The Timeless Appeal of Gold Thread Embroidery – Robb Report

Metal hasn’t played a big role in the men’s wardrobe since we ditched armour, but it lives on through the art of wire embroidery. This elaborate technique, which originated in medieval England as a means of embellishing priestly vestments, was later applied to military and ceremonial uniforms as well as blazer crests signifying membership in schools, clubs or army regiments.

More recently, wire embroidery has been used by brands like Ralph Lauren to decorate sweaters and even honored the “dad hat” thanks to Rowing Blazers. Among the greatest practitioners of the art today is London Hand & Lockwhich was established in 1767 and has embroidered for the British Royal Family, British Armed Forces and European fashion houses, and continues to offer custom embroidery for private clients.

Rowing Blazers Bullion Embroidered Baseball Cap ($63).

Rowing Blazers

Hand & Lock’s production manager, Jennifer Pile, understands why this age-old decorating method remains appealing. “Originally it was used to signify your status: the more gold embroidery you had, the more important you were,” she says, adding that it made cloth men look “ethereal” during services. “Today, he no longer speaks the same language as before. However, it is still very impressive to watch.

But what is it ? Bullion thread is an embroidery material made entirely of metal and a small part of gold. Although also called “goldsmithery”, the actual gold bullion represents a trace of its material. Pile says that traditionally the number would have been 2%, but it’s more common today for bullion wire to be made from a mixture of white metals and 0.01% gold called “golden”. .

To use wire, embroiderers cut the tightly spun bobbin into small pieces which are then sewn to the top of the fabric. Pile compares the process to beadwork, while noting that bullion wire is “much more manipulative and can create detailed patterns and designs.”

A royal Ralph Lauren sweater ($995) and handwork details from Hand & Lock.

A royal Ralph Lauren sweater ($995) and details of Hand & Lock’s manual work.

Ralph Lauren, Hand & Lock

One thing you don’t want to do with steel wire is throw it in the washing machine. Instead, Pile recommends having this hard-wearing decoration dry-cleaned. And when stored, make sure the garment is kept in a cool, dry place away from moisture.

“It can go on for years,” Jones says of Bullion Wire’s longevity. “Parts made in the Middle Ages still exist today. It all depends on how you take care of it.

One area where steel wire remains particularly relevant is slipper decoration and is currently used by labels such as Arthur Sleep, Stubbs and Wootton, Barker Black and FE Castleberry.

“They’re both formal and casual,” says designer Fred Castleberry of the bullion-embroidered slipper’s appeal. “Our penchant for gold thread is linked to my love of tradition, particularly that of the English.”

FE Castleberry's cheeky version of the traditional Prince Albert slippers.

FE Castleberry’s cheeky version of the traditional Prince Albert slippers ($550).

Chandler Easley/FE Castleberry

Castleberry also notes that over time foot flex can impact the appearance of the embroidery. “Shortly after breaking them, antique bullion wire enters a season of what we enjoy as ‘pleasant decay’, a term even more apt to describe English country homes.”

But from the designer’s point of view, such degradation is cause for celebration, not alarm. “The thread surrenders to the crease of the vamp over time. Much like marking your height on the door frame as a child, this should be worn as a badge of honor – embraced.

Let bullion wire appear in your wardrobe on a blazer cresta cotton twill capor a much-loved pair of slippers, we hope you wear and care for this badge of honor with pride.