The Story of James Gieve begins with ‘Old Mel’ Melchisedek Meredith’ who owned a tailors shop in the busy waterfront town of Portsmouth. The centre of the seafaring world at that moment, Old Mel drew naval clientele and became the destination for maritime uniforms. Many historical uniforms passed through the shop, with Meredith tailoring the uniform which Admiral Lord Nelson wore when killed in action aboard HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
The Portsmouth business was sold to Joseph Galt in 1841 after Old Mel passed away with James Gieve joining as a partner in 1852. The emergence of the Crimean War saw the pair sail to Crimea to continue to trade when most naval officers were posted abroad. Developing the prototype Sea Chest, Galt & Gieve equipped supply ships & serviced troops during the war.
James Gieve bought out Galt in 1887 to establish Gieves & Co and following his death in 1888 Gieve’s two sons, James W Gieve & John Gieve, took over the business. In 1900, at a time where 52% of the worlds shipping was controlled by Britain, Gieves became tailor by appointment to the Royal Navy. As best friend to the Naval Officer, being dressed by ‘the man from Gieves’ became an integral part of Naval Cadet training which saw 98% of cadets from the Royal Naval College decked in Gieves.
Receiving a personal warrant in 1911 of Royal Appointment as the Royal Naval Outfitter to HM King George V, Gieves has already dressed HM King Edward VII and his sons as naval cadets. Gieves went on to dress King Edward VIII, King George VI as the sons of King George V were enrolled at Naval College.
In 1914 Gieves patent the Life Saving Waist coat incorporating an inflatable device and a pocket for brandy in order to provide ‘additional support’. In 1917 Gieves became the authority for naval attire, publishing ‘Customs & Etiquette of the Royal Navy’.
In 1920, 21 Old Bond Street became the London Flagship. The arrival of WWII led to 21 Old Bond Street and seven other Gieves shops being destroyed in the Nazi Blitz of 1940. With the basement strong-room of 21 Old Bond Street blown to smithereens, all company records were subsequently destroyed. Relocating to No.80
Piccadilly, Gieves soldiers on and all branches reopen within 24 hours. Later that year the secret service enlisted the help of Gieves to create buttons concealing maps, razor wire and suicide pills for agents crossing enemy lines.
In 1946, post war Gieves relocate to 27 Old Bond Street. During the period at No.27 Gieves managed to attract the custom of the Kings of Denmark, Norway, Greece and the Emperor of Ethiopia. As Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her coronation in 1953, interest was reignited in ceremonial tailoring and Gieves created a boat cloak for Her Majesty, this is still worn today but now tailored for HRH Prince Phillip. Another attack leaves 27 Old Bond Street blown up this time by the IRA in 1974; unable to continue trade this precipitated the relocation to Savile Row.
The merger of Gieves & Hawkes joined great historical Military and Naval tailors at the remarkable sartorial address of No1 Savile Row. Five generations of the Gieve family have played a part in the evolution of the men’s tailoring business which has grown to become a leading brand supplying the finest in traditional and contemporary menswear.