Tailor Unmade

LeoWhiteIt is a peculiar English affectation not to talk about one’s tailor. But I was very sad to hear from my brother the news of the death of mine, Leo White, who built my suits in London ever since the late 1970s. I guess that, now he is dead, we can share warm memories of him.

The first time I met him, I thought him somewhat alarming.  He was kneeling between my legs, measuring my inside leg, when he looked up – as usual over the top of his glasses – and earnestly announced in his heavy Jewish accent: “What a lot of people don’t realise is that Israel is in a state of war”.

Leo would talk about a lot of things. The state of his marriage, which was not always steady. His relationship with the tax man, which was always decidedly unsteady. How many cuff buttons were appropriate for which sort of suit.  What sort of lining was right for what sort of cloth.I got him once to make me a heavy, blue corduroy suit, and that provided him with a good deal to talk about for a long time (he complained bitterly about how many needles he broke building it).  But he was always funny, honest, reliable and discrete.  He never ever spoke about his other clients.  Unless they were dead, in which case he would occasionally speak of them, always kindly. Many of his clients were lawyers, and he had droll stories to tell about them once the ones who had died.

Letter to Leo

A recent letter to Leo from the Prime Minister

He was also a very, very good tailor – his suits were always a pleasure to wear. I still have several of them.

A note about him, appears here


Filed under News from at home, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Tailor Unmade

  1. Philip FE

    I am trying to wear a nice little chalk stripe he knocked up for me in the 1980’s – this Monday …….. a few more days of eating next to nothing and I might just get there ….

  2. Jonathan

    I well remember Leo’s long lectures about Israel and his suspicions of deep Arab bias at work in the media, politics, high society, etc. As a journalist I was held responsible for some of this. It was after one of these sessions – with Leo deploying his formidable debating skills – alternately flattering and browbeating – that I came to see why Mr Balfour had come to write his famous letter. The suits were good though, although some of the earlier ones have become a little tight..

  3. I first met Leo in the early 1980’s after I moved in a newly refurbished house in Spitalfields. We had an arrangement he would come measure and fit me at home before I went to work, usually at 7 am. In those days his rooms were in Lexington Street in Soho, where he worked with two other tailors. Amazingly the dado in the forst floor rooms was exactly the same at the one in my house, built and licved in by Huguenots. he moved around Soho for a whil before he located his last rooms behind the BBC. Although he had a limited formal education he was a person of significant learning and understanding, passionate about the detail of issues. He was also a very spiritual man. As a tailor I thought he was unequaled as a cutter, the key to any great suit. After I married my wife and I would see him for coffee off Carnaby Street on a Saturday when his huge knowledge would come to the fore. He was a remarkable man, an outstanding tailor and a dear friend. I miss him alot.

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