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Peckham Rye London






MOD Ties and Silk Scarves from Peckham Rye London


Peckham Rye London



Digger talks to Martin at Peckham Rye London who have a long and proud family tradition in the clothing trade, supplying numerous celebrities, military regiments, clubs and corporates as well as the public. 

A newly-launched website display the stylish ties, scarves and handkerchiefs that are available either online or from their Newburgh Street (Near Carnaby Street) London store. 

The site also contains a wonderful video of the history of the family business.




Martin: Good afternoon, Peckham Rye.

Digger: Hello Martin. The newly-launched website looks great.

Martin: Thanks David. We’re dead proud of it. We’ve had a run on socks as well today!

Digger: A run on socks? (Both laugh)                                              

Martin: Yes, from The USA. They must be a novelty out there. It always seems to turn out that the last thing in your mind you’d expect to happen does happen.

Digger: I know. Everything you meticulously plan for goes a different way and something else comes along.

Martin: So many people that we wrote to when we launched on Monday have come back to us and it’s phenomenal.

Digger: The film on there with the history of the business looks wonderful. Who produced that?

Martin: We knew in our mind’s eye what we wanted but we just couldn’t put it into words. And we found this web design company when we were in the final stages of making a choice – we typed into Google and this Nottingham firm popped up and they were so friendly when I called. So we met up with them and that was that.

Digger: It’s a clever film because it’s mostly stills, isn’t it? Yet in your head you think you’ve seen a movie.

Martin: I know. They’re absolutely tremendous, they’re a young firm and also the people in there are young as well. It just shows the difference generation-wise there is between me and them.

Digger: Technology-wise?

Martin: Yes. Just the way that young people are used to seeing things these days. In our day we had books and magazines and stuff like that.

Digger: If we were lucky!

Martin: Yes. You could only imagine this sort of stuff in our day but it’s a real testimony to these kids who do all these graphics.

Digger: I wonder what they make of that classic bit of newsreel of the first Telstar transmissions between Britain and America and the indecipherable image of a person and Cliff Michelmore saying “Look, yes, that’s definitely a man"!

Martin: They love its cuteness. When I was talking to them about the film I mentioned about Charlie Chaplin movies and how it used to flicker. We can appreciate that because we grew up with black and white TV but it’s a novelty to the youngsters.

Digger: Apparently that flicker only happened in the modern processes but back in the day audiences wouldn’t have seen it.

Martin: They think it’s all part of it. Cathode ray tubes and valves and things like that which I remember.

Digger: In our house we were lucky and rented a colour telly very early and I can remember it breaking down regularly. And the repair man coming round on a very regular basis to fix something. A great big valve or whatever. That’s why you rented rather than bought.

Martin: Radio Rentals and Granada? And when they burnt out they always used to smell funny. A bit of a sad smell because normally Dr Who was on.

Digger: Yes, it always did seem to go wrong at a crucial moment, but then maybe for kids everything was important to watch so it was always a crucial moment.

Martin: I remember our telly had dials on and we weren’t allowed to touch it. I remember my dad had the back off of it even though it was a rental set. He would try to move all the valves around.

Digger: (Laughs) Health and safety?!

Martin: He didn’t give a monkeys, it was still plugged in.

Digger: Can you tell us about the history of Peckham Rye London? I suppose the easiest thing to do is to tell people to go and have a look at your new website and the video.

Martin: Yes, but there’s a bit more to it than that and some of it sad actually. What happened was, when Charlie, my great, great grandfather, came out of the army he had some trouble. His wife, Annie-Marie McCarthy, because of her name Annie-Marie there was a lot of anti-Irish sentiment in the 18th century and she dropped the Marie part of her name because she was embarrassed. She didn’t want that total Irish association.

Digger: My mum would have had no chance because she was Eileen Dymphna O’Grady!

Martin: It was like my mum used to say there were signs – "no dogs, no gypsies, no Irish" outside pubs and guesthouses.

Digger: Yes, yes.

