Nearly a year later, I am still completely in love with my first bespoke suit from Michael Andrews Bespoke. I still talk about it to anybody who’ll listen. I still look at it admiringly. I still feelhappy with it. I can’t spend a single day without it, and when I am forced to, it pains me deeply. I go to great lengths to spend every single waking moment with it. My love affair with my first bespoke suit is as passionate today as it was on the first day, if not even more so.
As a man of intense loyalty, it follows that I would of course stay with Michael Andrews Bespoke when I decided I needed a second suit. I wore the hell out of my first suit. And it feels better for it too: a well-made bespoke suit breaks in and conforms to your body. But while I am a man of simple tastes, one whose heart does not hold greed for new and novel things, I nevertheless felt that I could use a new suit for a little bit of variety, not to mention the fact that the trousers have been worn down quite a bit.
And so in the third week of August, I emailed Michael Andrews Bespoke. I was told that they were moving locations. Moving from the grungy outskirts of Alphabet City, the new location was in the trendier neighborhood of NoHo. I was excited for them. As much as it was a business, it would always remain in my memories as the place of one of my personal rites of passage. And as much as it was a business, they had a special place in my heart.I made my way to 2 Great Jones Alley, the new home of the sartorial promised land I had learned of a year ago. The black gate was still there as they promised. But in the place of the dirty little buzzer I pressed on Clinton Street was a shiny metal doorbell, complete with a camera and two-way speaker. The name MICHAEL ANDREWS BESPOKE in a plain sans serif was engraved into the faceplate, a symbol of both the haberdashery’s physical and metaphorical rising to a new permanent home. I pressed the little silver nub.Unfortunately, the bell wasn’t quite working as well as one would expect it to. It buzzed momentarily, signaling my entry. I tried to open the gate.
And then I tried again.
I rang the bell again, and again I was buzzed in.
Again, I pressed the lever in the handle of the gate.
Again, the door refused to budge.
I, in a haze of brain dead idiocy, stared at the doorbell, defeated. I looked around and saw something that made me feel like an oaf of enormous proportions.
The large gate for vehicles was wide open.
I tried to massage my wounded ego by priding myself on following proper procedure by ringing the bell to gain entry, instead of barbarously sidestepping the main gate in order to barge in to the place.
I ended up doing the brutish thing after all and walked into the alleyway. I realized at that point though that I hadn’t the slightest clue as to where to go after I made it past the gate. You see, you fool, you should’ve just stayed at the doorbell, I thought to myself. I found the nearest doorway, which happened to lead downstairs to some technology company. I asked the fellow where Michael Andrews Bespoke was, and he directed me up some industrial looking steel stairs. Looking in through large floor to ceiling glass panes, I recognized that I was in the right place. As I opened the large glass door, the scent of fresh paint wafted into my nose. But any questions as to why that was quickly left my mind as my eyes were drawn heavenward.
Michael Andrews Bespoke had appropriated an old art gallery and turned it into a chic hub of sartorial hedonism. Skylights illuminated the high vaulted ceiling. A row of mannequins in impeccably tailored and fashionably unique suits sat on a ledge high above, as if looking down on the mere mortals whose clothes would wear out; they were immortalized as sartorial gods, deities whose image men should be created in. An enormous wooden bar lined the right side of the studio. Clients and their wives or girlfriends could stand around tall stately marble tables while enjoying an old fashioned or a glass of bourbon on the rocks. It was impressive, an immense improvement over the old basement workspace.
It appeared to be a busy day for everyone. The buzz of work being done in a newly inhabited space marked the energy of the place, and everyone seemed to be bustling about. Even so, Marian, the cheery and attentive administrative pillar of the company, managed to greet this lowly aspiring writer by name. A sort of ritual, I sat down on the pinstriped navy couch. It was a comforting piece of furniture that hearkened back to the company’s more modest beginnings. After half a miniature bottle of Poland Spring and a brief wait, I was introduced to Alex. A slim and athletic young fellow, he expressed a loud energy without being brash. We went over to a table where he brought me the fabric books.
I intimated to Alex that I desired a more casual looking suit this time around. I was tired of the somber and serious look of my first suit. As much as I tried to downplay its inherent austerity by unbuttoning the last sleeve button and omitting the tie from my daily wear, its roots still lay in my original desire for formality. I love it still, of course, but I needed something less intimidating. Gray was the color of the day, and in time we came to examine a very light English wool. Though slightly rougher to the touch, it was thinner than the fabric my suit was made of. Alex explained preemptively that the roughness of the wool was due to the demands of English weather: rougher weather necessitates tougher fabric. He also recommended that cloth over another that I was contemplating because it wasn’t as plain and ordinary. “With this one, it actually looks like a bespoke suit,” he said. I appreciated his insight and went with his suggestion, partially because I’m a budding anglophile.
As we went over the details, Alex demonstrated boldness in his direction and advice. He pushed for classic detailing and for the avoidance of silly whimsical things. Clearly not a man of subtlety, he practically rebuked my passing whimsical desires for a different colored lapel button hole and a ticket pocket. “I wouldn’t do it, but I’m not going to fight you on that,” he’d say to many of my fugacious fancies. I appreciated his well-defined vision of what should and shouldn’t be on a man’s suit. Despite his respectful dislike for ticket pockets, I opted for one: with his recommendation to have no chest pockets on my waistcoat, I’d need a place to put my Metrocard. I told him to note that my ticket pocket should fit a Metrocard, as my black suit’s ticket pocket did not. He was surprised, as his own ticket pocket did. I thought that perhaps his jacket was a newer one fashioned from newer pocket specifications.
