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In the early 1960s, a key factor in the introduction of The Beatles to young, female American fans — and more importantly, the parents of said fans — was their clean-cut look, which in the “Love Me ‘Do” era helped to offset the dangerous image of rock ‘n’ roll. To create the wholesome yet still cool look, the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, hired British tailor Douglas Millings, who eventually went on to create more than 500 looks for the band, and even made a cameo as the group’s tailor in A Hard Day’s Night.
Today, one of Milling’s creations made especially for John Lennon, a skinny gray wool suit with narrow lapels, is up for auction at Nate D. Sanders Auctions, with a starting bid at $50,000. The piece, which looks almost like a modern-day slim line creation, features two D.A. Millings & Sons labels, and has “John” written on the breast pocket as well as on the pants below the fly zipper, marked for easy costume changes between songs.
Millings specialized in non-traditional garments for the band’s performances, including round neck collar shirts and flat front trousers without side pockets.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with auction manager Michael Kirk about the iconic suit, which is set to go on the block Thursday.
Tell us about this particular suit.
The backstory is that Brian Epstein hired Douglas to create the Fab Four image — he was very conscious of what was being portrayed and the critical mass of what is The Beatles. He controlled every aspect of it, including their wardrobe. This particular piece really takes you back — it’s tailor-made, it’s amazing when you realize that.
It’s from 1964, just as Beatlemania was beginning to catch fire. It’s evident that a lot of money was going into their look and their image. And who doesn’t have burned into their consciousness those early images of The Beatles getting off the plane with their suits on and looking very debonair?
We also wondered if [their buttoned-up look] was sort of a bridge, because rock ‘n’ roll was considered so challenging and frightening to a conservative mainstream at the time, and by putting The Beatles in clean-cut suits, it made them less frightening for the adults whose kids were going out and buying the records and going to concerts and screaming hysterically. That may have been a conscience effort by Brian, but we don’t know.
How long did Millings work with The Beatles?
I don’t know when Millings stopped producing their suits. Even as early as ’65, The Beatles branched out and began to figure out their own style. As they became emboldened and empowered, they had the power to say, ‘We’re not all going to wear the same suit.’ They were four individual people, four individual artists. The clothes sort of tell the story of The Beatles of how they started as this one mass and each grew in different ways, and their wardrobes tell that story.
Are there any specific details on this piece?
It’s just a beautiful wool suit, very well-tailored with lots of detail. It really looks like John was probably fitted for this, like it looks as though it would have fit like a glove.
Tell us about the history of the suit after it was worn by Lennon.
Evidently, the suit was part of Madame Tussaud’s music memorabilia and Hollywood memorabilia. They had an in-house assessor named Cooper Owen, who assessed this suit.
What kind of buyers are typically interested in memorabilia like this?
This is an online auction, so we have a lot of music collectors. We do memorabilia for music and entertainment, as well as political memorabilia. But The Beatles have their own niche of fervent collectors, a lot of whom grew up with The Beatles and are now in a position in their lives where they can buy stuff like this and really bask in the nostalgia of their adolescence.
The starting price is $50,000. Do you have any inkling of what this might eventually sell for?
You never know, but if there are two or three people that really want this, it could go north of $75,000.
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