Tom Wharton once measured up a customer on the platform of Paddington Station, while he was waiting for the Eurostar.
“I’ve also rushed to airports to deliver suits to clients before their flights, and I was in Oslo, Norway, last week,” says Tom who runs tailors Barrington Ayre.
Such, Tom says, is the life of a visiting tailor. The 35-year-old Sheffielder, who left the city at the age of 10 but still affectionately refers to it as “home”, sped 35,000 miles up and down the country – in his car alone – last year, measuring the great and good he counts amongst his clients.
There’s a healthy “local” feel to his list of high-profile customers – Michael Vaughan, Sheffield’s Ashes winning cricket captain, is probably the most well-known, and will pack a suitcase full of Barrington Ayre to take Down Under to Australia later this month.
Dan Walker, another Steel City lad, presents Football Focus every week exclusively wearing Tom’s shirts.
And when Nick Matthew, who became a three-time squash world champion at the weekend, was inducted into the Sheffield Legends walk of fame outside the Town Hall recently, he did so wearing a smart blue two-piece made in Yorkshire by Tom’s team of skilled sartorialists.
Today, Tom has made the journey up from his base in Cirencester, a market town in Gloucestershire where he lives with wife Kate, to The Star’s offices.
I will learn first-hand the process of measuring for a bespoke suit, before joining an ever-growing list of young gentlemen dressed in Barrington Ayre. After speaking to The Star’s video team and giving some top tips to avoid fashion faux pas, and posing for pictures dressed immaculately in his own navy, one-button suit with blue pocket square, it was time to get down to the real business – Savile Row had come to Sheffield.
“I’d like to think people come to us because they value that personal service,” Tom tells me, as I pore over a book containing endless swatches of wool. “I have customers in Gloucester who are wealthy landowners, they have millions, but they like to dress down in ripped jeans and T-shirts. These people go to Savile Row to spend £5,000 on a suit, but as soon as they walk in they’re judged.
“Where’s the fun in that? The whole point is that it’s a personal service, and it’s supposed to be fun.”
Despite casting several admiring glances towards a blue, Prince of Wales-style check, I eventually plump for a classic, timeless navy blue – and Tom isn’t altogether surprised.
“You can tell a lot about a person from chatting to them for five minutes, either in their homes or in their offices,” he adds.
“People start to open up and tell you what they’re like, and from that you can almost predict what they’re going to plump for. A lot of people’s personalities are reflected in the suits we make.
“Obviously, there are exceptions, and I sometimes have to intervene – especially if it’s someone’s first suit, and they don’t perhaps know exactly what’s best for them.
“There are so many variables – height, body shape, hair colour and complexion all make a difference in what suit will look good.
“But on the whole, it’s about making them relaxed so we can build something with the customer – and, hopefully, build a relationship at the same time.”
Tom’s visit to the Star’s offices was timed to include a visit to Walker – only for it to be postponed at the last minute. “I got a call from Dan apologising,” Tom, a father of two-year-old twins, smiles.
“He had to rush off and interview David Beckham instead. As far as excuses go, that’s not a bad one, to be fair,” he added.
My namesake and I were not Tom’s only business of a busy day, however, with two more clients in Sheffield on his agenda – before lunch with his grandmother in the evening.
“I love coming back home,” says Tom, who went to Birkdale School, as he notes down my arm measurement. “All my family, apart from mum and dad, are here, and it’s changed a lot since I first left!
“My accent’s disappearing but I’m a proud Yorkshireman and I’m proud to say our stuff is made up here.
“You’d be surprised how well known Yorkshire is, all over the world, for clothing. We get a lot of people buying from us because we’re made in Yorkshire, and I’m hoping to do more and more in Sheffield in the future.”
One of Tom’s ideas is a pop-up shop in the city, after a successful event in London with his own image plastered on billboards in Canary Wharf.
“I was told afterwards that the photographer had digitally altered me,” Tom says, “To alter my eyes and my jaw line, which was nice!
“This is no ordinary job, but I love it and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.”