We got to the linings, and I had chosen a navy and gray paisley lining, a more interesting lining than my previous white-blue stripes. It was, to be frank, my attempt to be a little more adventurous with my clothing. Alex made a disclaimer that though the paisley lining wasn’t inherently of poor quality, they were more prone to pilling: the formation of tiny balls of fabric from wear and tear. I was aware of such issues and didn’t mind. After all, wear and tear is not anything one could avoid.
However, Michael stepped in and recommended that I choose a different lining. Alex, quite naturally, was a little offended. Perhaps a sign of his wounded professional pride, he explained to Michael that he had made me aware of the pilling issues already. I nodded in agreement. Michael didn’t waver though and gently insisted that we pick another lining. “There’s nothing wrong with it per se, but it’s not something I’d put Wistful Writer in,” he said.
It was an entirely comforting thing of him to say. You see, as much as I was excited for the company’s expansion, I had my concerns. With what seemed like twice the new staff (though the original staff was small to begin with), a new on-site office for the sales manager, and presumably a larger clientele base (where else did they get all that money to move to such swanky new digs?), it worried me that Michael Andrews Bespoke had become greedy and developed a taste for more money. I have always been a supporter of the small businesses. I would be the type of person who would keep my business at a small paper company like Dunder Mifflin (the company that is home to television show The Office in case you didn’t know) on account of their superior customer service, despite any added expense. Good help is always hard to find, and good businesses that care about their customers are just as hard to find in this day and age of the bottom line. And so I took it as a good sign that Michael stepped in. It was a sign that he was still very much connected to the day-to-day nuts and bolts operation of his business.
After Michael left to give the reins back to Alex, I remembered my very first meeting with Michael and realized I liked working with him much better. He just seemed to have a sense of how to handle a client and to suss out with greater clarity the client’s own vision, a quality absent in Alex. In any case, we went over the rest of the details where I was grateful for his advisement to go with a brighter gray for the collar lining and the last button hole on my sleeve; I had originally wanted black details, but his passion for details that proclaimed bespoke origins pushed me to see that his choices would be a more prideful nod towards my suit’s pedigree. After all, most suits off the rack would use the same boring black collar lining.
Aside from the details, I’d made notes in my Moleskine (one in which I’d debossed quite terribly the words, ‘Book of Ideas’) about the fit of my current suit. I told him that I’d want higher armholes, as I had read that they provide a greater freedom in motion. I also wanted a half-lining on account of the fact that I don’t get cold easily. We also put in an order for two shirts: one a boring light blue exactly the same as the Stafford Custom shirt I was wearing (the one I wore to that August wedding), and the other a white shirt whose densely packed rows of pale blue lines gave it an extremely subtle boost in blueness. Due to some promotional deal that I had trouble understanding, I was privy to a free shirt. Alex pushed on me a nice white one, which I didn’t mind having: the only bespoke shirt I had in the color of white was one with a French cuff, so I was happy to have one with my usual two-button angle-cut cuff.
Having completed the painstaking order for a suit and shirts, we moved on to the much simpler affair of ordering an overcoat. I had a choice of fabrics to choose from and ended up going for the top of the line: one hundred percent cashmere. My highly conservative (well, let’s be honest, it’s more cowardice than conservatism) fashion sense veered towards black. Alex guided me instead to a charcoal. My heart wasn’t fully into it. Nonetheless, I placed my faith in him as Michael Andrews Bespoke had yet to disappoint me. Citing the charcoal color as being more versatile—that is that it can be worn with jeans as well as trousers—was something that my mind registered automatically as a good thing. Only some days later did I realize that I haven’t worn a pair of jeans since the day I got my suit, rendering it a moot point. I again toyed with the idea of asymmetry, asking what Alex thought of changing the color a single buttonhole on the right sleeve. As I expected, he expressed his dissatisfaction towards such silliness while ensuring that if I really wanted it that I could. I instead opted to have both sleeves’ last buttonhole in burgundy. Finally, I chose a burgundy lining with a tiny diamond pattern and requested a standard lining rather than a winter lining on account of my hardiness towards the cold. I also requested an extended collar as the one on my London Fog coat was rather short, failing to create that dramatic flair in the collar that I desired. After they took a single measurement for the length of the coat, which was to end right at the knees, I was off.
On the ride back, as I sat in the livery car waiting for the traffic light to turn green, a young woman with an older woman—presumably her mother or aunt—in a cab next to me looked over. My instinct to ignore and avoid eye contact was somehow absent, and I looked at her, stopping my eyes from looking squarely into hers. Her mouth opened, as if saying, “Oh,” and she smiled an embarrassed smile. There was something sweet in her demeanor, so I smiled through my pursed lips and then turned my attention to my phone. As I stared into the screen, I imagined the day that I would one day bring my son to get his first bespoke suit at Michael Andrews Bespoke. I’d show up in one of the latest suits they’d made for me and show my son the place where I transformed from a stocky box of a man into a timelessly stylish and well-proportioned fellow. I’d joke to him that these were the people who managed to make a man of my unusual shape look dashing enough to even get married. Then I’d sip on a miniature bottle of Poland Spring while I watched my son go through the same process that I did ten years ago.