The Spectator

by Charles Moore

Despite the changes in attitude to disability, too many disabled people still have to make do with low-grade clothes. Some of this derives from the demoralising idea that disability means there is no point in bothering. So this column’s Christmas charity is Style for Soldiers. It was thought up by Emma Willis who runs the very smart shirt shop of that name in Jermyn Street. In 2008, she found out about the work of Headley Court, the military rehabilitation unit in Surrey for injured servicemen. She wheedled her way into the place, and offered to make her bespoke shirts for the soldiers free. Her first idea, she says, had been to make shirts tailored to accommodate a disability, but she soon realised that what the young men really wanted were simply shirts of the highest quality. They love being measured by Emma for what would cost more than £300 for a customer. She and her factory in Gloucester have now made 1,000 shirts for them (the factory girls enclose photographs of themselves). Boxer shorts to match the shirts have just been launched. And the new craze, supported by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, is a walking stick, with a handle of orthopaedically shaped buffalo horn, decorated with a silver, initialled band and a regimental badge. The soldiers now feel smart, and therefore confident. Their social lives improve: they walk proudly to new office jobs on their elegant sticks. Emma told Shaun Stocker, a young man who has lost both legs, that she worried his stick might not be the right height for his new artificial limbs. ‘I love that stick so much,’ he told her, ‘that I’ll make them alter the legs.’ Donate by going to £100 will buy a single shirt or stick.