Let Brian Matthew introduce you to the last word in weekend sartorial style.
It’s the 1960s – exactly when in the 1960s remains a bit of a mystery, but presumably, it’s early enough in the decade for young people readying themselves for a Saturday night on the town to be impressed by swinging instrumentals, Brian Matthews and John Collier suits. Hence the existence of this curious promotional disc that apparently came with purchases and was designed to encourage further sartorial enhancement that would almost certainly set the dolly birds a flutter.
John Collier was, for a while, a famous high street boutique for a certain sort of man – not, perhaps, the swingingest swinger in town but a chap who wanted to look spiffing without spending a fortune. The name was used from 1953 until 1985, when its chain of shops was sold to Burtons and the name was discontinued. Like many a high street chain, it emphasised both quality and price – the latter, while being affordable for the masses, supposedly not impacting on the former. For entire generations, John Collier would have been the first, last and only stop when it came to buying a suit for whatever men needed suits for – at that time, it was still the expected uniform of the white-collar worker and the sort of thing that a chap would wear for a night out. Looking smart – and, just as importantly, looking modern without being modish – was everything.
The Saturday Night Suit seven-inch was an odd promo recording, featuring a suitably swinging lounge number called Saturday Night as the main track, performed by the Johnny Johnson Orchestra, one of many lightweight orchestras making easy listening records at the time. It’s certainly lively stuff, the sort of thing you could imagine a chap tapping his foot to vigorously at the Batley Variety Club or similar venues across the country.
The sleeve notes and B-side hard sell are by Brian Matthew, a BBC DJ for many years who back then was still seen as a bit of a sophisticated, stylish fellow – the sort who never went home alone, you might think. On the sleeve notes, he tells us to “leave those work days far behind” – a bit extravagant given that everyone will be back to the grind on Monday morning. He also suggests that every day is a Saturday night in a John Collier suit, which feels like a bit of a stretch for any office drone wearing one while being given a telling-off by the boss – but perhaps inside they would be dancing, or at least preparing to chat up Doris in the typing pool over a cup of tea in the office canteen.
On the B-side of the record, Matthew goes even deeper into the hard sell, implying that the Saturday Night Suit is a thing unto itself – a piece of fashion specifically designed for this time, this place. He rather undermines this by then saying it could be formal or informal, made from a variety of cloth – in other words, the Saturday Night Suit is whatever suit you want to wear. Well, yay. Still, we are assured that the suit will have been made by a craftsman who has taken six years just to reach the point of knowing how to use a pair of shears – no Indian and Chinese sweatshops here – yet start at just £10 19s 6d. Admittedly, I have no idea what that translates to in 2022 money but I’m sure it’s a bargain.
Then, Matthew is replaced by an altogether more determined salesman, as Johnny Johnson and his band strike up and the new chap bangs on about “easycare terylene”, which was the memory foam of its time, a futuristic convenience that screamed modernity – this wasn’t yer dad’s Saturday Night Suit (though it probably was by some point in the 1970s). Throughout the whole thing, there is the unspoken but rather obvious suggestion that wearing a John Collier suit will, without question, get you laid. Who, after all, could resist?
The suit is rather out of fashion these days – even people with office jobs don’t seem to wear them as routine. It’s rather a shame because a town centre Saturday night now seems to be awash with drunken oafs looking to fight and that hardly seems a step forward. A well-cut suit, rather than a tight-fighting pastel-coloured short-sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans, might induce a sense of civilisation and decency amongst the pub crawlers. Bring back John Collier and we’ll bring back civilisation!
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Yes, that ubiquitous advert: John Collier John Collier the window to watch.
There was a joke which mercifully can’t recall, the punchline which went: Joan Collier Joan Collier the widow to watch.
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