Good afternoon, Peckham Rye.
Hello Martin. The newly-launched website looks great.
Thanks David. We’re dead proud of it. We’ve had a run on
socks as well today!
A run on socks? (Both laugh)
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.
I know. Everything you meticulously plan for goes a
different way and something else comes along.
So many people that we wrote to when we launched on Monday
have come back to us and it’s phenomenal.
The film on there with the history of the business looks
wonderful. Who produced that?
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.
It’s a clever film because it’s mostly stills, isn’t
it? Yet in your head you think you’ve seen a movie.
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
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
If we were lucky!
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
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
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
Apparently that flicker only happened in the modern processes but
back in the day audiences wouldn’t have seen it.
They think it’s all part of it. Cathode ray tubes and
valves and things like that which I remember.
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
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.
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.
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.
(Laughs) Health and safety?!
He didn’t give a monkeys, it was still plugged in.
Can you tell us about the history of Peckham Rye London? I suppose the easiest thing to do is to
to go and have a look at your new website and the video.
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.
My mum would have had no chance because she was Eileen
It was like my mum used to say there were signs – "no dogs,
no gypsies, no Irish" outside pubs and guesthouses.
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.
I know The Market Porter.
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
So the shop has moved around a bit?
Well, this is the first shop we ever had. We always used to
be wholesale and always made for the trade.
So it was like a factory?
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.
Where is the shop?
Our shop is in Newburgh Street which is just around the back
of Carnaby Street.
A brilliant location.
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.
It doesn’t really matter how it started, the look was and
is just right, isn’t it?
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.
What about The Internet Martin? You mentioned business from America. What
effect has The Internet had?
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
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
They were probably expecting it to look like a PowerPoint
Yes, I know what you mean.
We are spoilt these days because we’ve got things like
Youtube and there’s some really clever stuff on there.
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)
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.
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.
Instant information, instant communication, instant
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
I think everything exists now. I mean, look at your website.
How much information have you got on that?
A little bit yes!
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.
We’ve got an interview with Rod Jane and Freddy tomorrow.
Yes, talking to Jane to find out what they’ve been up to.
It would be fun if they would tour again.
I think it’s brilliant. To have a walk down memory lane.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Did they look like waifs and strays?
No, coming from a tailoring family (Laughs) they’re quite
well dressed actually.
Because my granddad always said “Dress a little above your
station in life.”
Yes, proper shoes.
Dirty faces though?
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.
It’s a way of starting a business. A touch of the Alan
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!
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
Around shopping centres?
Worse than that - we'd even get on a train and follow them
to London from Essex!
Everything was a lot simpler then. (Both laugh)
These days I'd be so aware if there was a lady on the
pavement on her own.
By crossing the road?
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.
Yes, it's how society has become. I'm sure there were lots
of odd people back then too.
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.
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)
For trying to catch a glimpse of ankle! How times have
Can I ask you about
your best sellers 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.
You see that look a lot in the movies.
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.
Have you got any more rhyming slang that you make use of?
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.
As you do!
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.
I interviewed Alan Simpson who co-wrote Steptoe.
Did you? I didn't notice that interview. I love Steptoe and
You'll have to have a look. Have a 'Butcher's"
(Butchers = Butcher's Hook = Look)
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"
I know all of those. That's good, isn't it?
I don't know that one.
Centre Half = Scarf.
Of course it does. And "Titfer" as well.
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
Is there a sort of club of all these old firms?
We've got a group of people who we recommend and everybody's
got their favourite tailor, favourite shoemaker and favourite
Do you have a lot to do with the people in Jermyn Street?
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.
It's like the war movie Appointment in London.
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.
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?
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?
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.
The business is steeped in tradition. But where do you think
it's going Martin?
I think ties are going to become even more important for
Is there not a trend for people to wear suits and not have a
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.
Robin Day was a famous bow tie wearer. Now there's that American
black guy who does all the money advice programmes.
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.
Oh, I see! That's a look in itself.
Yes, a 1960s Chanel advert with a bottle of champagne and an
attractive woman on your arm and the bow tie undone.
Or a poker school?
These looks that come from the twenties and thirties,
Well, thanks Martin for letting us know all about the History of
Peckham Rye and neckwear. It's been fascinating.
When are you going to come round to the shop David?
I'll make a trip when I can soon.
Well, when you do come in and see me and you can choose a
tie or a scarf.
That's very kind of you Martin.
It's a pleasure David. I look forward to meeting you.
And you. Thanks Martin. See you soon.