It's time you invested in a pair of bespoke jeans .

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When it comes to gracious living, I am hoping that one day someone will compile a book of the sayings of the late Mark Birley, founder of Annabel’s, Mark’s Club and Harry’s Bar. My favourite Birley apophthegm was not actually spoken by the man himself: given his Olympic-level mastery of the art of languor, he had someone else say it for him. I once called and asked his housekeeper whether I could talk to him: she trotted away, trotted back and voiced the deathless words, “I am afraid Mr Birley cannot come to phone right now. He is busy relaxing.”

Birley died over a decade ago, but I still often face style conundra by asking what he would do in a given situation and there are few places where his guidance from beyond the grave comes in handier than when bespeaking clothes. He once told me that he did not like having trousers made, because he found fittings for them rather tiring. I know that he suffered the ordeal nevertheless. But he had a point: taking off a pair of trousers, putting another on, having them pinned and pulled about, removing them and then reassuming the first pair (or, quelle horreur, being fitted for multiple pairs) is a physical drain.

And because he was Mark Birley everyone thought that he had everything made bespoke. I once heard that someone asked him where he had his socks made – to which he answered, in a kindly manner, that he thought having socks made was going a bit far.

I have extrapolated this advice to signify that there are certain things that are simply not meant to be made bespoke. Exercise clothing is certainly one area that I believed should not encompass the world of sur mesure. I do not go jogging and I do my best not to sweat, but even if I did, I have always tended to think that exercise clothing should fit but should not be bespoke. It somehow seems wrong, a little like having tailor-made overalls.

Then a couple of years ago I happened to be poking around in Huntsman when I came across what looked like a pair of tweed boiler suits ready for a fitting... One of my great design heroes Marc Newson, and his wife, Charlotte Stockdale (proprietress of Chaos fashion), had commissioned some overalls in which to drive a vintage car during the Mille Miglia, the great rally that takes place in Italy early in the summer. Like religious people who have “doubts” and experience crises of faith, I felt one of the foundations of my life start to crumble: after all, if a design deity and the modern incarnation of Diana Vreeland (albeit far better looking and sans sandpaper voice) wear bespoke overalls maybe I should moderate my views.

Similar to bespoke overalls, bespoke jeans were another Rubicon that should remain uncrossed... or so I thought until about six months ago when I ventured onto the top floor of the Ermenegildo Zegna building and came face to face with the bespoke jeans department. In the old days I would have resisted the temptation with words to the effect of “Get thee behind me, Satan” and commissioned a pair of the unashamedly excellent Gaziano & Girling for Zegna bespoke shoes to steady my resolve.

But obviously the sight of those tweed driving overalls had changed something quite profoundly, as I started flicking through the swatchbook of denims, idly at first, but then before I knew how I got there I was standing on a podium being measured by the tailor Antonio for a pair of jeans, being asked what buttons I fancied, what colour stitching I preferred and what colour I wanted the leather patch to be at the back of the waistband. I slid off feeling slightly guilty, but not guilty enough to stop me picking them up a few weeks later.

Of course I was delighted with the result – who wouldn’t be? These were jeans that actually fitted how I wanted them to, rather than how the design department at Levi Strauss & Co felt they should fit or how some fiendishly fashionable concept shop proprietor in Daikanyama dictated.

Naturally I ordered another pair in white denim – I know, I know, the red trousers of the urban middle class – and was again delighted. This is denim for grown-ups, Mayfair denim, the sort I wear today rather than was worn by “Marlboro Men” and mid-century Marlon Brando-inspired motorcycle riders. After all, I would look pretty daft turning up at 5 Hertford Street astride a horse or a Harley-Davidson.

What began as a nibble at forbidden fruit has become a ravenous appetite. I have noticed that Zegna also does bespoke jogging pants and sweatshirts and once I have exhausted the possibilities of denim, I hope I will be courageous enough (if only in the name of journalistic research) to be measured for what I believe is called a “tracksuit”.

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