There is a certain charm and old-world mystique that surrounds tailoring. For Joe Dandy, it evokes the superbly well-dressed gentlemen of a few generations ago: Fred Astaire and his love of Savile Row or Cary Grant with his understated elegance. These were men who understood the value of a tailored suit and who reaped the rewards with a style that we still talk about today.
Luckily, tailoring is not a lost art that has been relegated to a time of silver-screen idols. It is very much alive and well and Victoria is blessed with a handful of masters.
If you want a custom-made clothing experience that puts attention on your best physical assets and slyly keeps attention away from parts of your body you aren’t so happy about, go the extra mile and get to know a tailor.
You will look better, your clothes will fit exquisitely and you will feel like a million bucks. Or like Fred Astaire.
A Haute History
Tailoring — the art of cutting and sewing clothes — has an ancient legacy. Centuries ago, as towns were becoming cities and cities were becoming empires, the loose robes of the Middle Ages were replaced with tailored, constructed outfits. These more fitted outfits were worn less to conceal the body and provide warmth and more to illustrate wealth and power. Arguably, this is what style is still about today.
The need for tailors grew throughout the centuries, surging into high gear in the 1800s when Savile Row, London’s bespoke mecca for men wanting fine tailoring, attracted disciples like Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Dr. Livingstone. Soon, any man who valued style had his favourite tailor.
The Role of the Tailor
A tailor can do a number of things for you: alter something bought off the rack, tweak a favourite piece of clothing or create a garment from scratch. You know those denim trousers you love? The ones that make you look amazing but have an outdated cut? Or the shirt that’s a little too big and hangs funny, but is your favourite? A tailor can update clothes for today’s styles or bring in — or out — something still in style but needing a slight change. But a tailor can’t work miracles such as making a suit jacket longer or extending the shoulders, adding length to a pant leg if there is no extra fabric or walking on water.
One of the best reasons to see a tailor is to commission a bespoke suit, a beautiful thing that every man should experience at least once. This is a garment fitted specifically to your body, with the fit proportioned to make you look as dapper as humanly possible. You pick the material, pattern, colour, all of it. Lapels, cuffs, buttons: these are things to consider as well. Fashion will dictate some of this, but truly, if you are sophisticated enough for a bespoke experience, you are sophisticated enough to set your own sartorial standards.
The end result is a creation catering entirely to your vision. A quality handmade suit is a thing of such beauty; it can bring tears to your eyes. Plus, if you are extra tall, wide or short then off-the-rack clothing probably doesn’t work so well for you, so going bespoke is a way to get what you want.
Visiting the Tailor
Before you visit a tailor, do some legwork. If it is a new suit you want, have a good think about your final vision: style, pattern, material, even buttons. A tailor can even give you hidden pockets, just like Batman. Plus, think of where and when you’ll wear the suit: to work, to your wedding or dressed down with jeans on a date? The tailor can guide you through the choices, but this is an investment so give it the attention it deserves.
When visiting a tailor, be forewarned that there will be measuring — a lot of measuring. Collar, shoulders, chest, waist, buttocks, sleeves, thighs and legs. There is no lie between you and your tailor. If your pants always sit a little low and this drives you nuts, or if the shoulders of your jacket always pull, let your tailor know. And don’t bother sucking in the gut because you won’t fool your tailor.
A Beautiful Finish
In many ways, clothes do make the man, and a tailor can add a level of polish that will make you stand out. When you start a relationship with a tailor, do remember you are partaking in a profession that has a long, honoured tradition so have reverence for the experience. And revel in it.
Q&A with Expert Tailor, Stan Zapotoczny
If you’ve ever bought anything from Outlooks for Men, chances are you’ve met Stan Zapotoczny and experienced his passion for his craft.
Why did you choose to become a tailor?
“I had a hole in my pants and I asked my mom to sew it up. She said, ‘No, you can do it. Take a needle and do it.’ That’s how I started. In Poland, where I was born, there was a different system: after elementary school, you either went to high school or you went to trade school.
I went to trade school. My parents told me to be a tailor [because tailors] make good money and they don’t have to work outside.”
Why should men visit a tailor?
“If you want quick, you can go to an alteration shop — they can do it in the same day. If you want quality, you should go to a tailor. I still hem pants by hand. Nobody else in town does this. To be a master tailor is the top that you can be.”
By David Alexander