Andre sized me up as I strode into the store. My suit pants were so wide they billowed like sails. He knew why I was there.
“I’m looking for a suit,” I said. “Something conservative…”
“But a more modern look,” he said, finishing my thought.
I nodded. I felt a bit ashamed. I couldn’t wait to get out of the Brooks Brothers 346 that I’d been wearing for a few years.
Andre swept his hand toward a table with swatches of fabric. He gestured for me to run my hands over them.
“We pick the fabric first. These are the least expensive and they go up from there. The expensive ones are softer,” he said.
I picked out something in the middle.
Then he led me to the desk with a computer. “We’re going to make you a custom suit,” he said. “I need to ask you a few questions.”
An avalanche ensued. I needed to pick a style for buttons. Thin or wide lapels? Silk liner in paisley or grey? Watch pocket? Pockets with flaps or no flaps? Angled or straight? Monogram inside the coat with initials or name spelled out? Then he moved to the big choices.
“Pleats or no pleats?” he asked, arching his eyebrow so as to suggest this wasn’t really a tough choice.
“Well, I’ve always worn pleats my whole working life. I’m a pleat guy,” I said gesturing to my mid-drift.
Andre didn’t respond. He just cocked his head a bit to the left.
“What do you do?” I asked.
“No pleats,” he said.
Seeing the blank look on my face, he added as way of explanation: “It’s a cleaner look.”
He saw I was struggling.
“My dad wore pleats,” I said.
“I think you can do it,” he said.
“What do other people do?”
“Does anyone wear pleats?” I asked searching.
“Fat people,” he said.
He could see from my expression that I thought he was kidding. So he said it again slowly and with great emphasis: “FAT people wear pleats.”
“Ok, ok” I said. “No pleats.”
“Single vent or double vents,” he asked, pressing ahead. His voice had that same quality as before. He was asking me, but he wasn’t asking. He was signaling that there really wasn’t a choice here.
“What do you wear?” I asked.
“What do other people wear?”
“I’ve always been a single vent guy. That’s the telltale sign of an American suit, one vent. European guys wear two vents.”
Andre just stared straight ahead. His face was immobile. I don’t think he even blinked. It was like he was frozen waiting for me.
“My dad wore a single vent his whole career,” I said.
Andre said nothing.
“Does anyone wear single vent?” I asked softly.
“Fat people,” he said. He smiled faintly and repeated it: “Fat people wear single vents.”
“Ok,” I said. “Double vents it is.”
Andre relaxed visibly. We were over the two biggest shoals. He seemed pleased that he’d guided me to the right choices. Just a couple more obstacles remained.
He gestured toward the pants. “I think we can take out a bit of fabric here. It will emphasize your shape,” he said.
Seeing my look of indecision he said: “It’s a cleaner look.”
I nodded in agreement.
“Do you want cuffs?” he asked
By this time I thought I knew where this was going. “What do you wear?” I asked.
“No cuffs,” he said.
“What do other people wear?”
“This could go either way he said. About half the guys stay with cuffs. Some people go straight leg. Marcus here goes cuffs, but fashion forward. He cuffs at 3/4s inch, not the standard ½ inch.”
Marcus, as if on cue, extended his leg to show off his cuffs.
“I’ll stick with the standard ½ inch cuff,” I say.
We finished up. The whole process had taken about 90 minutes. Andre said my suit would be ready in two weeks.
I walked out of the store and looked up and down Madison Avenue. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. A young, handsome banker type was walking toward me with long strides.
Even from a bit of a distance I could see his pants and jacket did not billow in the breeze. The suit clung to him. There was daylight between his legs.
He had no pleats in front – a clean look – and in back his double vents waved as he passed.
Andre would have approved.
**Published by Ted Merz Oct 5, 2014**