July 2, 2013

Henry Poole & Co.: The Original Dinner Suit

Not too many companies can claim to have had royalty and celebrated historical figures on their clientele list, but Henry Poole & Co. of London can. This gentlemen’s tailoring shop on London’s fashionable and prestigious Savile Row has the honor of not only being one of the country’s – and the world’s – oldest bespoke shops, it also has the distinction of having invented the Dinner Suit, a precursor to the present-day tuxedo and the reason for Henry & Poole’s much-respected customer base.

Henry Poole & Co. began in 1806, first opening on Brunswick Square as a military tailoring shop. Founded by James Poole, the business made a name during the Battle of Waterloo and with their success, moved to Savile Row in 1846. After James Poole’s death, Henry Poole succeeded the leadership, after which his sons and grandsons took over, allowing Henry Poole & Co. to remain a family-run business to this day.

The invention of the tuxedo is credited to Henry Poole & Co. In 1860, Henry Poole himself was sought out to make a “smoking jacket” or short dinner jacket for the Prince of Wales. A certain American of Tuxedo Park, New York, named Mr. James Potter, had a similar jacket made by Henry Poole, and proudly showed it off at the Tuxedo Club in New York. The jacket was such a hit among the gentlemen at the club that they soon had copies made, thus starting the dinner jacket trend known as the Tuxedo or tux in the USA.

Among Henry Poole & Co.’s clients have been are HM King Christian IX of Denmark, Hanwant Singh the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Haile Selassie the Emperor of Ethiopia, Maximilian I the Emperor of Mexico, Crown Prince Hirohito of Japan, Robert Pinkerton of the National Pinkerton Detective Agency, Emperor Napoleon III, Lord Arthur Somerset, Charles Dickens and countless dukes, earls and noblemen.