Dandy & Rose

Bespoke Western Shirts, Handmade in England


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Mantaray

Mantaray left front

This is the third shirt this customer has ordered. He found me through my online shop about a year and a half ago and by the time he got in touch, he had already chosen the print he wanted from Liberty‘s online offering. He likes to keep his prints simple, so he chooses the quiet designs. I love that, because I would otherwise overlook them, and they turn out to be brilliant. His first choice was this Jackson Pollock style spatter print:

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On the day he received this shirt, he ordered the next. Now that’s what I call customer satisfaction! Although it was a bold and sunny yellow, it had fewer colours than most of the prints I work with.

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This new one is intriguing. It’s called ‘Mantaray’ – you will see that the design takes the graceful shape of the fish of the same name.

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Queen Bee

Queen bee back

I have been dying to post photos of this shirt! But I’ve been waiting for the all clear, as it was a Christmas gift from a brother to his sister – so I am not sure whether his choice of a fabric called ‘Queen Bee’ was a comment on their respective roles in the family! 🙂

At any rate, she was reportedly very pleased to receive it – and it is a very special Liberty print, one of those where you spot more and more detail as you look. I love the crown that the bee seems to be placing on her own head!


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Broken Hearts and Rhinestones: The Song Title Suit

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Jim Lauderdale hosts the 16th Americana Music Association Honors and Award Show. Jim’s suit by Manuel Couture, shirt by Dandy & Rose. Photograph by Tennessean.com

Did you see that suit that Jim Lauderdale wore to present the Americana Music Association Awards Show the other night?

Of course, the first thing I noticed was that Jim was wearing a Dandy & Rose shirt that I made for him. But that suit! It was a suit in a great country music tradition: the Song Title Suit.

The heyday of embroidered, rhinestone-encrusted suits was in the 1950s and early 60s, when country stars used them as a kind of branding. They would use their pictorial embroidery to illustrate their name, or their nickname, or the title of a career-defining song.

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Porter Wagoner (1927 -2007) in suit by Manuel Couture

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Ray Price (1926-2013) in suit by Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Porter Wagoner had his suits with wagonwheels; Ray Price had his totem pole- and thunderbird-embroidered suits to remind us he was the Cherokee Cowboy; and Ernie Ashworth… well, Ernie Asworth had his Talk Back Trembling Lips suit, to honour his 1963 number 1 hit of the same name.

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Ernie Ashworth 1928-2009

You can watch Ernie singing his signature song and wearing his signature suit – and his signature toupee – in this clip:  Ernie Ashworth – Talk Back Trembling Lips Go on, click on it. You won’t regret it, I promise.

There have been many western tailors, some of them great – Nathan Turk and  Rodeo Ben come to mind – but the architect of this style of suit branding was Nudie Cohn. Nudie was born Nutya Kotlyarenko in Kiev, in what is now Ukraine, in 1902. His family suffered unimaginable hardship during persecutions of Jews in Russia, so his parents paid traffickers to smuggle 11 year old Nudie and his brother Julius across the border into Poland and onwards to the USA. Familiar story? I guess the world was ever thus. Once in the USA, young Nudie battled poverty and worked at a range of careers, including professional boxing. But tailoring came out top and after a travelling life, he and his wife Bobbie settled in California, where in the mid 1940s they established the business that would become Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors .

The Nudie style went out of fashion, mostly, when country music went uptown in the Nashville Sound era of the 1960s; as the Nashville establishment reached to capture a suburban market, rhinestones were out and polyester leisure suits were in. Meanwhile, the more mainstream country rejected it, the cooler the rhinestone suit became. It was taken up by the countercultural artists of the hippy era – most famously, the Flying Burrito Brothers, who all wore Nudie suits on the cover of their 1969 album Gilded Palace of Sin. As the glam rock era approached, Nudie became the darling of rock artists like Elton John, too.

And then, in the late 1980s, the group of country artists then known as the New Traditionalists took up the rhinestone style. For them, it was a marker of their authenticity – a sign that they aspired to be the real deal – and their tailor of choice was the great Manuel Cuevas, who as Nudie’s son-in-law and head designer had worked with The Flying Burrito Brothers and many others. Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart and Jim Lauderdale are all New Traditionalists who began wearing rhinestones at the start of their careers and continue to this day. It’s part of their identity as artists.

And now, for Jim, Manuel has revived the tradition of the Song Title Suit. The suit he wore for the AMA Awards show had Manuel’s signature roses on the front. But look carefully at  Amos Perrine’s photograph (below) and you will see that Jim is wearing his heart on his sleeve – in fact several hearts, each with a very definite crack across them. And do those hearts have moustaches, like the King in a pack of cards often does? I think they do. It’s The King of Broken Hearts Song Title Suit.

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Jim Lauderdale on the Red Carpet at the 16th Americana Music Association Honors and Awards Show, photographed by Amos Perrine

The King of Broken Hearts is just one of this prolific Grammy-winning singer songwriter’s ace – to carry on the playing card analogy – songs. When Jim introduces it – as he does at all of his shows, because it’s one song that is always in the set list – he explains that he wrote it when he lived in California in the 1980s, a move he had made to be close to the spirit of an artist he idolised, Gram Parsons. Reading a biography of Parsons, he came across an often told story: playing George Jones records to introduce his music to friends, Gram began to weep and through his tears, remarked, “Man, that’s the King of Broken Hearts!” To hear Jim tell the story and sing the song – while wearing the suit and a Dandy & Rose shirt – follow this link to YouTube:

King of Broken Hearts – Country Road TV

Parsons and Jones were, of course, both customers of Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors themselves, and their style of dress has clearly been almost as big an inspiration  as their music for Lauderdale. Parsons’ most famous Nudie suit was the one he wore on the cover of Gilded Palace of Sin, whose embroidery featured poppies, weed, pills, naked women, the flames of Hell and, on the back, a huge, sparkling redemptive cross. You can see it on display at The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

 

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Photograph by Gene Owen

Gram never had a Song Title Suit, although some people call the one above the Sin City suit, after a song on Gilded Palace of Sin; it clearly reflects themes that preoccupied him in his songwriting. But he wasn’t above a bit of literal representation, as you can see from this submarine suit. He commissioned it from Nudie’s in 1967, when he fronted International Submarine Band and later gave it away to Jon Corneal, who drummed with ISB and, in a long career, with many other bands. Mr Corneal still owns Gram’s jacket and kindly showed it to me when I spoke to him as part of my PhD research recently. That lining!

