Interview with Francis Bown


April 4, 2013 by Ville Raivio

I think I must have been born with an interest in good clothes, for I have no recollection of a time when sartorial matters did not fascinate me. I like order, discipline, “correctness” and fine workmanship. All these come together in a beautiful bespoke suit or a pair of bespoke shoes. I spent many years as a clergyman of the Church of England (I resigned my parish and converted to Roman Catholicism, because I believed that the creation of women “priests” was an act of apostasy). When I was a parish priest (of an inner-city parish which was far from affluent), it was my constant endeavour in public worship to offer to God only the best. Part of that endeavour involved the use of the most beautiful liturgical vestments I could obtain. This I viewed as an imperative – both because it reflected the dignity of what was happening and because it assisted in that “glimpse of Heaven” which is a part of every Mass.


Now that I dress in secular clothes, smartness is a requirement which reflects my own desire for seemliness and – more importantly – which speaks of my respect for all the people with whom I have to do, whatever their function or social rank. It is therefore a question of morality. The prevailing cult of scruffiness degrades its practitioners and indicates an unpleasant indifference to the dignity and worth of others. When I go to a restaurant, for example, it is deeply depressing to see those who consider it acceptable to arrive as a slovenly shambles and who then expect to be treated with the utmost respect by waiters for whom they clearly care not a jot.

I began to write about sartorial matters for the news agency, Reuters. I was already producing restaurant reviews for the agency’s website, and it was suggested to me that I should also broadcast my thoughts on sartorial matters to the site’s readers. When the site eventually closed, I decided that Bown’s Bespoke ( should be born.

I love true bespoke, but, of course, I understand that for many gentlemen – particularly younger gentlemen – true bespoke is simply too expensive for their current circumstances. But remember that a ready-to-wear cotton tunic shirt can be obtained relatively cheaply from one of the lawyers’ shops on or near Chancery Lane in London and a separate white, starched collar from the same shops will not cost more than £12. To wear such a shirt with a stiff collar has been the first step to sartorial greatness for many a young fellow.

I urge everyone who cares about his appearance to study the Ten Commandments on Bown’s Bespoke. There I counsel perfection – of course, I do – and some will find this annoying. But, if a thing is truly desired, it is strange how often life has a pleasing habit of fulfilling one’s dream, sometimes in the least expected way.

I am by nature conservative, and my taste in clothes is conservative. And I want the best. It is fortunate, therefore, that I live in London – for the best means a bespoke suite from Henry Poole in Savile Row, bespoke shoes from Cleverley & Co. in the Royal Arcade and bespoke shirts from Harvie&Hudson in Jermyn Street. Dressed thus, a gentleman is ready to encounter the high and the low and – with the good manners which go with sartorial propriety – to treat both with respect and courtesy.’

Picture: © Jack Hill

~ originally published in Finnish on the 13th of October 2011

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Only a beautiful life is worth living.

"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell