiggy are just a few of the famous names clothed by Turnbull & Asser during the 1960s which was a very successful decade for the brand.


Turnbull & Asser creates the Dr No shirt especially for the debut James Bond film, in which Sean Connery plays the iconic MI6 hero


The bespoke department of Turnbull & Asser moves from the basement of the original Jermyn Street store into a new location on Bury Street, next door.

360 of Jermyn Street Store

Explore the original Turnbull & Asser store


The company's head cutter, Paul Cuss, is granted the title of 'Shirtmaker by Royal Appointment' by one of his most loyal customers, HRH The Prince of Wales. It is the first royal warrant awarded by His Royal Highness.


The company opens its flagship US store on East 57th Street in New York.


Expansion prompts the company to relocate its shirt factory to new premises in Quedgeley, Gloucester.


The New York store moves to a larger location: a seven-storey townhouse just a few doors down from the previous shop (50 E 57th Street) a mark of the brand's success in the Big Apple.


Dean Gomilsek-Cole joins Turnbull & Asser as the brand's first head of design.


The company participates in the British Fashion Council's London Collections: Men for the first time, presenting its spring/summer `15 line in its newly renovated showroom and offices in Mayfair.


The company celebrates its 130th anniversary by launching a series of films documenting Turnbull & Asser's contribution to the history of British craftsmanship. An archive book, Turnbull & Asser: Made In England, 130 Years, written by James Sherwood, follows several months later.


Turnbull & Asser created the shirts, gowns and pyjamas for the spy film Kingsman: The Secret Service, featuring actor Colin Firth


A new London store opens on Mayfair’s Davies Street, selling both ready-to-wear and bespoke.

360 of Davies Street Store

A new outpost for Turnbull & Asser on Davies Street in Mayfair,London


The brand opens its second New York store inside the Oculus at the newly build Westfield World Trade Center.

The Craftsmanship of a Shirt
Turnbull & Asser’s Gloucester and Sidcup factories employ over a hundred of the finest cutters, sewers and pressers with more than 450 years of combined experience. T&A shirts are made up of 34 individual pieces of cotton and 13 mother-of-pearl buttons. During production a shirt passes through the hands of 16 different skilled craftspeople and 36 separate processes – a process which can take up to eight weeks. The fabrics chosen for the brand’s seasonal collections are woven exclusively for Turnbull & Asser. Ties are made from Suffolk-woven silk with a wool blend lining and are stitched together using strongest-ever bonded nylon thread.

The Twins

Meet Bette Elton and Kathleen Cope, the twins who have worked together at our Gloucester factory since 1964

Never compromising on quality, Turnbull & Asser's ready-to-wear shirts follow the same rigorous checks as its bespoke commissions. Each element of design follows a careful construction process to ensure durability and longevity.

Anatomy of a Turnbull & Asser Shirt

Step 1: The finest cotton

Each shirt is made from the finest cottons ranging from long-staple Egyptian to ultra-rare West Indian Sea Island, with weaves including Oxford, herringbone and poplin. The fabrics mature with age thanks to their excellent laundering and wearing properties, meaning each one will see you through a number of generations. Turnbull & Asser shirts are made up of 34 individual pieces of cotton and 13 mother-of-pearl buttons.

Step 2: The stitches

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts: every T&A shirt is made from 34 individual pieces sewn together by a single needle executing 18-20 stitches per inch. Constructing side seams involves four layers of fabric folded back on each other within 3/16 of an inch to stop it splitting, while a neat second row of stitches on the shirt tails adds to their strength. This all ensures each shirt has an ultra-strong, fine, flat finish.

Step 3: The collar

While many shirtmakers opt for fused collars for simplicity of construction, we understand that they can be stiff and uncomfortable. We adopt a more organic method using a woven bias cut interlining, relying on superior materials and craftsmanship to maintain the collar’s shape. We finish it by inserting branded collar stays to maintain a smart and strong shape and give in a natural tendency to turn down.

