We are known as bespoke tailors making men’s suits to the highest standards of Savile Row, and selling Made-to-Measure garments. However, we started out, like most tailors here in Mayfair, as military tailors.
Our Proud Military Heritage
Our company, Meyer & Mortimer, is one of the oldest of the Savile Row fraternity. Created in 1790 we’ve had a presence around Savile Row for over 200 years. It means, we have a long history of creating uniforms. We have clothed officers at Waterloo; more recently the Military Knights at Windsor, and the odd film actor posing as an officer.
To find out more about our military heritage, we spoke to the director of Meyer & Mortimer, and resident historian, Brian Lewis.
Mr Brian Lewis
What do we know about our namesakes, Mr Meyer and Mr Mortimer?
We do not know a lot about their backgrounds, as it was such a long time ago and there are not many records, that we know of, for either of them. We do know that a Mr F. Mortimer came from Edinburgh and had a son, a Mr F.W. Mortimer who took on the business. They were army contractors and later became tailors to His Majesty George IV.
Jonathan Meyer was Austrian by birth and had tailoring businesses in Vienna, Paris and London. We believe both Meyer and Mortimer were also gun or sword makers which may have been responsible for their paths crossing.
Mr F.W. Mortimer, son of the founder (1894)
Do we know much more about either of them?
Sadly no. Our old address at 36 Conduit St was bombed in WWII. It meant a lot of our records, which may have shone a light on their pasts, was gone. The only surviving document is a ledger detailing orders between 1809 and 1824. Incredible as this is in and of itself, it tells us nothing of our founders. In fact, we probably know more about their customers (more on this later). Although we have no official record, we know that Meyer worked with the original dandy and arbiter of men’s style, Beau Brummell*, who set the standard for the suit we know today.
*If you would like to know more about Brummell and his impact on men's style then please visit The History of the Suit to find out more.
The original dandy: Beau Brummell
Would military tailoring be the only source of business back then?
No, there was always a mix of military and civilian around Savile Row. Military officers would use tailors to make not only their uniforms but also their civilian and weekend wear. Also, Brummell was making waves in the London scene with his precursor to the three-piece suit. The excitement he generated meant that tailors were called on to recreate his look.
Meyer & Mortimer & The Battle of Waterloo
Meyer & Mortimer have a history of making uniforms for the army; did we make uniforms for any other armed forces?
We have no records to show we made uniforms for the navy or later the air force. We do know we were making army uniforms at the time of Waterloo (1815). Our ledger details a uniform made for Major Henry Percy who was entrusted by Wellington to take the first dispatches bearing news of victory to London.
The M&M ledger dating from 1809
In the late 19th Century Mortimer’s son, before joining the family business, was a volunteer in the London Scottish army regiment. His participation in that may have informed the further focus on making army uniforms.
Did we visit the barracks or would officers visit the showroom?
It was a mix of both. We know that Meyer, after Waterloo, visited officers in Belgium to take orders for new uniforms. Then over the years, there’s been regular visits to barracks in or near London. The Cavalry & Guards Club is just down the road from us (at 127 Piccadilly) where many officers stay when in London so we could visit them there or they could come to us.
What does the average military order look like?
As a rule, an order would come in two parts for a Number 1 and Number 2 dress.
What is the difference between the two?
A No.1 dress, or dress blues, is a ceremonial uniform worn only for the most formal of occasions and worn by senior staff or aides to the Royal Family. For most units, the uniform is blue, hence the dress blues reference.
Soldiers from the Worcs & Sherwood Foresters on Guard Duty
For most regiments, No.2 dress consists of a khaki jacket and trousers, and shirt and tie. This uniform is worn for the majority of formal occasions. Regular soldiers are also issued with one suit of No.2 dress.
Past Customers: The Prince Regent, Beau Brummell & Ralph Fiennes
You previously mentioned Major Henry Percy; are there any other notable military customers?
Absolutely, and a rather important one at that. The ledger details work done for the then Prince Regent, who would go onto be George IV. We made a number of uniforms for him. The Prince Regent was also good friends with (the previously mentioned) Beau Brummell which reinforces our connection to him.
George IV as The Prince Regent in circa 1814
There is also an entry for FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, the 1st Baron Raglan. He was an army officer who served in the Peninsula War and The Hundred Days before becoming military secretary to The Duke of Wellington.
I hear that Meyer & Mortimer have made military uniforms for actors too?
Yes, we did for Ralph Fiennes. It was the film adaptation of Coriolanus (2011), and he played the man himself. It was set (not in Rome but) in a contemporary version of Eastern Europe. It meant the characters were in modern military uniform and we were called on to assist on making the uniforms for Fiennes. It involved me visiting Serbia, where they were filming, three times.
Mr Lewis with Ralph Fiennes
There has been a decline in military tailoring over the years; why do you think this is?
The main reasons, I would argue, were cheaper tailors coming into the market and the introduction of No.2 dress becoming standard issue.
How did M&M adjust?
We had already built a reputation for making bespoke suits before any decline took place, so there weren’t any conscious adjustments to make.
The Military Knights on procession through Windsor
Do you still make any military uniforms?
We do. As proud Royal Warrant Holders to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, we make the uniforms for the Military Knights at Windsor. They are a body of retired military officers who receive a pension and accommodation at Windsor Castle. They provide support for the Order of the Garter and services at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
Well, Brian, that was a fascinating insight into our military past. Thank you for sharing this with us.