Gay Talese on embellishing suits off the rack

March 9, 2011

For most of us, it doesn’t make much financial sense to have our clothes hand-made by a tailor. It’s one of the regrettable facts of modern life.
Enter Gay Talese, one of the most skilled journalists of our time. (A lot of people think that his story about Frank Sinatra for Esquire was the best profile ever written.) Talese’s dad was a tailor, so he’s used to having custom-made clothes since…forever. Now, he gets his clothes made in Paris by the son of the guy that taught his father. (Gahhh—if only. Who does Talese think he is?)
Of course, Talese is hardly Midwestern, but Katie Roiphe’s interview with him in the Paris Review touches briefly on his style philosophy. The article is about lot of things—most of which are far more important than style—but here’s something to get you thinking:

“He is so beautifully dressed that strangers will talk to him in the street, that waiters and hostesses in restaurants will want to do things for him, like find a special place to put his hat. Talese’s father was a tailor, his mother ran a successful dress shop, and he says his first idea of how to be special was through clothing.”

Then there’s his post on Gilt MANual about how to throw some elbow patches and cuff-work on an old jacket to spice things up.
He says:
“I think every well-dressed man should have something to wear when he does not particularly feel like being well-dressed, but still refuses to blend in with the ranks of men who clearly care little about what they look like.

That said, this is really a knockaround jacket. It’s afternoon material; I don’t wear it at night. (I sometimes dress two or three times in a day.) If I’m going to the dentist, I might wear this, because I’ll keep the jacket on while I’m down in the chair. Now, if I’m going to have lunch with someone, I wouldn’t wear this. I’d wear a suit.”
I mean, c’mon!! Not only is guy decking out in bespoke clothes, he has a sport coat that he doesn’t think is nice enough to wear to lunch. AND he’s updating them every 30, 40 years to make sure nobody else is wearing what he is. What a guy.

Our advice to you? Get yourself to the thrift store, pick up a wool jacket that fits you like a glove, then take it to the tailor and embellish the hell out of that thing.

To read more of Talese’s philosophy on tailoring, check out Gilt MANual by clicking on the photo:


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