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Norman Hilton

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Knox, Nov 6, 2011.

  1. Knox

    Knox Senior member

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    The (new) Norman Hilton jackets--they've already received quite a bit of good press. I am happy to add my voice to the chorus of praise. I've seen them. And worn them.

    Mr. Hilton--Nick, that is--is using Lovat Mill cloth. Once upon a time, there were several Norman Hilton models, including more than one version of the undarted, soft-construction jacket. Mr. Hilton is using the time-tested Hampton model for the current, resurrected version. Undarted, natural shoulders, hook vent. Relatively but not absurdly narrow lapels, and 1/4" stitching. What the old Norman Hilton model book calls "tracing"--there's a bit, but very subtle and soft. Some prefer the word "shaping." Again, there's some, but, to my eyes, not as much as some remember the Hampton featuring. Certainly it's not the shapeless "sack" that some prefer. The lines are, well, again, soft.

    Following a long but worthwhile search, Mr. Hilton found a master tailor in NYC to do the cutting and sewing. Again, at the risk of repetition, everything about the jacket is identical to the 60s-era Hampton model. Everything. This would make sense, since Mr. Hilton had (has) the original design ("papers") his father created. Yes, the cut-and-sew operation in Linden is no more. But the same level of craftsmanship is there.

    What's even more interesting is that there is a made-to-measure option--Norman Hilton in NYC. The customer selects the fabric (with Mr. Hilton's guidance, to be sure; after all, Norman Hilton clothing was unique in part because of the superb cloth), and Mr. Hilton works with him on the measurements. But the Hampton model specs are available. So, it's entirely possible one could simply go with a 42 regular, using the Hampton specs for that particular size. For the sake of authenticity, that would be the way to go, I think.

    In an era dominated by off-the-rack clothing that is, for lack of a better term, awful, this resurrection is a breath of fresh air. For those inclined toward soft, unpadded construction and excellent cloth, the (new) Norman Hilton Hampton jackets are reason to rejoice.
     


  2. Knox

    Knox Senior member

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    And, before anyone asks, No, I do not work for or with Mr. Hilton. And, no, I was not asked to offer the words of praise.

    I am, simply put, very grateful for his recent efforts. When you try on one of the Norman Hilton jackets, you'll understand why.
     


  3. comrade

    comrade Senior member

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    I had some correspondence, which I cannot find, four or five years ago, with
    someone representing a revived Hilton organization. At the time, they were offering
    a bespoke or MTM service, based on classical Norman Hilton models. They did not
    have a location and proposed to measure and select fabric at hotels, etc, like
    visiting tailors. I was a very satisfied Norman Hilton customer in the 80s, but decided
    against going with what seemed to be a very early-stage operation. I am glad
    Norman Hilton is being offered again. I hope they make it. It was great clothing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2011


  4. comrade

    comrade Senior member

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    Who carries the current NH line?
    RTW or MTM, it is wise to try it on.
     


  5. Knox

    Knox Senior member

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    Nick Hilton's shop in Princeton.

    There are websites--for the store, and the new Norman Hilton line.
     


  6. Saturdays

    Saturdays Senior member

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    I just learned that Norman Hilton passed away earlier this month, I think November 1. Sad that such a great person was barely remembered in the media, not that he was ever a strong part of the media, just thought I'd read it somewhere like CNN, didn't even see a press release.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2011


  7. Knox

    Knox Senior member

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    The Norman Hilton Hampton jacket is unique, that's for sure. It's difficult to describe, actually. One might be tempted to charactertize it in terms that some use to describe the present generation of "soft jackets" (unconstructed/unstructured), but that would be misguided, I think. There's structure to the jacket--a tailored look that wouldn't be at all out of place in a workplace where other men are wearing heavily padded, highly structured jackets, both suit and sport. The N.H. jackets--both the resurrected version and previous (60s era) incarnations--resist analogy or comparison. The current obsession among some (Ivy Hipsters chief among them, perhaps) with an uber-soft shoulder (sans padding, wadding, chest piece, etc.) is what it is, but the Hampton--the now and the then--features a shoulder that, while soft and natural, features the kind of carefully tailored structure that one typically only finds in either better MTM or bespoke. Again, a very unique piece of clothing. Add to this the fact that the cloth is not easily sourced (Lovat is notorious for wishing to remain obscure and working with only a select few tailors), and the result is an off-the-rack jacket that's, to repeat, worthy of praise.
     


