In the late 1970s, one of the naffest of decades, I acquired a maroon velvet jacket and matching trousers. I thought it would make a good alternative dinner suit to the one I’d bought years before in St Andrews for £7, from the “previously worn” department of Fordyce’s, and was still wearing. But the new set lacked a cummerbund and bow tie. I went to Turnbull and Asser, a famous men’s outfitter in London’s Jermyn Street. I asked if they could make me a matching cummerbund and self-tie bow in grey velvet, which I thought would nicely offset the maroon outfit. The man looked shocked and finally shook his head and suggested I should maybe “try more of a novelty shop, Sir.”
I didn’t, but I did find success at another men’s outfitter nearby. They duly made me a matching set, one that did indeed look good with the maroon velvet suit. I was surprised a few weeks later to receive a letter from Turnbull and Asser, with whom I had left my details, telling me that they had “in error” made the matching grey cummerbund and bow tie I had asked for, and asking me if I wanted to buy it from them. I did so, and thus acquired two sets in differing shades of grey. Both looked good.