Martin: I can imagine when you wanted to start in business after coming out of the army they had to cover up a lot of parts of their lives. Even though his dad was born in 1799 here in the East End, his father Jeremiah McCarthy came from Cork and that strong Irish link had to be hidden because of the political situation. I think that’s pretty sad and when he came out they were actually staying in Borough. There’s a pub the called The Market Porter.

Digger: I know The Market Porter.

Martin: That used to be a doss house. I go past it every night on the way home and when I found out they were staying there – my wife’s name is Mary-Anne so you’ve got Anne-Marie then and Mary-Anne now. I spoke to the landlord and he said “Yes, this was the place and a lot of people come here and say that their relatives used to live here.” I think it must have been a place for ex-service people because across the road you’ve got the Union Jack Club and that was a big place for people who’d just come out of the army and had nowhere to go. They’d end up living there so I think the whole area must have been something to do with servicemen. Charlie was a smart lad, he could read and write and joined-up at fourteen just like his dad had done and when he came out he knew his trade alright. So they went over to Peckham, to the Queen’s Road and that’s where they all lived and carried-on trading from. And, of course, the family just migrated within streets of that and it just carried on from there. Up until the Second World War and my granddad. It’s always been an important place for us as a family.

Digger: So the shop has moved around a bit?

Martin: Well, this is the first shop we ever had. We always used to be wholesale and always made for the trade.

Digger: So it was like a factory?

Martin: Yes, workrooms really – I don’t want to give you the impression that we’re a big company, but we have got workrooms and a lot of outworkers so what we do nowadays is very much a cottage industry. It takes time but like we always say, you can’t hurry quality. The people who have worked with us - many have been with us for over 25 years.

Digger: Where is the shop?

Martin: Our shop is in Newburgh Street which is just around the back of Carnaby Street.

Digger: A brilliant location.





Martin: Yes, you couldn’t knock it. When we first opened three years ago people who used to float around here in the sixties came around and one of them, I never caught his name, said this would have been perfect down here in the 1960s in terms of what was happening. And Newburgh Street is actually a famous tailoring street because all of the Savile Row tailors had their workrooms here. And there used to be a firm that made buttons across the way and down the end of the road John Stephen had his premises. Mick Jagger used to come down here with his designs. There’s all sorts of rumours how the Mod look, and dressing with polo shirts and slacks came into being. I’ve been told it was because some bloke had some cancelled orders and he needed to get them out, so he put them in the window and mixed them around and that’s how the Mod look was born. People bought into it because they thought it was youthful Italian and youthful French. There’s so much folklore that surrounds the start of Carnaby in the sixties.

Digger: It doesn’t really matter how it started, the look was and is just right, isn’t it?

Martin: It was amazing and what also amazes me is that it’s still right today. It’s become a timeless classic – the silhouette and everything, it just makes everybody look brilliant and I think that’s what’s so nice about it.

Digger: What about The Internet Martin? You mentioned business from America. What effect has The Internet had?

Martin: There’s obviously a huge novelty factor with the new site and so far the website’s been there for four days and it’s had 17,860 visitors.

Digger: Impressive.

Martin: Yes. We do know a lot of people and there are journalists around the world. A lot of people are customers of ours and I think they email it on because everybody has been asking us to let them know when the new website was done. They all wanted to see how the film was going to be portrayed. I don’t think people expected it to be as cool as it is – maybe it was the way we were describing it as it was being put together.

Digger: They were probably expecting it to look like a PowerPoint presentation!

Martin: Yes, I know what you mean.

Digger: We are spoilt these days because we’ve got things like Youtube and there’s some really clever stuff on there.

Martin: It’s fantastic. I do look at Youtube occasionally and there’s some off-the-wall stuff that will give you a laugh. And I sort of wonder nowadays, how did we ever survive without this? (Laughs)

Digger: Weird. I ask the same question. Why weren’t we twiddling our thumbs? But we obviously kept busy and created stuff and kept ourselves occupied somehow.