  8. F. Corbera

    F. Corbera Senior member

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    .
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2011


  9. comrade

    comrade Senior member

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    I just checked out the website. I am disappointed.
    The jackets my be "interpreted" from original Norman Hilton
    patterns, from 1963, but IMO they are short and skimpy with too narrow lapels.
    In fact they look suspiciously like something from J. Crew. I compared them with
    a Norman Hilton jacket that I still have in my "clothing museum" dating from the mid 80s.
    My coat is longer, fit is looser, and lapels are wider. I am also surprised at the prices-
    they seem low. I paid around $400 for a Norman Hilton suit in the early 80s. Today, the
    same quality garment should around $1000 retail. Shouldn't it?
     


  10. Saturdays

    Saturdays Senior member

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    No, prices have been pretty constant in terms of clothing.

    Norman Hilton used to be somewhat low volume, now it is much more low volume. The price for a sport coat goes for $600+, and they aren't selling suits over the website - but I heard MTM options were available earlier when Nick took over. I am not sure if they are right now.

    Also I would not compare them to J Crew, quality is much better - and their designs are pretty unique. This season's aren't as great as last seasons imo.

    Remember they sort of completely redesigned themselves in a sense - just trying to appeal more to the young prep crowd it seems.
     


  11. Knox

    Knox Senior member

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    Of course there are Norman Hilton jackets circa the 1980s. As one might expect, the fit/style is a bit different, depending upon the retail shop. True, most retailers changed with the times. But there were shops that continued to prefer the original (60s-era) Hampton jacket, even in the 80s.

    We've now entered the realm of taste. To my taste, the jacket lapels are not too narrow. Approximately three inches, I think. The length is just right, IMO. Some of the 80s-era jackets feature ridiculously wide lapels (well over 3.5"), and, to be honest, are too long. Such was the era. Maybe spillover from the previous decade, the equivalent of a sartorial wasteland.

    I wouldn't trust what you see on the website. The jackets demand a try-on.
     


  12. Knox

    Knox Senior member

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    Yes, a MTM option is available. A bit more $, but, if you want a better fit and additional cloth options, worth it.
     


  13. mack11211

    mack11211 Senior member

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    Yes, the new ones are interpretations of the old ones.

    So what?

    NH is a fashion company, not a historical reenactment supplier.

    I have one NH coat from the 60s and one from the 70s. Both have a 3B coat with the throat latch.

    Each has the natural shoulder but details differ -- two or three coat buttons, two or three cuff buttons, size of lapels, format of the plaid, etc. I like them both, just differently.

    Contemporary coat fits are shorter and closer than those of 50 years ago, and NH would be foredoomed if they did not recognize this and go with it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2011


  14. comrade

    comrade Senior member

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    If it's a "fashion company" it will probably fail. It's too small to market clothes that follow fads as the examples in
    the website seem to do. To me they still look like the J Crew's current interpretation of "Ivy", no matter how well-made
    they are. Paul Stuart is an example of a store that has thrived by offering for 50 years that I am familiar with them,
    updated natural shoulder clothing-- updated to what is current, but much closer to the classical line, their Phineas
    Cole line notwithstanding ( an abomination). I bought one of their first two button suits in the 60s. This became
    the standard Ivy variant from the sack---natural shoulders, somewhat nipped waist, center, and later ,side vents,
    originally from Southwick, then Samuelsohn.
     


  15. mack11211

    mack11211 Senior member

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    It's all fashion.

    Norman Hilton had a good run in the 50s and 60s because Ivy League natural shoulder clothing was the fashion. In the 70s the fashion changed, and NH began to wither.

    Look at the fits from NH ads of 50 years ago. You can't sell these today outside of, perhaps, J Press.

    But note that J Press is now owned by a Japanese company, and the US operation is just the tail of the dog. At Paul Stuart as well, lucrative Asian licenses do a lot to help the bottom line.

    The American market alone doesn't support such stuff anymore in any quantity.

    If you want something like the good old days, try buying one size larger and one length longer, and fume about something else.

    Kids these days are always doing something. I think some are on your lawn right now.
     


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