When it comes to “bespoke”, or shall we say custom tailoring since we’re not referencing London, New York would not come to mind as top sartorial destination. If one were to go to New york for a custom made suit, what would the style be? What is a New York style suit? Is there a particular house style within the sea New york tailors? Yes, you have some brilliant expats that have produced some prodigious pieces through the years. So if you wanted a Savile Row suit you could got Mr. Cheo or Leonard Logsdail and accomplish that. There have also been a slew of transplanted Italians that have some derivation of an Italian sartoria, but you would never mistake the work from being from Milan, Naples or Rome.
This was not always the case with regards to Italian tailors. From the late 1940’s up until the early 1990’s, I have seen work from the hands of Italian immigrants in New York, and the northeast for that matter, that would be indistinguishable from counterparts in their homeland. Suits that were cut and finished completely by one person, the actual tailor himself. Perhaps the wife would hand sew some of the buttonholes or hand pad the lapels, but it was a family affair. No outsourcing of trousers, which were completely hand made. Hand set in skirted waistbands, hand sewn button holes on the button-fly and hand overcast finish on the seam selvedge. These gentleman would know a merrow machine from an MRI machine. They were true artisans, true bench tailors, that incidentally knew style, and knew how to use a needle to make a decent, respectable living.
New York has more hucksters and “stylists” in the tailoring world today than serious, hardcore tailors. Tailors who claim to be the best, or the most expensive, XYZ charges $8K or $10K for a suit, he’s the best. And then you find out a lot of the suit is machine padded, or 75% of the suit was outsourced. But most guys that go to these places could care less. It’s quite trivial when you have $5 billion under management and you’re juggling three women at a clip. True most well heeled gentlemen from the the U.S. will always go to Europe to get measured and all the great tailors make their trunk show pilgrimages to entertain the true enthusiasts.
So in this day and age does a New Yorker, or any American even need to have a tailor at their disposal? The answer doesn’t really matter, because most of the greats are nearing retirement and many are not taking any new clients. There will always be custom tailors in New York, but it’s fading along with finish of the product.
And so I present a fine example by a New York sartorial fixture and mostly revered Vincent Nicolosi. The first time came across Vincent Nicolosi’s name was as a young man reading an early 1980’s GQ article praising his genius. That article stuck with me for some time, and although I had never seen a Nicolosi suit in the flesh, his name would come up time to time and his well heeled, well known clientele would certainly be happy to spread the word via any publication with space needed to be filled. And so the Vincent Nicolosi legend grew. The first time I actually saw a Vincent Nicolosi jacket I was not that impressed. A late 80’s model with too much padding, unpleasing button stance and not something with definitive style. This leads to my original point, is there a house style in New York? Did Mr. Nicolosi relent to the 80’s mind set of the customer, or was he just going by “that is what is in style”. Clearly the hand work on the jacket was quite good, but this would not be classified as a timeless garment.
The poster boy for Vincent Nicolosi would have to American novelist and Patrician gentleman Tom Wolfe. His ubiquitous white suit has evolved through the years, as perhaps Mr. Nicolosi has. To Nicolosi’s credit, a more recent generation of of his more ivory that white suit is sublime. A peak lapel that peaks outward as opposed to straight up, lovely belly, minimal padding and a cut that as fluid and sensual that harkens to the 30’s.
As with many artisans, they will have their champions and detractors, but if you decide to go to Vincent Nicolosi to get measured, I realize what the house style is, at least on the single breasted model, and if this is not his default house style, well it should be.