Belinda Jackson scours some of the world's most stylish streets in search of the perfect city gent look.
As the song goes, "every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man .." But perhaps you shouldn't be singing ZZ Top when cruising central London's best-dressed streets. Keep your focus tight: between the tube stations of Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, where Regent Street has undergone a revival, with contemporary brands such as Ted Baker and an influx of US brands making a show among the traditional English names.
Gents, even if you're lugging a backpack and have Velcro somewhere on your attire, a walk down London's most famous men's tailoring street, Savile Row, is a necessity. If you're making big buys and leaving the EU soon afterwards, ask about tax-free shopping. A note: this is not a late-night shopping town, so be prepared to hit the footpaths first thing in the morning.
Suits and snoot
Prince Charles frequents Savile Row landmark H Huntsman & Sons, the most famous old-school tailor on the strip, where men have been bringing their sons for hand-made bespoke suits since it opened in 1849. Huntsman's house style has a longer coat with one button and its limited-edition cloth is superfine Australian wool. Note: current sales are offering a made-to-measure suit with extra trousers for less than £2000 ($3570).
The first tuxedo was cut in 1860 for the Prince of Wales and adopted by his New York guest, James Potter of Tuxedo Park, New York, at Henry Poole - also a good place to grab your chauffer's livery. Also on Savile Row is the flagship store of Gieves & Hawkes, a classic English tailor that's gone through a spot of revitalisation and is dead hip once again.
Funky Savile Row
Young, hip William Hunt's new black suits are much coveted by London lads, while other cool tailors good for a look include arty Ozwald Boateng, a bespoke couturier (think Robbie Williams and Jamie Foxx) who also has a ready-to-wear collection. However, we're still talking in the thousands here. Pounds, people.
The smart set suit shop at hip Kilgour. Daniel Craig, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant in North by Northwest, Jude Law, the effortlessly suave Bryan Ferry have all been dressed here - pricey but you'll sparkle. New on the row is Ben Sherman, all gent's club and hip 1960s style, though their bespoke suits aren't cheap knock-offs -budget from £850.
The most famous shirtmaker in town is Turnbull & Asser, another of Prince Charles's haunts and the source of Winston Churchill's bow ties, while Hawes & Curtis shirtmakers, inventors of the Windsor knot, listed King George VI among its customers.
Gap's baby, Banana Republic, opened its first British store on Regent Street and fans of Abercrombie & Fitch can now get their fix of slouchy US chic at its flagship store near Savile Row. This is where Ernest Hemingway and Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton went for a bit of outdoor gear, though today they might raise a brow at the bare-chested male models, along with the rest of the elite 'hood. Levi's fans should head to its shop in Regent Street for the largest stock of the jeans in Europe ... or just to play with its interactive technology.
A fling with fashion
So hip it hurts, dress to impress when you visit Dover Street Market, six floors of fabulousness, men's labels including Comme des Garcons (stop for a bite at the divine top-floor cafe) while COS (Collection of Style) is the grown-up brother of H&M and recently opened on Regent Street. Shop here for the classic staples of your wardrobe that won't max the credit cards. Art meets fashion at b Store, with innovative labels by young designers and art installations. You'll have to shove Bjork, David Bowie and Kate Moss out of the way to get to its unisex range and own-label shoes. Big label queens, steer clear.
Short of time? You'll adore London's best department store, Selfridges. The Wonder Room is a wonder indeed, with its hush-hush, champagne-at-any-time vibe and serious top-end accessories (you know you need a Hermes saddle), while the Superbrands room features the world's smokin' designers: pundits swear by Fin's chic loafers and Orlebar Brown tailored men's swimwear. Not playing at this level? The first floor, dedicated to menswear, is where you'll find something you can afford, including many of the names mentioned above.
Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, see selfridges.com.
The Aussie dollar's strong but a pound's still a pound. Budget shoppers should make a beeline for H&M, which has high-street prices but with big names such as Matthew Williamson. Otherwise, Top Man's massive store will deck you out in casual wear or a London suit for a song. If your budget doesn't stretch to a suit, nip into Hawes & Curtis where simple silk knot cufflinks will set you back just a fiver for three sets in a range of gorgeous colours.
All the trimming
If you're serious about your look, your feet will take you to bootmaker John Lobb, down by Pall Mall, for a pair of bespoke shoes. Of course they've got a Royal Warrant. Did you need to ask? And tie it all off with The Great British Trench Coat the catchphrase of Aquascutum. It has been manufacturing showerproof trenches since 1851. Think Humphrey Bogart and Sean Connery. When Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg needed a hat for Indiana Jones, they headed to Swaine Adeney Brigg, famous for its equestrian and leather goods, and picked up the hand-made The Poet in a sable colour. This is also the spot to snap up a champagne trunk for those who like to enjoy a tipple while travelling.
Austin Reed's lower ground floor grooming salon does dry cuts from £25 and wet shaves from £26, while a traditional wet shave with hot towel, wash and cut and a neck, back and shoulder massage is £80. Choose a cut-throat wet shave from £40, a chest wax or a sports massage at Dunhill, while Selfridges has a men-only spa with facials that promise to flush that London pollution from your pores.
Austin Reed, 103-113 Regent Street, www.austinreed.co.uk; Dunhill, 2 Davies Street, dunhill.com.