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Me, My Suit, and I

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Status details: working cuff holes, cross-stitched mother-of-pearl buttons.  

The next several days are a haze of soul-searching and window-shopping. I visit several other suit emporia. Tom Ford’s space-age bachelor pad looks amazing, but the suits are humorless and the clerk refuses to see a potential customer in me: financial profiling, if you will. Duncan Quinn strikes me as too rock star, with its crests and narrow lapels and ultrawide pinstripes. Freemans comes across as too self-admiring: Their suits have transparent gauze lining, the better to gawk at the stitching. I find, to my horror, that my heart is set on one Glen Plaid gray-brown wonder.

I run down my own list of the kinds of people who wear bespoke. Am I rich? Emphatically not. Am I a status whore? Not likely: I’m not sure anyone other than my wife would fully appreciate this suit. Plus, what status are we talking about? Customization, like all haute trends, is trickling down-market as we speak. The treasured signifiers of bespoke are reproducible, and ready-to-wear purveyors are already catching on: Some off-the-rack H&M suits, for instance—yes, H&M—have working cuff buttons. One shouldn’t be shocked if, within the next few years, the likes of Sears come up with a “made-to-measure” program that somehow manages to customize your $100 suit within a set of narrowly defined parameters; while this article was being written, Men’s Wearhouse introduced a custom-shirt service.

Whatever it is, my wants have been recalibrated by the devious Wilcox. I don’t care about pick stitching or mother-of-pearl buttons or cuff holes: I care about a suit whose every inch is made specifically for my frame, whose entire architecture is in tune with the weird requirements of my body, the suit that will make me whole. Brainwashed, I march back to Lord Willy’s; a bottle and a half of Champagne later, Alex swipes the deposit of $1,950 off my groaning credit card.

Two months pass before I’m called in for the first fitting. All doubts vanish at the first sight of the suit: It feels, not to be sappy about it, like a reunion. The jacket still lacks lapels and lining, and its rough inner workings are exposed, but even now, putting it on magically improves my posture. “You can’t gain any more weight,” warns Betty. Ha, but now I don’t need to lose any, either: The trousers’ high flat front makes my gut disappear. I get it now. It’s not about feeling exceptional; it’s about feeling utterly normal. I’ve cracked the secret of the bespoke addict. Too bad I’ve cracked it by becoming one myself.

I exit the shop walking on air—or I would, if the pants I’m wearing didn’t feel like two burlap sacks compared to the ones I just tried on. My suit won’t be ready for another month. It’s going to be a long one. When I get home, there’s a new e-mail from Jesse Sheidlower: “Just make sure you don’t get obsessed with shoes,” he writes. “That’s a killer.”


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