Martin:  I remember playing football a lot but even my dad who’s in his eighties, and he was in the trade as well, he has an hour a day now where he just sits down religiously and just surfs The Net. He comes up with all sorts of amazing facts and figures. (Both laugh) He loves it because he can look back where he lived and see where he and my mum used to go dancing and what have you. I think it’s brought a lot of things to a lot of people.

Digger: Instant information, instant communication, instant gratification.

Martin: Yes.

Digger: If you have a bit of cash in your pocket and want to buy something , then if it exists you’ll be able to find it on The Internet.

Martin: I think everything exists now. I mean, look at your website. How much information have you got on that?

Digger: A little bit yes!

Martin: I was reading about Pan’s People the other day and I’d totally forgotten about them and it’s amazing how well Dee Dee has done following that.

Digger: We’ve got an interview with Rod Jane and Freddy tomorrow.

Martin: Have you?

Digger: Yes, talking to Jane to find out what they’ve been up to. It would be fun if they would tour again.

Martin: I think it’s brilliant. To have a walk down memory lane.

Digger: There’s nothing wrong with that. Some people would say people who love Retro and Vintage are living in the past and I don’t think we are. I’m sure you and I, although we love the tradition and heritage, are living for today and looking forward to what’s coming up. I’m certainly looking forward to stuff that’s happening in the future but it is nice to recall where we came from.

Martin: You’ve got to have a respect for the past. I think that’s one thing that the website does for us at the shop. We do remember the people in our family and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.

Digger: You could have used the new website as an opportunity to re-brand, forgotten the past and said “We’re here and we’re now.”

Martin: Yes, and forget about the heritage. But the people that come into the shop they just absolutely adore the photographs that we’ve got displayed. There’s about 125 family photographs that my granddad had in a tin that we found when he passed away. The reason he’d inherited them was because of his mum Catherine. A lot of her brothers fell in the First World War and the women never re-married. So they didn’t have kids and everything went to my grandmother and grandfather and they kept it all, medals and everything. All of those are in the shop and we get a lot of people coming in asking us about these pieces and some people ask us to email them to us. They’d love to show them to their school kids because they’re a teacher in California or whatever. We’re more than happy to send the pictures out to people because there is this huge interest. And no-one’s living in the past but what you’re looking at is a piece of history in your hand.

Digger: Things go in cycles and we need to look at the past to know where we’re going and if you don’t then we’re just going to blunder in, making the same mistakes.

Martin: Yes, exactly. People of all ages, from young to old, come in and look at the pictures, like one of my granddad leaning against a car in 193. And older people say “That’s a such-and-such car” or young people will look at the way the children were dressed in 1916.

Digger: Did they look like waifs and strays?

Martin: No, coming from a tailoring family (Laughs) they’re quite well dressed actually.

Digger: Good.

Martin: Because my granddad always said “Dress a little above your station in life.”

Digger: Proper shoes?

Martin: Yes, proper shoes.

Digger: Dirty faces though?

Martin: Yes, dirty little faces and my granddad especially never smiled because, during the depression, he was having to go around siphoning petrol from cars and then they’d sell it around the pubs. When they were twelve or thirteen.

Digger: It’s a way of starting a business. A touch of the Alan Sugars!

Martin: He wouldn’t say he did that on The Apprentice, would he? He should say to them “Here’s a bit of hosepipe and here’s an old petrol can, bring us back £20 at the end of the night.” That’s what they were, running around in little groups and doing that because they had to in order to survive. My granddad’s favourite story was when he used to have his hair cut on a Saturday and what he used to say to me was that he’d be “On the top deck home.” And I never used to know what that meant but he told me once. He’d go and get his hair cut and if he thought it was a good look he’d go upstairs on one of the old open top buses and try and attract the attention of the girls along the Old Kent Road. So THAT'S what people did pre-Internet!

Digger: Ah! Well, it would be seen as stalking these days but I can remember in the early seventies following girls with my mates for hours around one town or another! It was all innocent stuff and they knew and encouraged it.

Martin: Around shopping centres?

Digger: Worse than that - we'd even get on a train and follow them to London from Essex!

Martin: Everything was a lot simpler then. (Both laugh) 

Digger: These days I'd be so aware if there was a lady on the pavement on her own.

