Profile – Sam Hazelton of JH Cutler

Meet Sam Hazelton, Manager of the bespoke shirt-making arm of Sydney based, 4th generation Australian bespoke tailors JH Cutler (edit: Sam now runs “Canvas” JH Cutler’s semi-bespoke suit offering).

I met Sam on a lazy Friday afternoon in Sydney, to commission a bespoke shirt from JH Cutler’s O’Connell Street premises (more about that post here).

Sam is instantly likeable, with a calm, relaxed demeanour, matched with a friendliness and approachable sincerity. It wasn’t long before we’d realised that we shared a lot of the same views on menswear and the demise of quality options in menswear, over the last couple of decades, so we spent a long time chatting about that, before we got on to talking about having a shirt made.

Sam landed in Sydney 7 years ago, having moved around with family from a young age, including several years in Tasmania and Newcastle, before finally calling Sydney home in his early 20’s. He studied fashion design at East Sydney TAFE, however it took a few years to realise that his passion lay in the hands-on craft of tailoring, rather than designing collections for a fickle fashion industry already biased heavily towards women’s wear. He was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with John Cutler soon after finishing his degree and he commenced work for John shortly afterward, almost 4 years ago to the day.

Sam, showing me a JH Cutler coat at basted stage

Sam, showing me the stitching in a bespoke JH Cutler coat at basted stage.

In those four years, he has learned a great deal about true bespoke tailoring and the hundreds of minute details required to create a garment that pays tribute to its eventual inhabitant. He still spends weekends and evenings at his cutting table at home to refine his hand work and cutting.

Sam’s one of a handful from Gen Y who are doing great things to help make it acceptable for men to begin caring about how they dress again. If by no other way than leading through example, without ego or pretence. His chosen profession should also help to communicate to others with a developing interest in quality clothing, that it’s no longer only for the generations which have preceded ours. If more men from Generation Y and below knew they could have such an positive discussion about clothes with someone they can relate to, we’d see more well dressed men walking through our City’s.

I asked Sam to expand on a few points that I’d been mostly interested in understanding. Following are his responses:

Where would you like to see your career go in the years to come/what would be your ideal challenge?

“I see a great challenge in providing real bespoke clothing to men at a price point that is attractive to a broader segment of the market. I’m not going to be able to do this without educating myself first; this is the first part of the challenge. There being no formal apprenticeships for tailoring anymore in Australia, one has to be lucky enough to find a job within a tailoring company or learn from a mentor – or else go overseas. I have been very lucky to benefit from the former, and to have met some amazing artisans from whom I continue to learn. It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever acquire the level of skill required to be a maker of garments, this is not essential in order to achieve what I’d like to achieve, but a depth of understanding of the construction of the garments and their components is essential. Mastering the cutting of bespoke garments for a broad range of body types is of course essential, and if I can achieve this over the years to come I will have much more chance of making it possible for more men to experience the many benefits having bespoke clothing made for themselves.

Another challenge is to learn to cut bespoke garments for women. Even on Savile Row, there are few bespoke cutters who are known for doing this exceptionally well. There is a huge amount of emphasis at the moment on bespoke within the context of menswear – there are many women who would love the opportunity to experience having bespoke clothing made the way our male customers do.” 

What are the key lessons you’ve learned about tailoring and clothing since you began working with John?

“I have filled my head with so much over the last four years, as I knew nothing of bespoke tailoring before starting at JH Cutler. There are a couple of things that stand out at the forefront as being amongst the most important lessons I have learned:

Observations I have made during the past four years have taught me how important it is to really look, and to remember that every single body you fit is different. Add to this the fact that fabrics ‘make up’ and behave in very different ways depending upon fibre content, weave and the hands that have manipulated them – and you have a new challenge with every fitting. It is folly to assume that something you did to solve an issue with the last fitting will have the same effect on the fitting that is now in front of you. I try to always keep my mind open and to remember to really look and observe as much as possible when fitting – my hope is that this will one day be second nature and I will not have to remember to do it. 

I have learned that the relationships you form with your customers bring life to a small tailoring business regardless of how much history and prestige it has. The loyalty and trust of repeat clientele will result from delivering a consistently excellent product, but the long lasting personal relationships that also develop, if you encourage them to, are something which cannot be bought or sold and which holds immeasurable value.”

How would you describe your personal style and how has your style evolved since working in bespoke?

“I’m trying different things but am narrowing it down to what I find most comfortable, practical and of course timeless – in both cut and fabrication. Lapels are usually 3 1/4”, pocket flaps a touch deeper than the norm at 2 1/4” , coat with plenty of length. A lightly structured shoulder with one ply pads. I haven’t had anything double breasted yet but am looking forward to the first one. Trousers narrow but not too narrow, usually two pairs for suits – one with and one without cuffs (and usually slightly more tapered), side adjusters rather than belt loops for comfort and ease of dressing (no need to match shoes and belt!).

No short or tight jackets. No narrow lapels. No tight trousers.

I hate wearing clothing that’s uncomfortable, if it isn’t comfortable then it isn’t functioning the way it’s supposed to. I prefer fabrics that are practical so I usually have things between 9oz and 12oz that are robust, but still breath well. I love interesting textures; flannels, cavalry twills, the dry open weave of high twist travelling cloths like the Crispair bunch from H&S (the colours in this bunch are also fantastic!), springy mohair/wool blends with their wicking properties and the resilient trouser crease that they enable (and again the colours – mohair takes blue dye so well!), winter cottons, corduroys and especially linens. I don’t have ultra light weight fabrics, especially if they have silk or cashmere in them, whilst they feel amazing against the skin, they simply don’t wear well or make up as well as these more practical fabrics. Earthy and neutral base colours that mix and match well are useful, then very clean solid coloured poplin shirts and something understated in the outbreast pocket to either bring it all together or break it up a bit.

I find it difficult to sum it all up in a sentence or to describe my ‘look’ in a word or two. There are so many things I haven’t tried, and taste changes as well.”

Sam I and will be catching up again shortly for the first fitting of the shirt we eventually got around to discussing.

Andrew is an Australian born writer, covering the world's leading bespoke tailors and craftspeople in menswear, with a focus on authentic quality, over branding. He spends most of his days running his successful (god knows how) consulting company and travels frequently to Europe for work and writing. He's a passionate cyclist, former trainee professional golfer and lover of all things Cocker Spaniel. He's married to his best friend and significantly better half, Mehri.

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