Denis Hanks, a colossus of The 39 Club, died on 15 May after a battle with cancer. He was 86.
In an association of more than 50 years, Denis was Club Chairman twice, and President and Honorary Secretary several times. He was fondly known as the Club's "godfather" having masterminded with aplomb most of the social functions for many years up until 2019. He is remembered as being the most reliable, respectable and steadfastly loyal person to the end.
A hugely respected and popular character in the premium menswear trade, Hanks continued to work until his recent illness, acting as an agent for Cheshire-based Spurcroft Civic, a club and corporate neckwear supplier. He joked he was winding down his career for most of his later working life.
Born and raised near Manchester, Hanks did his National Service in the army before joining leading shirt brand Peter England.
His links with the London agents’ association, The 39 Club, began in 1968 when he was a sales representative for Peter England. For 25 years he sold the brand in the West End and City of London, plus Middlesex, South London and Kent. Then followed 10 years with Banner Shirts, before Hanks moved over to the tie trade with Brocklehurst.
After that company ceased trading in 1986, Denis set up his own agency business and developed a close working relationship with John Collins, whom he knew from Brocklehurst. John and Denis nurtured a silk-lined handmade tie business. Denis managed to develop an impressive portfolio of named Jermyn Street clients including Alfred Dunhill, Turnbull & Asser and Thomas Pink.
One notable wearer of Denis’ ties was the Duke of Edinburgh. Denis met Prince Philip on several occasions and attended garden parties at Buckingham Palace with his wife Tricia and their two sons.
Always based in the West End, Denis often mentioned he had seen many changes in the menswear retail trade during his long career. He witnessed first-hand the closure of so many smaller higher-end independent stores, alongside sweeping changes in fashion and styles.
Denis was from the generation where you needed to be dressed appropriately to do business. You had to wear or hold a hat to sell in the menswear business of old. Although Denis embraced newness, although he did find modern technology a challenge. He did not entertain emails and was very well-known for producing many handwritten highlighted letters.
Denis had an incredible zest for camaraderie and belonged for many years to numerous clubs in Central London, including the Victory Services Club, the Royal Over-Seas League and the Centurion Lacrosse Club, for which he played actively as a younger man.
Denis was involved and loyally supported every club he was attached to. Of course, he was one of the longest-standing active members of what he described as the "unique" 39 Club, where he will be much missed from the new younger members to the entire membership network.
Denis leaves his wife of 55 years Tricia, sons Trevor and Philip and grandchildren Isla (10) and Jamie (5). The closed funeral will take place on Thursday 4 June.
*Written by Eric Musgrave*