Martin: By crossing the road?

Digger: Yes or try to hold back so she doesn't get nervous and think I'm following her. In fact, if you see youngsters on their own you try not to make eye contact. It's such a shame what we have been reduced to.

Martin: Yes, it's how society has become. I'm sure there were lots of odd people back then too.

Digger: Yes, there were, it's just that because communications are so much more advanced we hear about any incident anywhere just after it has happened.

Martin: We've got, hanging up on the wall, some patterns that Charlie cut in 1859. They cut them out of newspapers in those days because paper was an expensive commodity. And there's a story on there about a fellah who's walking down Regent Street and trying to lift a woman's skirt with his cane (Both laugh) while singing a French song. And he gets arrested for that and I think the crowd are shouting the word "Shame!" at him. (Both laugh) 

Digger: For trying to catch a glimpse of ankle!  How times have changed.

Martin: Yes.

Digger: Can I ask you about your best sellers Martin?

Martin: It's very cyclical - people adore Paisley in terms of the design. Its origins are very Victorian and very Empire - it comes from India. During the Wintertime, come October, then people tend to home-in on that. The London spot scarves are what I'd say are the backbone of the scarf collection. And what makes the scarf is the way it's tied up. So we show people how to tie it up like a seventeenth century coachman, which is a look you can create with it. The spot scarf's going to go with everything - the Paisleys and the more colourful designs are the more special one-off designs - for weddings and so on. On the tie side it's always going to be a plain black tie - whatever you have in your wardrobe it always goes back to that and everybody seems to like the look of a charcoal grey suit or a navy blue suit and white shirt and a very plain black, navy blue or maybe burgundy tie.

Digger: You see that look a lot in the movies.

Martin: Yes, again these looks are very timeless and very classical and as much depends on your shirt collar. If you've got a very wide collar you're not going to get away with a narrow tie because it's going to look like a peanut underneath your chin. We do a range of sizes so that people have got more of a choice. Because people like wearing 'Peckham Ryes' (Ties) and they always bring a smile to people's faces.

Digger: Have you got any more rhyming slang that you make use of?

Martin: Yes, "Tilbury Docks" for socks. We put some on the website because I was in Tokyo once and got talking to the Dutch national karate team.

Digger: As you do!

Martin: Yes, and one of them said "Do you know any rhyming slang?" And I couldn't believe they'd heard of it but in Holland apparently there's a huge love of Steptoe and Son and Del Boy and so on.

Digger: I interviewed Alan Simpson who co-wrote Steptoe.

Martin: Did you? I didn't notice that interview. I love Steptoe and Son.

Digger: You'll have to have a look. Have a 'Butcher's" (Butchers = Butcher's Hook = Look)

Martin: Yes, so you've got "Rhythm 'N Blues" and "Ones and Two" (Shoes), "Daisy Roots" (Boots), "Jekyll and Hydes" (Strides = Trousers), "Dickie Dirts" (Shirts), "Tennis Rackets" (Jackets), "Billy Goats" (Coats). 

Digger: I know all of those. That's good, isn't it?

Martin: "Centre Halfs."

Digger: I don't know that one.

Martin: Centre Half = Scarf.





Digger: Of course it does.  And "Titfer" as well.

Martin: Yes, "Tit for Tat" = Hat. And at Peckham Rye we specialise in neckwear really, so there'll always be money coming through the door, but there are a lot of other traditional families out there in the trade also doing clothing that go back through the generations.

Digger: Is there a sort of club of all these old firms?

Martin: We've got a group of people who we recommend and everybody's got their favourite tailor, favourite shoemaker and favourite shirt maker.

Digger: Do you have a lot to do with the people in Jermyn Street?

