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Brand and shopping advice

Why we love Paul Smith

Why we love Paul Smith


Think of Paul Smith, and chances are you'll think of colour. And stripes. And maybe bicycles. Since launching his eponymous brand almost 50 years ago, Paul Smith – officially Sir Paul, since his knighthood in 2000 – has come to epitomise the modern British Eccentric. His clothes are stylish, always distinctive, but also surprisingly easy to wear. There are few wardrobes that wouldn’t benefit from one of the brand’s elegantly tailored suits, its signature candy-striped shirts or a bicycle-emblazoned t-shirt.

Look close and you’ll spot bikes everywhere in Paul Smith’s clothes. The son of a Nottingham draper, Smith left school at 15 to become a racing cyclist, but that career was derailed two years later when an accident put him in hospital for six month. Friends convinced him to explore fashion instead, and in 1970 he opened his first shop in Nottingham.

Despite the change of tack, his passion for the sport is still evident, sometimes literally – many shops have bikes either in the windows or on the walls – or more subtly. The brand’s innovative tailoring project, A Suit To Travel In, is crafted using the long wool fibres from the bellies of Merino sheep, which makes for tailoring so flexible that you can cycle to work or even pole-vault in it – as demonstrated by athletes at the range’s launch.

"Suiting and Paul Smith go hand-in-hand," says Thread stylist Alice Watt. "It's the brand I always turn to when a client wants something special or an investment piece, because I trust it's going to be a great fit, the finest fabric and will last. And it'll no doubt have some quirky detail to elevate it from the rest, whether that’s a wild lining or colourful threads."

Which means that unlike a lot of designer clobber, the money you pay for Paul Smith isn’t just because of the famous name sewn into the collar. “It’s a brand that’s lasted almost 50 years and if the craftsmanship or quality was shoddy, it wouldn't exist,” says Alice. “That's why it's such a stylist favourite, as I know the customer will get the best cut, the best fabrics and something a little unexpected."

Photographed: Chambray Shirt with Colour Detailing (£175)Bright Orange Polo (£100)Standard 12oz Mid Wash Jeans (£135)Mint Green Suede Trainers (£265)‘Cycle Stripe’ Multi Coloured socks (£17)Sky Blue Crew Neck Sweatshirt (£80)Pink and Green Stripe Merino Sweater (£145)Green Crew Neck Striped Sweater (£150)Ice Lolly Print Shirt (£145)

That quality makes Paul Smith the perfect brand for discovering what a little extra outlay actually gets you, especially since for all its modern design, most of its clothes are timeless. "Paul Smith shows its collections on the catwalks, yet it's the kind of brand that's just as at home in an office, beer garden or swanky party,” explains Alice. “It’s wearable by guys in their 20s and their 60s and the range is so extensive that you’re guaranteed to find something perfect for an exclusive party or a family meal."

That 'something' might be a pair of luxe leather trainers with the unmissable Paul Smith stripes down the side, the perfect pair of mid-blue jeans, some classic-with-a-twist knitwear, or a pair of chinos in a colour that you couldn't find anywhere else. That’s largely because, even in his 70s, Smith still designs his brand’s clothes. And his personal approach to style – quirky but comfortable, distinctive but easy to wear – is still woven into every thread. 

"The clothes are really uplifting and not many brands can claim that," adds Alice. "There are always small details like a striped zebra logo on a polo, or the contrasting coloured seam of a super classic trench coat. There's colour, fun and quirky detailing in everything the brand touches."


Three of our favourite Paul Smith pieces

A Suit To Travel In (£785)

“If you're going to invest in a suit, a Paul Smith is a fail-safe option you won't regret,” says Alice. “The crease-resistant fabric and slightly relaxed fit means it's ideal for travelling to work in too.”


Zip-through cardigan (£215)

“If you want to push the boat out, try wearing this under a suit. For the more conservative dressers, it'll work over a plain T-shirt and jeans.”


Crew neck sweater (£285)

“Paul Smith makes wearing colour so easy. The colour-blocks on the sides of this sweater make it more colourful than a plain navy option, while still remaining classic.”


Words: Tess Harold


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