London is a city that we have both lived in during our lives and although the city boasts an unlimited amount of exciting things happening everywhere all of the time, you can easily find yourself hanging out in the same areas; taking the same route home, going for coffee in the same cafe and even finding the 'regular spot' to meet up with friends. Sometimes you just need to stop and ask yourself "why don't we try venturing somewhere new today?" and that's exactly what we decided to do.
Even though we both spend at least 1 or 2 days a week in London for meetings or events we usually only venture in and out very briefly and never find a huge amount of time to enjoy this amazing city or experience something new. Sadly we also don't see friends as often as we would like. This week we decided to take an impromptu extended weekend stay to seek new corners of the city that we had previously disregarded and rather than explore the commonly thought of 'cool' areas associated with Dalston or Shoreditch, we decided instead to look at a more traditional and heritage side to the city. It was important to us that it retained an air of aspiring towards a modern twist, so after some research we booked a fancy hotel and decided to create an adventure in the area of St James.
We're both big shoe fans, however Carlos actually top trumps on the shoe collection and has quite an obsession for boots. A year or so ago he came across a limited edition Tricker's collaboration boot and as it goes with love at first sight, he just had to have them, although unfortunately we couldn't get the size he wanted. With his birthday just around the corner Jenna went on the extended search and on one fateful day she succeeded! Since then our combined love for the Tricker's boot has continued to grow and to discover they had their first (and only) store in St James kicked the day off with a huge success. Stepping inside the beautiful wooden interior took you back to the exact heritage side of London we expected in St James with all the original shop fittings still in place and that new shoe smell that just never changes.
All the shoes were stored behind wooden doors on the shop floor, however in 1938 when the store first operated having a size 10 foot was considered very large and it was rare that a customer would request a larger size. With this in mind there are only 10 spaces behind each door to fit each size of shoe, meaning the shop has now had to adapt to hold the larger shoes downstairs. The power of evolution eh?!
We were also excited to learn that Tricker's wasn't just for the guys and they have also now launched a female line with a larger collection to be due to hit stores AW16! We're looking forward to seeing that and getting some classic his and her brogues!
Carlos of course left Tricker's with a new pair of boots, he settled on a pair of suede brogue chelsea boots called the 'Henry' boot in Visone. They're a lot lighter in person than they look on the website and a beautiful mix between a taupe and a grey and nothing like any other shoe in his personal collection. He just has to be careful not to get them near dirt! Tricker's do offer protectors for suede and it's worth investing in this product to keep them in top condition.
Theres nothing like a new pair of shoes to put a spring in your step and so with a new chuffed pair of feet we wandered around the streets looking for another slice of English heritage. We lucked in when we came across Barbour International - Carlos had recently lost his Barbour International jacket that he'd held dear for many years and its one of those timeless pieces for a guy that ages beautifully and never goes out of fashion. One look through the window at the badass motorbike and the Steven McQueen collection and we were through the doors fast than you can say 'va voom'.
Barbour was established in 1894 and although the owner was Scottish born and bred, he started the business out of South shields in the North East of England which is where their head office and bulk production is still based today. We love it when a company becomes an international name but keeps it's core values and traditions exactly where they started; it's a business value that we plan to carry through when we get Roque + Soul off the ground.
The London Barbour International store is spread over two floors with a heavier focus on the guys but when we went downstairs to the women's section Jenna was instantly drawn to textures and minimal detailing in the womenswear range, so she picked up a two tone grey faux suede 'Hairpin' dress with edgy zip detailing across the upper half of the dress. It’s a really flattering a-line fit and it's not too heavy so perfect for the British summer.
Finding it hard to make a selection upstairs, Carlos was a bit spoilt for choice and there's definitely a lightweight green jacket on a hanger which he feels sad about leaving behind. As we were drawn to the Steve McQueen collection when we first walked into the shop he decided on the windcheater jacket from the collection, one of the Steve McQueen t-shirts and a bleach wash collarless denim shirt from the Triumph collection.
A few stores down we wandered past a completely different feel of shop which caught our eye as the style is one which we admire greatly and carry through our own personal wardrobe. The fresh, clean look of Tiger of Sweden definitely represents a more modern choice for the St James area.
Tiger of Sweden was founded in 1903 with Scandi heritage, and it has fast become a go to brand for the young city crowd. We both love the Scandi minimalist feel for both home and wardrobe so we couldn't help ourselves but to go in and pick out some of our favourite pieces from the shop floor. It made us realise how much we appreciate this style of dressing and how good we feel wearing the more tailored look; so while we were there we made a decision that we're going to make a conscious effort to work on our tailoring game more often whilst still retaining that little rock n roll twist.
