James Watson Gieve took over the already flourishing Portsmouth based tailoring business in 1888 following the death of his father James Gieve. Over the next ten years the company became the primary supplier to Royal Navy officers of uniforms and accoutrements. One of the most interesting items we have come across in a while is this seemingly simple at first glance Royal Navy officers waistcoat. However J.W. Gieve infact first patented the design for this innovative invention in 1915. May we present “The Life Saving Waistcoat”.
A relatively standard Royal Navy design which conceals an elaborate system of inflatable tubing and bladder that works as a buoyancy aid when needed, as described in advertisements of the time.
“Worn as an ordinary Waistcoat under uniform, fitted with brandy flask, inflated easily in a few seconds, it forms the one known and reliable means of life-saving from U-boats and mine disasters”. Unfortunately the brand flask is long gone.
A fascinating piece of Royal Navy history. Gieves of course would later go on to acquire Hawkes & Co, an equally illustrious taylor that had been servicing the British Army since its foundation in 1771.
Text Doug Gunn