The standard story about men is that they do not go shopping; they restock.Their closets are filled with indistinguishable white shirts and grey suits, drawers packed with black socks and identical jeans.
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This is not true. During the recent economic turmoil, men’s clothing—especially the most luxurious—has been a bright spot. More than ever, men are going to stores seeking clothes that go well beyond the blue button-downs they bought the year before—and the year before that.
In recognition of this change, we’ve put together a guide to one of the world’s best shopping streets: New York’s Madison Avenue. We wanted it to be useful for men who have been interested in clothes for years, as well as for those who might be branching out for the first time, so the focus is on the lesser-known aspects of the best-known stores.
We’ve found hidden lounges, new bespoke services, a place where you can work on your golf swing while buying a shirt and find a salesman who can help locate things you’ve never known you needed.
More From Departures:
- Best New Custom Clothing For Men
- World’s Top Shopping Streets
- 12 Perfect Men’s Steel Watches
- World’s Top Vintage Stores
- Fresh Spring Menswear
This story was originally published by Departures.
Inside the Fifth Avenue Club of the Saks men's department, hidden among the Italian tailoring, the Kiton and Brioni, the Isaia and Cucinelli, there's a small lounge. Within are leather club chairs and a window with a view of St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's quiet enough that you can sit, have a drink and read The New York Times. But it's not so hushed that you can't go over fabric books with your tailor and talk about what to use for your latest suit. Something in a Scottish worsted, maybe, or even a cashmere?
Need to Know: The tailor you want is Peter Johnston, formerly of Dunhill and Chester Barrie. Until recently, getting Johnston's clothing without visiting his Edinburgh, Scotland, townhouse-cum-workshop would have been a challenge. But now clients can meet him by appointment in the club lounge, next to Johnston's ready-to-wear and made-to-measure shop, to be fitted for his bespoke suits (from $8,000), all of which are hand-sewn under his supervision on Savile Row. It takes three trips to really dial everything in, but the result is more than worth the effort.
Insider Tip: In honour of Johnston's Scotish heritage, Saks created its own black-and-white plaid. Ask and he'll use it to run up a bespoke kilt (if you already have a clan, Johnston will use whatever plaid you're loyal to). 611 Fifth Ave. saks.com.
There's a lot going on at Bergdorf's: vicuña coats from Loro Piana and vintage cuff links on the first floor; impeccable Neapolitan tailoring from Kiton and Brunello Cucinelli on the second; and Thom Browne's highly stylised version of preppy gear on the third. Michael Bastian's new-made classics are there too (look out for the tan suede jacket, a perfect meeting of 1970s vintage and modern).
Need to Know: The selection is incredible, but that also makes it easy to miss things. You may find the perfect Charvet shirts and ties just off the front entrance and not even realise that it's possible to get them made-to-measure (from $605). And you'll almost certainly miss the Charvet boxer shorts in a little alcove beside the ties; they're gorgeous, created from the same material as the shirts, with the same mother-of-pearl buttons. And you can get these made-to-measure too, complete with monogram (from $155).
Insider Tip: The best way to ensure you get the perfect thing is to find a good salesman. Try Nelson Hennesy. He's in Loro Piana, so he knows classic clothes, but he also ran the designer-driven third floor for several years, so he can search anywhere in the store for the thing you didn't know you absolutely had to have. 754 Fifth Ave. bergdorfgoodman.com.
The French Revival mansion is Ralph Lauren's world, from the English hunting portraits on the first floor to the Ducati motorcycle for sale on the fourth. So how do you take something of his and make it your own? (Besides wearing it with your own inimitable style, obviously.) To help, Lauren now has a program that lets you put your monogram on almost anything you buy, from ties to luggage, free of charge. Salespeople carry iPads that will allow you to choose a variety of fonts and locations for your initials, depending on the item.
Need to Know: Move the famous horse down to the bottom of the polo and put your own initials up top instead. The staff can do that in just 20 to 30 minutes. Other items, like dress shirts, will take a little longer to monogram, maybe a day, while the engraved luggage plates will take a week.
Insider Tip: If initials are not personal enough, there's always the made-to-measure suit (from $8,000). The fabric and details are your choice, and since each one is entirely hand-sewn to your measurements, the suit is uniquely yours. The impeccable English-style cut, however, is pure Ralph Lauren. 867 Madison Ave.; ralphlauren.com.
Barneys New York is the only place in the city to find both suede Crockett & Jones chukka boots and cuff links made from fossilized mammoth (chunky but not Flintstones-like) by Monique Péan (from $6,470). They're specialists in the kind of luxury items that combine the old and the cutting edge.
Need to Know: Nothing in the store manages that particular feat better than Andrea Campagna's designs--simultaneously modern and classic, they're perfectly luxurious. His jackets hug your body, but they're soft, light and cut so that they are easy to move in. Most of them are unlined, so the handstitching that gives them their elegant shape is visible.
Insider Tip: Campagna's love for fine needlework and cutting runs in the family. His father, remembered as one of the world's finest tailors, crafted the clothes that helped make Gianni Agnelli a style icon in the 1960s. In keeping with his bespoke heritage, everything Campagna creates can be customised (jackets, from $4,225). But you can only get them at Barneys. 660 Madison Ave. barneys.com.
Paul Stuart is something of an anomaly in Madison Avenue's Midtown-preppy mecca. Since opening in 1938, it specialised in sexy clothes for WASPs and dandyish bankers: bright-red cashmere socks instead of black cotton. The Phineas Cole line is the apotheosis of that seemingly contradictory aesthetic, with suits and sportswear that look back to the 1920s and '30s. There are peak lapels, trousers with side tabs, fabrics in archival patterns. But the fit is modern, cut close to the body, and the fabrics are softer than anything woven back then. There's a three-piece suit in black-and-white Prince of Wales check that would tempt even the prince to abandon his tailor.
Need to Know: He'd be even more tempted, however, by Stuart's bespoke department--the house cut is an updated version of his own English drape--almost hidden, on the third floor. Stop in to have a coffee (or maybe something stronger) and talk to clothier Mark Rykken about whether to get a shawl-collar vest (from $900) for that three-piece suit (from $4,800). It usually takes four meetings to make sure everything is perfect, but Rykken is excellent company.
Insider Tip: Be sure to ask him about the buttonholes: He's been using the same woman to sew them for a quarter century, and they are small masterpieces of the craft. Madison Ave. at 45th St. paulstuart.com.
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