The Man Behind The Velvet: Shaping the Identity of Alan Suddon

With the help of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection coordinator Ingrid Mida, I decided to focus my attention on a black men’s blazer created by Cecil Gee of London. It has been surmised by Ingrid Mida that this blazer dates back to the 1960’s, with a probability of creation closer the latter half of the decade. I chose this piece because I wanted to analyze a garment in the menswear category and I found this blazer visually appealing due to its distinctive characteristics. This blazer has numerous features that set it apart from standard blazer we see today; a double-breasted button closure, a velvet outer shell and a fully lined flower motif are just a few qualities that make this garment unique among the vast amount of current men’s blazers.



Figure 1 – Cecil Gee of London black velvet men’s jacket. FRC 2014.07.020.

Prior to my analysis of the garment Ingrid Mida informed me that this garment was acquired through a large donation from the Cleaver-Suddon collection in 2014. Alan Suddon started this collection and became a leading collector in Toronto; he developed an impressive collection, which included many rare items of dress. Couture pieces from Balenciaga, Balmain, Paquin and Dior could all be found in his vast collection. Unfortunately, Alan Suddon passed away in 2001 at age 75  three days after learning that he had cancer, following an exhibition of his collection called 200 Years of Toronto Fashion (Gostick, “Style Stood Still”). In 2014 Kathy Cleaver, the founder of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection, acquired the collection and this garment; along with 600 other items donated to the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection. (Mida, Costume Journal). This blazer in particular belonged to Alan Suddon, who personally wore this garment to various functions and events.



figure 2 – Extra hidden pocket, Cecil Gee of London black velvet men’s jacket. FRC 2014.07.020.

This garment has numerous features that the viewer may not initially notice. When I began my analysis, the first aspect that stuck out, was the luxuriousness of the velvet (see figure 1). This is a garment with a very tactile quality as well as being visually striking. During closer inspection I also noticed that darts have been put into this garment, which aided in creating a slimmer silhouette, along with padding found in the shoulders which would give the wearer a inverted triangular silhouette, a desirable feature for male garments. This blazer featured 3 fully lined pockets; one on the left breast and two flap pockets. One interesting aspect to note that furthers the overall biography of this garment is that during my inspection of the right pocket I found a second, hidden pocket that had been sewed inside the initial pocket (see figure 2). Although this may not very overtly significant, it does lend credibility to my supposition that the initial price of this garment would have been higher then that of an average blazer. Features such as this inside pocket are not typically found on blazer, this added pocket would be more time consuming to create and thus would increase the overall cost. This brings me to another interesting feature that contradicts the


Figure 3 – Saskatchewan pin, Cecil Gee of London black velvet men’s jacket. FRC 2014.07.020.

overall impression of this seemingly high quality garment. During my inspection of the sleeves I was surprised to find that the this blazer had decorative buttons at the cuff rather then functional or “surgeons cuffs” that are typical of blazers with a higher price point. This was unexpected because this was not consistent with the level of detail that had already been observed. The last aspect worth mentioning was a Saskatchewan pin on the outer shell of this garment, which was featured prominently on the left lapel (see figure 3). This pin gives us a clue into not only where Alan Sutton was from but an aspect of his personality as well. Pins of this nature are usually worn to symbolize ones support and pride for what the pin represents. It is common for world leaders to wear a pin symbolizing their country (see figure 4), or to showcase an honorary pin symbolizing an order of Canada,  and much like these leaders Alan Suddon wore his Saskatchewan pin to display his appreciation for his home province. This

Official portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 13, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

Figure 4 – Barack Obama, USA pin

added feature, which remained on the garment during the donation, gives more evidence to Kopytoff’s theory because something as small as a pin has now become part of the garment and helps us understand further nuances in its biography. From the outward appearance of this garment one can make the argument that Alan Suddon was not one to shy away from the public eye. He would not have been afraid to wear garments that would stand out among the crowd and features such as the velvet texture, and double breast closure are prime example of his confident demeanor. This point is further validated once the blazer is opened and the lining with the playful floral motif is on display (see figure 5). If one were to purchase a blazer today, it is likely that the lining would either be a solid color or a simplistic pattern. Furthermore, the linings of modern men’s blazers tend to have muted tones or a similar color to the outer shell, this blazer does not follow this criteria. Also, upon inspection of the inner aspects of the blazer, I came across the producer of this garment, Cecil Gee of London.



Figure 5 – Lining, Cecil Gee of London black velvet men’s jacket. FRC 2014.07.020.