The three-button cuff

The most recognisable signifier of a T&A shirt is the iconic three-button cuff. We forgo flimsy plastic in favour of ecologically sustained mother-of-pearl buttons, using only thick, deep shell varieties rather than shard-like splinters. After being ground down five times to get the surface exactly right, only the whitest are picked for use. These are then graded, polished and given a smart double-ring edge, before each of their four sewing holes is punched through individually to prevent shattering.

The Shirt

Retail director Steve Quin discusses being a royal warrant holder and why our shirts are so special

There are few experiences more satisfying than putting on a shirt that has been made for you, and you alone. T&A’s precise measurements mean each bespoke shirt has a one-of-a-kind fit while a range of 1000 fabrics, 25 collar and cuff options and 20 monogram styles allow you to become the designer. To start the process a dedicated member of staff will take 18 body measurements, taking into account posture and any other special requirements you may have. Next they note down all your design preferences – you are in charge of every element, from the width the cuffs to additional pockets.

By Royal Appointment

Discover more about Turnbull & Asser’s royal past with current royal warrant holder Steve Quin and previous royal warrant holder Paul Cuss

The measurements are used to create a paper pattern of your shirt; this drawing is then sent to T&A’s factory in Gloucester where it is skilfully replicated into a digital format for maximum precision. Experienced seamstresses will then masterfully cut your chosen cloth by hand. They use pencil marks to indicate any specific requests such as a minutely shorter sleeve. Finally, hand-worked sewing machines are used to bring the shirt together - they produce stronger seams while maintaining accuracy.

Turnbull & Asser believe in absolute precision and that requires trialing. Once a sample shirt has been created, you are asked to wear and launder it as normal, three times - this allows for inevitable shrinkage of the fabric. It is then adjusted to create a fit that is completely satisfying.

Famous Faces and Cinematic Moments
While Turnbull & Asser’s 130 year history has seen the brand clothe the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and Pablo Picasso on a personal basis, the brand has also had a long association with cinema and has dressed a host of memorable movie characters. Most famously, Turnbull & Asser was picked by James Bond director Terence Young to dress Sean Connery for his first foray as 007 in 1962’s Dr No.

James Bond

The firm continued to dress the MI6 secret agent in ten further films, including Pierce Brosnan’s Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002), for which T&A made exclusive ties, and, more recently, Daniel Craig’s turn in Casino Royale (2006), which brought about the creation of a dress shirt and bow tie.

The Great Gatsby

12 years after Dr No the company had its ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ moment when it was picked to feature in an iconic scene from The Great Gatsby (1974) that saw Robert Redford throw branded boxes of silk shirts in the air, much to the delight of love-interest Daisy Buchanan.

Wall Street and Batman

Other costume involvements include a number of Oscar-winning roles – notably Michael Douglas in Wall Street (1987) and the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008). The theme of the spies is also a recurring choice of movie for the brand as it has dressed the casts of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), while also being heavily involved with Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and its 2017 sequel.

The Craftsmanship of a Tie
Staying true to our ‘made in England’ mantra, every T&A tie is made by hand in Sidcup, Kent using silk woven in Suffolk. A good tie is formed of three sections – the blade, the gusset and the under end. After being carefully chosen and checked thoroughly for imperfections the master cutter will slice the fabric diagonally to the bias of the fabric, which allows for better movement and retention of shape.

The craftsmanship of a tie

Following this, three outline pieces are joined together and T&A’s signature paisley tipping is added to both ends. This is the only part of the making of the tie that is completed by sewing machine, from here every part is crafted by hand.

Once the basic tie shape is formed, it is pressed to remove wrinkles and checked for faults once again. Then the slip-stitcher fits the lining and creates the seam underneath.

This is the most intricate stage as all 80 central stitches must run invisibly between the folds. While many brands use cheaper cotton thread, T&A only bonded nylon, matched to the exact colour of the silk fabric, which is practically impossible to snap.

Lastly, the labellers take the tie and apply the finishing touches, before it is handed to the quality-control team who inspect it once again.

The Tie

‘Tie man’, Stuart Hamilton, knows everything about the accessory all men use to express personality

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the British Fashion Council in collaboration with Turnbull & Asser.

All rights belong to Turnbull & Asser unless otherwise specifically stated. All models and photographers have been credited where known.


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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