Saturday, 11 December 2010

The "DEMOB" Suit and the developement of mass production in tailoring

Returning home at the end of Second World War, men were offered by demobilisation a three piece suit, which became known as the "demob suit" ...
This played an very strong role in the increasing of mass production tailoring ...
Burton, a clothing company, produced one third of all the demob suits, and even originated the popular expression ... the full monty ...("a full three-piece suit with waistcoat and a spare pair of trousers (as opposed to a standard two-piece suit) from the Leeds-based British tailors Montague Burton. When the British forces were demobilised after WWII, they were issued with a "demob suit". The contract for supplying these suits was fulfilled by Montague Burton, so the complete suit of clothes issued to the servicemen was known as "the full Monty".)

The Company was founded by Montague Burton in Chesterfield in 1903 under the name of The Cross-Tailoring Company. It was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1929 by which time it had 400 stores, factories and mills.

The Burton Company archives are held at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds.

The Company had a large factory in Leeds which was visited by the Princess Royal in 1934.

After World War II Montague Burton offered men the chance to buy a full suit, which included jacket, trousers, waistcoat, shirt and underwear and became known as 'The Full Monty'.

Around 10,000 people worked on the site, producing over 30,000 suits a week. Burton was the biggest employer in Leeds.

Hudson Road was the heart of Montague Burton's empire. He chose Leeds because it was the centre of Britain’s textile industry and so he had access to skilled tailors and machinists.
Burton’s secret was to offer high-quality made-to-measure suits at low prices. "A five guinea suit for 55 shillings", was Burton’s promise.

Men would start work at 14 years of age as barrow boys, then be apprenticed as tailors or cutters.

However, men were outnumbered 10 to one by women. There were vast workrooms of machinists, with whole families working on the same production line.
The factory was described by former tailor, Sam Bernstein, as "a town in itself".
Burton made every effort to keep his staff happy - Hudson Road had the largest works canteen in the world, along with a pre-welfare state health and pension scheme.
Free dentists, chiropodists and even sun-ray treatment were provided for factory staff.

At the end of the Second World War, all servicemen returning home were issued with a set of civilian clothing, including a three piece suit. Many of the suits were made by the Leeds firm of Burtons. This was founded at the start of the 20th century by a Lithuanian Russian migrant Jew, Montague Burton (1885-1952), who initially established shops selling bespoke and ready-to-wear suits in Sheffield and Mansfield. As the business expanded Leeds became the manufacturing centre for the company. Montague Burton was knighted for services to industry in 1931, going on to endow chairs at several universities, including Leeds.
During the Second World War Burton's firm made a quarter of all British military uniforms. After the war Burtons continued as a successful business selling men's suits and clothing.

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