 

 

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But George Jones, who very certainly was the King of Broken Hearts and indeed the greatest country vocalist ever, was also the King of the Song Title Suit. This White Ligthnin’ suit, with its moonshine jars surrounded by lightning flashes is on display at the George Jones Museum in Nashville.

My favourite ever Song Title Suit is the one that was made to illustrate George’s 1960 hit The Window Up Above. The song is the tragic story of a man who glances out of his bedroom window late one night, only to catch a glimpse of his wife canoodling with her lover. He approaches the situation with a mixture of self-excoriation and resigned acceptance: “You must have thought that I was sleeping” he keens “And I wish that I had been. But I guess it’s best to know you And the way your heart can sin.”

 

 

 

 

The lyric was translated  into embroidery by Nudie with magnificent disregard for the art of subtlety. Once again, it can be seen today at the George Jones Museum.

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There’s a house, there’s a window, there’s a man looking out of the window, down towards a woman whose head is at the bottom of the trouser leg. As story-telling, it’s not refined and it’s not sophisticated. But look at the skill with which it is made, and at that beautiful powder blue wool fabric. It’s not just the chainstitch embroidery, it’s the handstitching around the edges and those perfect arrowheads at the edge of the pockets. It has been made with all the skill that any well-trained tailor would lavish on an important client’s order. Ultimately, this is what I find so fascinating about Nudie suits: like country songs themselves, they send a simple message in an straightforward way. But they carry with them a hidden history of craft, talent and tradition.

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Photograph Tennessean.com

 

 


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D & R at home (and in London)

Dandy & Rose’s biggest champion, the Grammy-winning singer songwriter Jim Lauderdale, toured the UK during July and excitingly, he played in Lewes, the hometown of Dandy & Rose!

Jamie Freeman of Union Music Store, who is also a singer songwriter, suggested that after the show, we might be able to set a world record for the most Dandy & Rose shirts worn in the same place at the same time. And we did!

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Left – right (back row) Jamie Freeman, Stevie Freeman, Alasdair Mackay, Andy Washington, Michael Hingston  (front row) Jeff Tickle, Jim Lauderdale, me (Janet Aspley), David whose second name I don’t know!

It seemed wrong that Jim didn’t have a new shirt for his tour, so the following week we picked out a print from Liberty’s current range called ‘Wild Flowers’. It was designed by the paper cutting artist Su Blackwell, who says it reflects her childhood experience of wandering the countryside, discovering native flora. Su’s work is stunning and you can see more of it here:  sublackwell.co.uk

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Just as I was giving the shirt a final press before dashing up to London to deliver it to Jim before his London show (which was great!), I noticed the word ‘Strawberry’ hidden amongst the stalks and leaves in the design.

IMG_3208.JPGHow wonderful to work with designs that are so detailed and exquisite that there is still something to discover in them when you have been looking at and handling them for many hours!

 

 

Jim teamed his new shirt with a pair of sparkly, embroidered trousers by Manuel. The combination was marvellous!

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Jim Lauderdale in his Dandy & Rose shirt in Liberty’s ‘Wild Flowers’ print, onstage at King’s Place, London, July 27th 2017

 

 


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Happy New Year!

Around the world, 2016 has been in many ways a strange, sad and alarming year  .

But looking back on my own year brings many good memories and moments of achievement. I survived the grilling that came with passing the halfway point of my PhD and had a productive – and fun- research trip to Nashville. A definite high point was having a Dandy & Rose shirt put on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s ‘Featured Western Wear Designer’ exhibit. It’s such an honour: I don’t think I’ll get my head around it until I see it in person, which I hope to do in 2017.

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I wrote a lot of words and made a lot of shirts in 2016.

Now for 2017!

Wishing followers of this blog a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!


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Two Berry Classics

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Jim Lauderdale’s shirt in Liberty’s print ‘Wiltshire Berry’

Last week I was in something of a panic because this shirt had dropped off the postal radar: last recorded as leaving Heathrow, the US postal service had no record of it. But in a minor Christmas miracle, it reappeared on its way from New York to Nashville on Monday and arrived just in time for Jim Lauderdale to wear it on the festive edition of Music City Roots, the weekly live radio show he hosts, a couple of days ago.

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I always think this red colourway of Liberty’s classic print ‘Wiltshire Berry’, shouts ‘CHRISTMAS’. I have given it green piping and a celebratory mix of green and red snaps.

At the end of the show, Jim led the jam session that closes Music City Roots in the Chuck Berry classic ‘Johnny B. Goode’. I’m sure the pun was unintended but – well, a classic berry fabric and a classic Berry tune: what could be more pleasing?

Click here to watch a video clip of the jam.

 


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Happily Ever After

I’ve just finished my first commission from a married couple. The shirts went off together in the post today and it’s lovely to think of them being worn together.

If you would like to know how to order a bespoke Dandy & Rose shirt of your own – or maybe for your significant other – click on the SHOP tab at the top of this page.