After a two-Manhattan lunch with the guys, I would occasionally go and sit with “my guy” at Brooks Brothers and go through swatches and order up a couple of MTM suits. One of the tailors, Sal, an impeccably-dressed Italian gentleman, would measure me. Pick-stitching, working sleeve buttons, pen-pocket, mid-break, no break, 1 5/8” cuffs, etc. At times Sal would tell me when Martin Greenfield would be visiting the store to personally do measurements. I would say: “Sal, what do I need Greenfield for when I have you.” He loved that.
I would pick out beautiful silk and ancient madder ties. Order some custom shirts. Pick up a pair of Aldens. By the time all was said and done, it would be time for dinner (and a scotch before that). Then, a few weeks later, the follow-up phone calls to come in for fittings, always on a late-Saturday morning, and then finally pick-up day. Man, those were good days. I still have a closet full of those suits.
Pre-pandemic, I began having all of those beautiful ties narrowed to 3.25” by Andy at Tiecrafters in New York. The ties BB is selling now couldn’t come close to the quality of those ties. The cost to have them narrowed and cleaned was less expensive than buying the sub-par ties they are hawking now. And the cost to replace those ties with something comparable is simply out of the question at this stage of the game.
Last year a younger colleague commented how much he liked a Brooks navy pinstripe suit I was wearing. I asked him how old he was and he responded that he had recently turned 34. I sneaked a peek inside my jacket pocket and told him that I purchased this suit when he was 19 years old. His mouth was agog. I later gave him several pairs of Johnston & Murphy (when they were still a decent shoe) shoes with shoe trees (to emphasize proper shoe care), so that he would stop wearing his curled up square-toed shoes that made him look like Aladdin. Together, we threw those shoes out. I couldn’t look at them anymore. Snobbery? Perhaps. I like to think of it as his rite of passage into better footwear.
These things are just not as important as they once were, and they were beginning to dissipate before the pandemic hit. The pandemic just accelerated this paradigm shift and Brooks Brothers’ closing is a microcosm of that shift. The rites of passage, the rituals, the tradition… it’s all gone.
I would purchase clothes/shoes/pieces with an eye on quality/durability, or least the best quality within my means. Clothes with classic lines, essential pieces, always trying not to following trends but remaining true timeless style. Reading Flusser, Glenn O’Brien (even Bernard Roetzel’s book) for me was part of my job which consisted of making good impressions and emanating a look that you were indeed a serious man. When I was a young man, a seasoned colleague of mine once told me, “You want to be taken seriously? Wear cufflinks.” Sure it takes a bit more then some hardware adorning your wrists but nevertheless, the message was clear. The journey of developing one’s own sense of style was one that I enjoyed — and still enjoy — immensely. — BM