The way a fabric feels to the touch is called the hand, and when John Meegan’s clients lay their hands on the finest fabrics ever crafted, their eyes light up.
Top Shelf, housed in a 1901 Arts and Crafts home in Minneapolis, is one of the longest running custom clothiers across the state. With some 30,000 options available to construct peerless bespoke suits, the shop is a veritable fabric museum, and Meegan its curator and historian.
And he knows his history. He waxes poetic about the magnesium in the water near Biella, Italy, and how it turns raw yarns into the softest in the world. Or how the 1970s revolution transformed wool from clunky, hot and high-maintenance to soft, silky and easy. Those changes, which breathed new life into some of the oldest mills in Italy, also reinvigorated suit making.
Meegan likens suit making to architecture, except that he’s building for people. His clients are involved with every step of the design, selecting fabrics, colors, prints and the like. He doesn’t shy away from special requests, such as crafting an inner lining using custom images of a client’s beloved canine. He’s a sketch artist, too, drawing up what each potential creation could look like: single or double-breasted, a pocket here or there.
Meegan and his team make really great suits, but throughout the course of construction, they also tend to make great friends. Clients often have tears in their eyes when it comes time to try on the final product.
“Most men hate to shop for clothes, because it’s often an onerous experience, but we educate, we recommend, we put things in front of you,” he says. “There’s a trust. Clients can call me from 30 states away and tell me how the last suit fits, and I can build them new clothes.”
“People often ask me when I’ll retire,” he continues. “My stock answer is three years after I die. In all my years, I’ve never gotten to the point where I think any day will be the same as the last. Every client who walks in the door brings with them an interesting new challenge.”
And that suit? It’s built to last. Meegan is so confident that he puts the date of construction inside each one. That way, a decade down the road, clients can still appreciate the quality, the style and the softness of the hand, handmade especially for them.