On May 12, 1971, Mick Jagger married Bianca Pérez-Mora Macías in St. Tropez. You’ve probably seen the photos: Mick and Bianca kneeling before a robed officiant, getting mobbed in the street, exuding joy in the back seat of a car.
This was a union not destined for the long haul, and the wedding itself proved to Bianca that she’d made a mistake. Her new husband was reportedly more interested in partying with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr that night than in spending time with her. But what an impression Mick and Bianca made, she in Yves Saint Laurent and he in Tommy Nutter.
I’ve long marveled at the creamy, amply lapeled 1930s-inspired three-piece that Mick wore that day in 1971. The suit was the work of Edward Sexton, who cut it in his role as shears-wielder-in-chief at the House of Nutter, 35a Savile Row, London.
The atelier was founded by Tommy Nutter himself, the tailor of choice for rock stars, Swinging London notables, and anyone who wanted to look like one. Several years ago, I caught wind of the fact that Sexton was making the Jagger suit again. In fact, he’d never really stopped making it, depending on the whims of his clientele. And so, during one of the periodic stopovers that Sexton and his emissaries make in New York, I decided to go pay a visit.
I had little more than fandom to propel me, along with the business card of a men’s magazine, as I made my way to an uptown hotel suite. I had to see the suit in person.
The tailor of choice for rock stars, Swinging London notables, and anyone who wanted to look like one.
It was Nutter—flamboyant, pop-star handsome, and self-described “epitome of the old-fashioned English boy”—who had turned the Row upside down, bringing bespoke to the rock ’n’ roll set while bringing a big dose of rock ’n’ roll to bespoke.
Nutter tailoring was about sartorial pyrotechnics that would have made Beau Brummell blush: soaring lapels, roped shoulders, crotch-accentuating trousers that flared with exuberant splendor, an expansive approach to pattern and texture. The Nutter look was a throwback to the glory days of Dick Diver and the Duke of Windsor and yet utterly futuristic: glam before glam. Unusually for the Row, it dared to have overt sex appeal: Nutter suits were wearable aphrodisiacs.
Fittingly, Nutter opened his shop on Valentine’s Day 1969; he was all of 25. Thanks to him, the Peacock Revolution had breached the stately redoubt of Huntsman, Gieves & Hawkes, Poole, Kilgour. Sexton was his trusted lieutenant and the talented young cutters Joseph Morgan and Roy Chittleborough filled out the Nutter team. That March, John Lennon, affectionately known around the shop as “Susan,” wore a white Nutter suit when he married Yoko Ono in “Gibraltar near Spain.” In August, three Beatles put on Nutter suits, which Sexton had cut, for the Abbey Road cover shoot. (George Harrison opted for Woodstock-inspired denims.) Soon enough, David Hockney, Twiggy, Elton John, Bill Blass, assorted aristos and Hollywood stars—everybody, it seemed, was getting “Nuttered up.”
It was allegedly the Beatles, then headquartered at 3 Savile Row, who introduced Jagger to Nutter. The Stones front man sized up the tailor and said, “I’ll have a suit like the one you’re wearing.” (When Mae West met Nutter, she had a similar reaction: “Come up and do a suit for me sometime.”) Jagger said that “Tommy brought Savile Row up to date without losing its tradition.” Nutter’s own take was nonchalant: “I don’t really care what’s going on. I just do what I like.”
Five years after Mick and Bianca’s wedding, Nutter decided to leave his own shop. Sexton, Chittleborough, and Morgan kept it going until it shuttered in the early 1980s. It was the Thatcher-Reagan era, which meant that Establishment sobriety was in style. Still, it had been an incredible, improbable run; as Sexton put it, “The bitchy old queens said we wouldn’t last six months.” Nutter’s last huzzah was designing the Joker costumes for Jack Nicholson in Batman in 1989. He died of an AIDS-related illness on August 17, 1992, at the age of 49.
But the Nutter legacy lives on. His ace cutters are still around—and mostly still working. Sexton, who has been based in Knightsbridge since 1990, mentored Stella McCartney and continues to service high-level clients around the world.
A few years ago, I had a companionable visit with the wonderful Joe Morgan at Chittleborough & Morgan (who happened to have made suits for the late Charlie Watts). Chittleborough retired in 2011, but Morgan still has the old patterns, and the old crazy stories to go with them: sometimes anecdotes are the best accessories of all. Along with Sexton, he keeps working the classic Nutter elements: romance, spice, a touch of grandeur, and a playfulness built upon the tectonics of expert tailoring. He also mentored the incredible contemporary tailor Michael Browne. Next time you’re in London, go visit Morgan and Sexton both.
When I arrived at the hotel suite for my own Sexton appointment in New York, the master himself wasn’t present. But an able representative chatted me up, put me at quiescent ease, and then approached with the Jagger wedding jacket (or “coat,” in Savile Row parlance). I hesitated to put it on. It really did feel presumptuous.
He eased it over my shoulders (a tad thicker, perhaps, than the original client’s) and it was like slipping into a second skin, the skin I was meant to have. I could feel my comfort, confidence, and attractiveness levels rocketing upwards. I dreaded going to the mirror, expecting to find a middle-aged dad wearing a rock-star jacket. But no: It looked great. Beyond great. Sexton once said that when clients put on his clothes, they sometimes became aroused. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but even if marital bliss proved to be fleeting for Mick and Bianca, they must have had one hell of a honeymoon.
Mark Rozzo is an Editor at Large for Air Mail