Shop Class – George Bass
Some of our readers have asked how to wear a suit in warmer regions of the States. So we spoke to the man who knows Southern suiting better than most, Mister George Bass.
Since 1985 he has been dressing men in New Orleans and all around the country in the finest there is to offer. He travels to Italy twice a year and New York four times annually. He knows his suiting – that’s for sure. We got on the horn and talked tailoring and here is what he had to say:
How do you dress your Southern clients in the fall/winter seasons?
It’s 78 degrees in New Orleans and the high tomorrow is 65. That is a big swing. I live up on a lake and the low will be 34. There is a 15-degree difference sometimes. It’s all about weight and look.
Obviously we don’t want you to wear seersucker in the winter but there are fabrics that are year round weight. You can of course layer in the winter if it gets a little chilly.
8.5 -9 ounce weights are what we call year round weights.
What we do at our shop in the fall is 9 ounces with a quarter mill finish, which is when the cotton is lightly brushed (think flannel).
What kind of weight would someone up north wear?
There has been a return to the classic heritage fabrics, so you are seeing 3-4 ply plain weave and full flannels. There are two types of weaves. There is a twill weave and a plain weave. Same goes for suits. You can have a 2×1 fabric. But heritage fabrics are 2×2 and 3×2 and these are heftier plain weave goods. I have a three ply fabric at the shop but it has some heft. It’s like a non wrinkle travel blazer by Satorio that we sell really well.
We private label Samuelson. 1200- 2000 range but Strong Suit is big for us too.
What’s exciting in the suiting world?
Things are staying slim and trim. Heritage is still big and I am very happy to see fewer cheap fabrics. Even lower price guys (J.Crew) are using better fabric. Chinese suits were using Chinese fabrics, which are terrible and now they are using Italian fabrics. (Note we do not carry Chinese suits).
I know you worked with many menswear brands which have sadly(?) since folded. Tell us about some of them.
Norman Hilton suits were the best Ivy League soft shoulder garments made in the country.
Southwick was made in Lawrence, Massachusetts and was really great. They sold the company and now it is owned by the same people who own Brooks Brothers and is not the same at all.
H. Oritsky was based out of Redding, Pennsylvania and they were great at making soft shoulder suits too.
What happened when they all folded?
We went to Italy. You have Milanese brands like Zenga and Roman ones like Brioni and Isaia and Kiton from Naples that are wonderful. It’s all about soft shoulder construction. It was the perfect bridge for us. We were early sellers of these brands and now a lot of stores are getting there.
What is great about a soft shoulder?
It’s also called a natural shoulder. Basically, you don’t look like you have football pads. Even if there is a pad, it is very light. Samuelsohn has 16 shoulder pads. Their first looks like a piece of fabric it’s so small, the 16th one is huge.
Once you go soft shoulder it is hard to go back! It’s the old Ivy League look.
You speak about suits like a scientist.
Well, there is a whole new generation that is getting into dressing. Their dad may have gone to work in a Polo and Dockers so they don’t know about suiting and are excited to learn more about it.