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Mick Taylor Models for Labour and Wait

May 23, 2012
by the gentle author

Mick checks his costermongers’ knot

As one of those unfortunates that sniffles through eight months of the year, I regularly used to humiliate myself by pulling out ragged scraps of toilet paper from my pocket to wipe away the dewdrop at the end of my nose. Then I discovered the large brightly coloured handerfchiefs sold at old-school tobacconists, one in the Charing Cross Rd and the other in High Holborn, and the problem was taken care of – until both shut recently. Fortunately, Labour and Wait in Redchurch St have stepped in to fill the gap with a magnificent range in twelve different colours and subtle variants of spots and stripes – known variously as handerchiefs, neckerchiefs and bandanas according to their usage.

Rich in cultural associations, red spotted handkerchiefs have traditionally been worn by cowboys, gypsies and farmhands, also by Cary Grant in ‘To Catch a Thief,’ Peter Rabbit and Pigling Bland, customers in San Francisco leather bars, and even wrapped up as Dick Whittington’s bundle. In the East End, Mick Taylor, the man known as the Sartorialist of Brick Lane, who has been sitting outside the Beigel Bakery for the last half century – off and on –  is the most visible proponent, and whatever his outfit he is always to be seen with a jaunty coloured neckerchief.

So I was delighted when Simon Watkins of Labour and Wait told me he had invited Mick Taylor to model their complete range of neckerchiefs, because Mick knows how to wear them better than anyone. Mick remembers his grandfather putting one on each morning before going to work and each of his uncles, Frank, Jim and Alf wore them everyday while collecting dustbins in the East End.

Tying a neckerchief is second nature for Mick. Folding the neckerchief in half diagonally at first, he then folded it a further three times with a triangular ‘tail’ left over, before wrapped it round his neck with the ‘tail’ at the rear of his collar. Once the points are crossed over, he explained, it is a question of tying the stook loosely in what is known as the costermongers’ knot. Mick revealed that the secret to getting a good knot is to start with uneven ends, giving you a satisfyingly symmetrical knot once it is tied.

“This brings back memories for me, ” Mick revealed as he straightened his neckerchief, ” – of London Fields on a Saturday night, going out in a mohair suit from Myers in the Hackney Rd.” Because, although he chose to model the neckerchiefs with a look that approximates to a costermongers’ outfit, Mick was keen to emphasise that they can equally be worn to add swagger to a suit. Mick selected red, blue and yellow as his favourites. “Flash colours,” he terms them, “they all look good with a white shirt.”

So look out for Mick and his new neckerchiefs, bringing a splash of brightness to Brick Lane and celebrating the arrival of the sunshine. With twelve colours to choose from, there is a neckerchief to suit every taste at Labour and Wait, and – now that Mick has shown the way – this could turn out to be the fashion trend of the summer in the East End.

Classic red




Bright red


Light Blue


Dark Blue

First, fold your neckerchief in half diagonally.

Second, fold it three times, leaving a tail that will sit under your collar at the back.

Thirdly, cross the points with one end longer than the other before you tie the costermonger’s knot.

Neckerchiefs in twelve different colours available from Labour and Wait.

You may also like to read about

At Mick’s Flat

A Walk with Mick Taylor

The Return of Mick Taylor

Mick Taylor, the Sartorialist of Brick Lane

8 Responses leave one →
  1. May 23, 2012

    Nice! But it’s got to be red, surely?

  2. Jill permalink
    May 23, 2012

    I can’t help thinking Mr Pussy would look rather fetching in this neckwear. Must be Mick’s whiskers.

  3. May 23, 2012

    Greetings from Sydney! It’s been a while, hasn’t it! But look at you – fancy new book and all. Looking great, and I LOVE this post. xx

  4. Cherub permalink
    May 23, 2012

    I really like Mick in the yellow one! It’s like it brings the sunshine to his face.

  5. andrea permalink
    May 23, 2012

    He wears it well. Red is the classic, but I think the green and the dark blue look best on him.

    If you’re out in the wilds, they can also double as impromptu facecloths and towels, as they dry quickly.

  6. Catherine permalink
    May 23, 2012

    Very dapper gent–and lovely kerchiefs. Bit hard to see the knot beneath his magnificent beard, though!

  7. May 30, 2012

    mick ,if you read this ,you look fab ! love your beautiful white shirt , so flattering , I hope you got a models fee .

  8. September 30, 2017

    So sad to hear of Micks passing, he was part of the fabric of Brick Lane and an original East Ender from the day. Peace to you!.

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