Chas. Baker & Co opened its first shop in Seven Sisters in 1864 and expanded steadily across London until the advance of war caused the company to fail in 1939. In Whitaker’s Red Book of Commerce, or Who’s Who in Business, the company is described as specialising in men’s tailoring and school outfits, but perhaps the main reasons for its steady success was its concentration on innovative advertising. For instance, it sold a popular series of decorative maps of London, which happened to have illustrated details of the company’s latest fashions on the back.

The mid-to-late 19th century saw a huge boom in the British textile industry. Cottons, wools, silks and dyes could be produced in large quantities and shipped internationally at low cost. For all the advances in dyecraft, however, men’s clothing tended towards the sombre: with the vivid greens, reds and whites of the 18th century being replaced by greys, browns and blacks.