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Dunhill: A Proper British Tradition

Dunhill Autumn/Winter 2012

Mad dogs and Englishmen might go out in the midday sun, but they only did so properly dressed – the Englishmen, that is.

British style has always been quintessentially proper, minimalist, understated, impeccable and extremely functional. For the war cause, they gave us the pith helmet, for the white hunter came the long-sleeved safari jacket, leather elbow patches were reserved for the twee English missionary and the colonial soldier sported khaki shorts reaching below the knee and high, thick socks no matter the weather: heatwave, snowstorm or monsoon.

They also proffered unto us great wardrobe staples as the trench coat, the blazer, silk ties, the pin striped suit, the cravat, the bowler hat and the classic linen suit for those warmer climes. They’re the pioneers of bespoke tailoring a la Savile Row and the protectors of traditions such as the tartan, the Scottish kilt and the exclusive, wood and leather institutions of discreet, members-only clubhouses tucked away in London’s genteel corners.

All very proper, refined and respectable. Which is why one of the most famed brands of the British style tradition has been Dunhill – a decent, solid and all together suitable British product steeped in history, uprightness and old world charm.

In 1907, after he inherited his father’s saddlery business on London’s Euston Road, a certain Mr Alfred Dunhill opened his first tobacco shop on Duke Street, London.

Before the Cuban Revolution, Dunhill enjoyed numerous distribution and marketing agreements with several Cuban cigar manufacturers, selling exclusive and hard to find brands such as Don Cándido and Dunhill’s own Selección Suprema line, with various sizes from many famous cigar makers such as Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta.

Consequently Dunhill became famous as the tobacconist of choice for George VI and the prodigious cigar smoker Sir Winston Churchill. A popular legend tells that when the Dunhill store on Jermyn Street was destroyed in the London Blitz, Dunhill employees called Sir Winston at four o’ clock at night to assure him his private collection of cigars (which he kept in the store’s humidor) had been relocated beforehand to safety. How mannerly!

As England’s demand for automobiles grew, Dunhill also identified the need for car frills and thingamabobs and he developed a line of accessories called “Dunhill’s Motorities”. This first collection included car horns and lamps, leather overcoats, goggles, picnic sets and timepieces and was pitched under the slogan “Everything But The Motor”.

After the Cubans revolted, Dunhill’s unique relationship with Cuban cigars would continue with the communist government’s tobacco monopoly, Cubatabaco. Dunhill was given the exclusive rights to three different brands: Don Cándido, its own Don Alfredo, and La Flor del Punto, plus the numerous Selección Suprema sizes produced by the marques that had survived nationalization. Methinks the British cigar afficianados in the corridors of powers smoothed that deal along, avoiding international fervor and securing their source of cigar nirvana.

Over time however, the tobacco business was sold to the worldwide conglomerate, BAT, and the Dunhill brand concentrated on men’s luxury leather goods, writing implements, lighters, timepieces, fragrances and clothing. [flagallery gid=5 name=”MenStylePower”]

Dunhill also occasionally provided various accessories for the James Bond film series; the association commencing in 1962 began when the production team requested a gunmetal cigarette lighter for Sean Connery’s introduction in Dr. No.

In recent times, Dunhill has brought to life the British club culture in London, Shanghai and Tokyo and of late, Hong Kong; creating a series of retail emporiums for men. The ‘Homes of Alfred Dunhill’ aim to represent the experience of luxury, allowing the customer to live the brand and become part of its legacy.

Each store features consummately British menswear and accoutrements as well as Dunhill’s range of luxury fragrances, leather bags and briefcases, casual wear collection. There’s also a range of services which include a bespoke tailoring service, barber’s shop, fine wine cellars, bar or restaurant, screening room and spa.

The newly opened Hong Kong store features a luxury Restaurant & Bar (Alfie’s by Kee), designed as an exclusive local destination for the Hong Kong’s VIPs, dignitaries and the wealthy. Decorated in dark woods and leather, Alfie’s serves only the very best of real British fare. Also located on the same floor is the oldest Britain wine and spirit merchant Berry’s Fine Wine Reserve by Berry Bros. & Rudd. It houses 32 wine bins and purchase is by invitation only.

Ah, where would we be without Brit style? Still in the dark deep ages methinks or at least in boring pantaloons and oversized, badly fit clothing. We are grateful for this once powerful empire, now reduced to a mere Isle, for their stylish fortitude, excellence and bespoke attention to detail. To us at MSP the British gent, attired in his tweeds and bowler hat, is one jolly good fellow!


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