Cecil Gee founded his company in 1929 and rose to success as an innovator in men’s clothing ( The business expanded rapidly after WWII through the sales of the ‘demob suit,’ a double breasted, full drape, lounge suit that was marketed to demobilized servicemen after the war(Roodhouse, Black Market Britain). Cecil Gee went on to be recognized for his imported fabrics as well as his affordable and stylish clothing (Hewitt, “The Soul Stylists”), many notable celebrities began to wear the Cecil Gee brand, including John Lennon, who wore a brown suede jacket (see figure 6)


Figure 6 – John Lennon Coat

from the brand “during the 1963 recording of ‘With The Beatles’ and during the band’s 1964 tour” ( In 1988, the Moses Moss, and Cecil Gee companies combined to create the modern day Moss Bros (Armitage, “Joe Bloggs versus The Toffs”) and in 2011 Moss Bros sold Cecil Gee to JD Sports who rebranded all the stores under the name Tessuti, thus ending the Cecil Gee legacy (Gallagher, “JD’s Tessuti…Cecil Gee”). After understanding the history, its should come as no surprise that Alan Suddon personally wore a piece from this brand, due to the notoriety and acclaimed status that the Cecil Gee brand attained. Also, this adds to the overall biography of this garment due to Alan Suddon’s sphere of exchange, he was able to acquire a garment that was only produced in London (Kopytoff, 74). This fact can also be used to argue that Alan Suddon had substantial wealth or connections, either he was able to purchase this garment overseas or knew of an individual who could, thereby attaining this garment through a third party. In either situation, it shows that Alan Suddon’s sphere of exchange was much larger then the average consumer, thus making this garment more prestigious.



Figure 7 – Hand Stitching, Cecil Gee of London black velvet men’s jacket. FRC 2014.07.020.

Not only does the choice of this garment reveal certain personal characteristics about the owner, but the measurements also reveal the physical aspects of the individual as well. On initial inspection of this blazer, one can clearly see that Alan Suddon was of small stature, and the measurements of this garment validate that claim. The first aspect worth noting is that the bust, hips and waist of the Cecil Gee blazer are 16 inches, 24 inches and 16 inches respectively. This is significant because those are all very small measurements for a male, if I were to try to wear this garment there is no way I could fit into these measurements let alone fasten the buttons. Another curious aspect of this blazer is the length from the waist to the hemline, which is 15 inches. This is very long in comparison to modern blazers and helps to confirm the presumed date of this garment, as blazers of this style were popular during the 1960’s. One final attribute of this garment that warrants discussion is the stitching found on the back venting flap of the garment, which has clearly been done by hand (see figure 7). This indicates that at some stage an alteration occurred, either this garment needed to be fixed, perhaps brought up, or this alteration may be associated with the unique lining. This alteration is important because “the eventual biography of a thing becomes the story of the various singularizations of it” (Kopytoff, 90). Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine the reason for this alteration but the act of altering a garment adds to the overall biography, also one can see that it was not done properly. One can clearly see that the flap is uneven, as the visible black velvet is much larger on one side (see figure 5).


Overall, this blazer has very striking qualities; the velvet texture, the distinctive lining, and the double-breasted closure are just a few aspects that make this piece exceptional. With the help of the Ryerson Research Collection coordinator Ingrid Mida, I believe I was able to further the understanding of not only the history of the piece but how it may have been used and by whom. Alan Suddon was an extremely important figure in the fashion world of Toronto. Although his death was untimely, his rich collection has enabled research into the history of fashionable dress and has added much depth to the Ryerson Research Collection. Through investigation, its clear that this garment is much more then a commodity and can be used to develop a better understanding of the individual features that help to shape the identity of Alan Suddon.

Discussion Question

This blazer can be used to represent certain aspects of Alan Suddon, do you have a piece of clothing that you feel represents you?

Work Cited

ARMITAGE, JIM. “Joe Bloggs versus The Toffs.” Evening Standard. N.p., 18 Feb. 2002. Web. 07 Mar. 2016.

“Barack Obama.” – Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.

“Cecil Gee – About the Brand.” Prescription. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2016.

GALLAGHER, VICTORIA. “JD’s Tessuti Deal Spells the End for Cecil Gee.” Drapers. N.p., 16 June 2012. Web. 07 Mar. 2016.

Gostick, Sheila. “Style Stood Still.” Now Toronto, 8th June 2000. Web.

Hewitt, Paolo. The Soul Stylists: Six Decades of Modernism – from Mods to Casuals. Rev. and updat [] ed. Mainstream, 2003. Web.

“John Lennon’s Brown Suede Jacket.” Http:// National Museums Liverpool, n.d. Web.

Kopytoff, Igor. “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as a Process.” The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge University Press, 2013. 65-91. Web. February 20th, 2016.

Mida, Ingrid. “On Becoming the Editor of the Costume Journal.” Http:// N.p., 25 Nov. 2012. Web.

Mida, Ingrid. “Ryerson Fashion Research Collection.” Ryerson Fashion Research Collection. Ryerson University, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

Roodhouse, Mark. Black Market Britain, 1939-1955. Oxford University Press, 2013. Web.





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