The areas in which we were most impressed with Tiger of Sweden were the quality of product you got for the price and the service we received from the team in store, particularly manager Mads, everyone's helpful attitude exceeded expectations. What we didn't realise was that you can actually get your purchased items from the store tailored further by one of the team, taking in anything you need to fit you better or of course having leg lengths shortened to ensure a perfect look.
Thinking ahead into the evening on what we would be doing Carlos decided it would be nice to get a trim and tidy of his beard (this happens every couple of weeks anyway!) so we did a little research on the St James website and we were amazed to see that St James is actually home to the world's oldest barber shop Truefitt & Hill! The beard is a big part of Carlos' life and as we discovered the beard is a big part of St James' life too. For us it seemed a pretty obvious thing that we needed to experience.
We literally just caught the store at closing time and were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves. Gino the barber was extremely welcoming and managed to squeeze Carlos in before he left to go home. Inside the store had a very similar feel to Trickers; with all the original wooden interior, interesting objects and books detailing the heritage and story of the store. Apart from knowing that you are in a store that has been running for 210 years, you feel in safe hands of Gino who tells us he has been barbering for 8 years and not had any cut throat accidents to date (very reassuring in your barber) - they have to be doing something right!
We listened in amazement as were told about the historic clientele list, from the Royal Family (whom they still service today), to politicians such as Willian Gladstone, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill. Add these to legendary figures from the art and entertainment world such as Charles Dickens, William M Thackery, Lord Byron, Oscar Wild Beau Brummell, Alfred Hitchcock and Laurence Oliver and we were suitably impressed. Even the likes of John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Stewart Granger, Fred Astaire and Cary Grant have graced the chairs of Truefitt and received a Truefitt service and now here was Carlos Costa! He might not quite make it to the wall of fame yet but watch this space... you never know what can happen in the next 210 years!
With the uprise of the beard and moustache world we feel the importance of male grooming has resurfaced as well and Carlos isn't ashamed to say he likes to take the time to look after himself inside and out. What a better way to do this than experiencing a hot towel shave provided in the most classic form in the world's oldest barbers. The prices are very reasonable within the market and given the quality, at £45 for a hot towel shave, Truefitts is really a great experience for any pamper loving bearded (or none bearded) man.
By this point in the day we were starting to feel a little tired from walking around all day. We'd arranged to meet up with friends that evening to enjoy some drinks and food in the sun and although we were super excited to get out and see everyone, we needed a quick coffee fix to provide us with a very needed energy boost. We took a walk back down through the area and through St James square. Luckily we spied Borough Barista just before we got to the hotel so we decided to stop by.
Although this lovely coffee shop looks small from the inside its quite the Tardis once you are inside, boasting a downstairs area / gallery as well as the upstairs, which gives you plenty of space to chill out and meet with friends.
After a small chat with the friendly baristas we took our soy lattes and found a spot by the window to nestle in and take the weight off our feet. It'd had been an absolutely gorgeous day weather wise outside and so everyone around London and St James just looked so happy. Its amazing how much difference a bit of good weather can make. So we sat in the window and watched the world go by for a few minutes trying to guess what everyone else was doing with their weekend and if they too had got so busy with their lives they were just hustling to get to the next place and not actually stopping to appreciate the moment and the day.
We can be quite a sucker for just going to Starbucks for coffee when out and about for convenience, but it is when you come to independent coffee shops like this that you appreciate the flavours and aromas a well sourced coffee can make.
Literally on the next road over we arrived at our hotel and to be honest with you we couldn't wait to get in! We'd booked ourselves in to the Haymarket Hotel. They Haymarket is a luxury 50 room hotel set in a classic London town house building. Imagine if you'd never visited London and contemplated your ideal trip, this is the type of hotel you would imagine walking into. We normally wouldn't splash out on something as nice as this as our weekly trips into London don't always afford the budget to sleep in style but we did find an amazing deal on 'hotels tonight' which made us think 'lets just do it!'
All the staff were incredibly attentive and welcoming, proof of this being that when we got inside our stunning room we were greeted with small gifts and a bottle of champagne; it really felt like a luxury treatment! Of course Carlos doesn't drink but Jenna enjoyed a couple of glasses whilst getting ready. Everything in the room was immaculate and the bed was one of the biggest we've ever seen! You could actually both lie in it and star out without even having to touch each other. It was like we both had our own mini double bed. Having now seen the amazing space we headed out to meet friends not far from where we staying knowing that we had our little haven of luxury to return home to later.