Martin: Yes, we make a lot for the guys down there and in Savile Row as well. Obviously, we make their ties under their own label and we look after a lot of celebrities and quite a few regiments. In fact, if you look on the website you'll see a letter from the SAS. Ties mean a lot of things to a lot of people. The best way to explain that is that a few years ago a young guy came in and he had four ties with him and they were regimental ties. He said he wanted us to take the lead colour from each of the four ties and make a new tie with that combination - just four of them. And we did that and he came back and explained that he and three other guys all from different regiments were all under fire in somewhere like Bosnia. So a bond was formed between them in combat and it was something they wanted to commemorate with a tie. Every year on a certain day the four of them would meet up together in London.

Digger: It's like the war movie Appointment in London.

Martin: Yes. And we've had a guy from the USA from a pathfinder bomber crew and their equivalent was called 'lead group'. He placed an entire order with us. They had to have English-made ties because that's what they had in the war. He hadn't been back to England since and his brother was buried in Cambridge - what we do means so much to so many different people and a lot of the time we're very overwhelmed by it.

Digger: What's coming across, Martin, is that it's as much an information service and a counselling service and a community as much as a business. Amazing isn't it?

Martin: We do a lot of wedding business as well and people come in and choose their designs. More often than not people are going to buy a suit off-the-peg or hire one and the tie is probably the best way of toning in with what the brides' wearing. It's a nice way of persoanlising your wedding and it's wonderful that we get chosen so often. We have such a nice time being included in the process. There are some real joys to what we do. I love doing the wedding - the celebrities coming in is great and I am careful to focus on what they want and not to engage them in conversation. But when you get a wedding couple coming in and he has to choose a tie, but she doesn't want him to know what wedding dress she's wearing (Laughs) You know what I mean?

Digger: Yes.

Martin: We have really good fun and I really enjoy that and then there's the more technical side where we have to create patterns for different events or companies around the world - special corporate ties just for the bosses.

Digger: The business is steeped in tradition. But where do you think it's going Martin?

Martin: I think ties are going to become even more important for people.

Digger: Is there not a trend for people to wear suits and not have a tie?

Martin: I think there is in certain circumstances but if they're not wearing a tie then they've got to have a handkerchief in their top pocket, because you have to have a splash of colour. For an older gent, it's the only way they can show they're still a bit 'with it' with some colour. A suit without a hanky in the top pocket does look a bit under-dressed.  The tie may take a bit of a back seat but then the scarf comes into play a bit more. We've sold more bow ties already in June than we did for the whole of last year. There's a huge trend in that. 

Digger: Robin Day was a famous bow tie wearer. Now there's that American black guy who does all the money advice programmes.

Martin: I think it goes back to Beau Brummell and it's a very dandified look that he created. And we do the pointed end bow ties which we've always made and Cary Grant used to wear them. It is a very dignified look - people are put off because they don't know how to tie them but once you realise it's exactly the same as tying a shoelace, it encourages people to wear them. We do get people coming in occasionally who can't tie a bow tie and so they'll buy one that is a clip-on ready-tied and one that's untied. So when it's time for the post-prandial cigars, they nip off to the gents and slip the untied one around their neck.

Digger: Oh, I see! That's a look in itself.

Martin: Yes, a 1960s Chanel advert with a bottle of champagne and an attractive woman on your arm and the bow tie undone.

Digger: Or a poker school?

Martin: These looks that come from the twenties and thirties, they're enduring.

Digger: Well, thanks Martin for letting us know all about the History of Peckham Rye and neckwear. It's been fascinating.

Martin: When are you going to come round to the shop David?

Digger: I'll make a trip when I can soon.

Martin: Well, when you do come in and see me and you can choose a tie or a scarf.

Digger: That's very kind of you Martin.

Martin: It's a pleasure David. I look forward to meeting you.

Digger: And you. Thanks Martin. See you soon.

Martin: Thanks. Bye.





Peckham Rye London


Scarves and Skinny Ties from the leading British designer brand Peckham Rye, a label that always gets it right for that exclusive London look.

Ties, Scarves, Handkerchiefs, Bow Ties, Tees

Peckham Rye London/Hunters Partnership Ltd.
11 Newburgh Street,
London W1F 7RW

Tel: 0207 734 5181

Store open:
Mon-Sat 11.00am - 6.00pm
Sunday 12.00pm - 5.00pm







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