Cedi is a great friend. When I first met him he was running Kush, a London housing association. As a handsome, 6′ 6″, charismatic black man he was bound to make an impact. As I got to know him better he has impressed me with his deep experience and understanding of business, the community and how to be successful. I have enjoyed a few lunches with him over the years, and I have always been interested in his unique personal style. He now heads his own business where he uses his experience of running large companies, and playing sport internationally, to help develop new talent. His blog, Unlimited Potential, is about “life and leadership, but I have strayed into sharing my views on politics and the economy” he says with the broadest of smiles.
My parents came from Grenada in 1956 and brought with them a love of dressing up in bright colours and bold prints. But faced with the local climate, and wishing to avoid too much attention, then soon learned to tone it down. They both worked in dress-down jobs so weekends, especially going to church on Sundays, gave them an excellent opportunity to wear their “Sunday best”. Mum would wear her finest dresses, with a hat, my father would always wear a suit. He, especially, enjoyed wearing formal clothes and throughout his life took every opportunity to wear a suit and tie!
We three children also had to dress Sunday best for church but in fact my sister, brother and I were never allowed to go out looking anything other than smart. Once I was asked to go to the shops to pick up a bag of potatoes, but was obliged to change from my jeans into a pair of proper trousers and brush my shoes first.
My mother made a lot of her own clothes, mainly dresses, from paper patterns. She and my sister used the dining table as their workbench, and I can still remember the sound of her old Singer sewing machine. They never made clothes for my father, brother or me – this was ladieswear and sewing for pleasure. But there were always a number of alterations required to my clothes – I was especially tall and slim from a young age – which they were happy to tackle too.
My style for work is pretty formal and I wear suits and ties most days. I’m going without a tie more and more these days; following the growing trend. Weekends is certainly my time for dressing down and being totally casual. It’s pretty much jeans, sweatshirts, T shirts and shorts when it is warm.
I was tall and skinny as a young man. Buying clothes in the 1970s was a nightmare, especially as I was on a tight budget. The longest inside leg was 34”, and I needed was 36”. Shopping involved examining the hems of trousers to see if there was enough fabric to allow them to be let down. It was the same story with shirts, jackets and sweaters where the length was always too short. Back then, if you had feet bigger than a size 11 (and I did) you were really limited. Now, most department stores have ‘long’ or ‘tall’ fittings for suits and shirts and shoe retailers will stock or order up to size 13. As my financial situation improved, I remained tall, but unfortunately became less skinny. As a result I could afford to shop in specialist shops like High and Mighty. It was a relief to finally buy clothes that more or less fitted me.
My size has affected my attitude to clothes. I felt self conscious about towering over everyone, and did not want to attract any more attention to myself. I tried to keep my clothes understated, wearing deeper blues and greys for my suits, with a white or blue shirt. But over time I have perhaps become more confident, or maybe I just gave in to years of pressure from my wife. Now I have a selection of shirts in brighter colours, patterns, and stripes.
Several years ago, I discovered bespoke tailoring. It is an expensive way to buy clothes, but you get an outfit made for you that fits, looks great and I enjoy the whole process. There is something very special about making an appointment with your tailor, being greeted with a coffee or a glass of wine, taking your time choosing the cloth and the detailing then being measured for a suit or a shirt. I even enjoy going back for fittings once or twice, and then turning up to collect my suit and shirts – it’s quite an occasion.
I have a great relationship with my tailor, Sam at Dress2Kill in London. While he understands that I am pretty conservative in my colour choices for suits, he has encouraged me to choose brightly coloured linings, contrasting button hole stitching and cuffs.
I wear a cutaway collar, double cuffs and cufflinks. For a final bit of personalisation I have my name (or initials) embroidered on the lining and shirt cuffs. I also had some shirts made to wear without a tie – with a high, double buttoned collar. Many years ago I found that the best ties are made in Italy and on a annual trip to Venice and Treviso I stock up on the best silk ties. For casual wear like jeans and jumpers I still go to High and Mighty.