What Goes Around...

 
 

By Andrew Yamato

It was the perfect interview suit. Single-breasted, three-button, in a warm mid-grey worsted wool, with a subtly draped chest and shaped waist. Classically proportioned, trim but nowhere tight, confident without being brash. It was a safe bet that my prospective employer would appreciate the suit’s understated yet unmistakable quality. Of course he would. He’d made it. Twenty years ago.    

Not for me, mind you. I got the job, but I still haven’t quite reached the point where I can afford a custom suit from Alan Flusser. In the meantime, I’m what I call a “high-end bottom feeder” -- a furtive denizen of luxury consignment shops, a merciless sniper on eBay, leveraging a knowledgeable appraisal of other men’s fine clothing to punch above my weight, sartorially speaking.

No shame in that. Over the years I’ve assembled a formidable wardrobe of first-rate secondhand finds from Flusser and other top bespoke makers. I wear them with a bargain-hunter’s pride bordering on smugness, but also with respect for the men of taste who commissioned such beautiful and enduring clothing in the first place. Sometimes I can still make out their names, tucked away inside a pocket, and learn something about them. This navy overcoat was made on Savile Row for the British puppet governor of the Channel Islands during their wartime German occupation. That sportcoat was made for a famous comedian in slimmer days.

My grey suit was part of a closetful of garments I’d picked up one lucky afternoon at an Upper East Side consignment shop. Alan had made them years ago for an Arkansan who’d become one of New York society’s most beloved interior decorators before passing on at a tragically young age. With no heirs to bequeath his exquisite wardrobe to, his loved ones had put it up for sale. Perhaps not the fate one would have hoped for such bespoken treasures.

On the other hand, perhaps it was exactly fitting the point that they fit me so exactly. Surely their original owner would rather have had me thrill to discover and treasure his clothes -- with his taste helping to shaping literally becoming my own -- than to have them hanging unworn and unloved in a closet somewhere?

It was once axiomatic that bespoke clothes were made to last, and if fortune smiled, handed down from father to son. The disposable dictates of modern fashion have rendered such longevity unlikely, if not downright unfashionable. As men are rediscovering their sartorial heritage, sometimes the sartorial gods grant favors in the form of family-friendly duds, hand-made in such classic proportions and timeless fabrics as to celebrate their no sell-by date bona-fides.

Multigenerational style doesn’t always follow a bloodline. Sometimes heirlooms are not given, but found. Of course, someone has to make them in the first place.