Sunday, December 16, 2012

Richards of Mountainbrook

Every now and then when I write something that really resonates with someone; I’ll get a private email in response and sometimes the correspondence itself is post-worthy. I wrote Nuanced Authenticity back in August and received a delightful recollection about a haberdashery in the affluent area of Birmingham, Alabama known as Mountain Brook. I’m sharing it with permission from my buddy TCD because his email is to me, as evocative as my original story.

Or maybe it just hits all of my maudlin buttons. At any rate, here’s to the “Richards of Mountain Brook” caliber haberdasheries of days gone by. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m sorry that y’all…the younger set of Trads…missed these gems. And as my cousin Tin-Tin says of our now more derivative than ever world…“Not as good as it was. Better than it will be.”

Here’s TCD’s email…
“This post hit so many memory keys that I can't take the time to list them....but....

Our version of "your Singleton's" in a suburb of Birmingham, AL called Mountain Brook was "Richards of Mountain Brook".

It was located on a shady side street called Petticoat Lane in an old Tudor style building with two bay windows flanking an imposing door with a leaded glass coat of arms.

We knew we were adults when we graduated to Richards from the "Canterbury Shop" a half a block away.

"Canterbury" was our "nuance 101" with Bass Weejuns ( $14.95), Gant OCBD, surcingle belts in about one hundred color combinations, Corbin trousers & Southwick Blazers & sport coats....

"Richards" took a high school freshman to his Dad's world & instantly verified it was where you wanted to be even if it had not occurred to you before.....

As you stepped into the doorway, you were confronted by a huge round mahogany table with reps, clubs, & foulards (all of course labelled..."made in England expressly for Richards".... arranged spoke-in-wheel around the table grouped by color. Guarding the display on either side were two complete suits of armor.

Beyond the battle-ready armor were shelves and credenzas of Troy Guild OCBD....

Just down the center-hall, waist-high shelving displaying shoes (Crockett & Jones) and socks....

Suits (private label with requisite..."made in England" as well as Norman Hilton)....

Richard had a great eye and understood "Nuance" whether in selections offered or in antique furnishings which abundantly decorated the shop...

Just a great place (& owner) with a sixth sense in how to deploy service and an intelligent knowledge base of background of fabric, weave, fit, hand, & pattern as well as a flair for what was complimentary in terms of tradition or, if you dare, sprezzatura!

He magically combined both during the Christmas Season when posted Welsh Guards in full regalia in front of the shop and conducted Changing of the Guard twice per day....and then, when you had made your purchases....all were gift-wrapped in festive holiday color combinations of paper & ribbon in complex bows, each of which held a Johnny Walker scotch miniature.....

Thanks for the nudge to remember the late 60s and early 70s.....wonderful then and cherished now!”

5 comments:

Cubanchem said...

I'm young enough to have missed out on most of these shops but old enough to have caught one of the last gems in Atlanta, The Buckhead Men's Shop. The requisite school uniform shop for all kids going to the schools in my area as well as weekend wear, ie., street clothes. I remember spending Saturday afternoons there getting fitted for everything from shoes to hats, as every proprper Atlanta-born Cuban preschool boy did back in the 70's and 80's. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
PAB

GP said...

The shops are gone. Worse, their suit hangers and shoe horns -- with name plates and worn down lettering -- are a painful reminder of all I took for granted in my shallow youth.

There's certainly something stronger than a correlation's relationship between the decline of masculine style and, well, certain other male essences. E.g., http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/08/french-sperm-counts-decline-fertility-by-the-numbers.html.

MRS said...

I love this post - I'm a Birmingham native but not old enough to remember Richard's. I wonder if your friend is reading this - I'm curious where in Mt. Brook the shop was located. I'm guessing in MB Village - on the back side of the village near the creek? Or on the front end near Bromberg's and Harrison Limited?

Anonymous said...

I might be the only woman reading here who loves men's clothing more than women's. Loved to see the packages arriving for Daddy from J. Press and BB, loved the catalogues, loved the tailoring, the fabrics, the colors, loved going with him so long ago to our local men's store [Rosenblums]. And oh I love this reverie by TDC, it's not just for boys. Just made a couple of purchases from eBay for myself via the men's department. What can I say. When I read Dominique Browning's semi-recent comments re how she loved browsing Paul Stuart and BB, I felt redeemed -- finally, another girlie girl like me comes out of the closet to claim a love for menswear. Make that two!

-F

Anonymous said...

Max, I think I forgot to sign the comment I submitted just now. The one about the girl who wears boys clothes, that's me.

-Flo

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