The Little Boy’s Tailor

John Barran & Sons

As a volunteer at Leeds Museum Discovery Centre, I get the chance to work some of the fascinating objects within the vast collection. Recently, I came across a box containing this small but very special collection of childrenswear.

The group of six smocks and one coat were produced between 1910 and 1920 by John Barran & Sons – a pioneering Leeds-based firm which manufactured ready-to-wear clothing. John Barran moved to Leeds and set up business as traditional tailor and clothes dealer in 1842. In the early 1850s, he opened a shop on Briggate, where he stocked reasonably priced ready-made menswear as well as clothing for children.

The rapid growth of the ready-to-wear tailoring business was made possible by technological developments; such as sewing by machine and advances in the process of pattern cutting. Barran’s expansion of the manufacturing side of his business helped the Leeds tailoring industry evolve to produce larger quantities of better quality garments.

From an early stage Barran took a special interest in childrenswear. Clothing manufactured for boys became a major part of the business and John Barran &Sons Ltd. eventually went on to become makers of school uniforms. Orders for ready-to-wear miniature suits and coats arrived from as far as Canada, Australia, South Africa and South America.

John Barran was so well known for producing these garments especially for children, that he came to be recognised as ‘The little boy’s tailor’.

By Shauni Sanderson

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