A Bespoke Suit Fitting with King Brothers Clothiers

King Brothers Clothiers Minneapolis Minnesota

Photography by Mary Jo Hoffman

Danny King asks me to button the top button of my sports coat, which I inherited several years ago from my father-in-law, a barrel-chested man approximately two inches shorter than I.

I’m standing in the middle of the studio floor at King Brothers Clothiers, surrounded by racks of expensive-looking fabric, leather furniture, and a drink cart stocked with amber whiskey. We could as easily be on London’s Savile Row as on Minneapolis’s Quincy Street.

Except that Danny and Kenny King — one in bold woolen plaid, the other in a bright blue blazer paired with yellow pants — don’t resemble dour and disapproving English tailors so much as a pair of bouncy cherubs working cheerfully to save my fashion soul.

I look down at my hand-me-down sports coat to discover that I can’t button the top button. Because it has fallen off.

“OK,” says Danny. “Well, just to reassure you, all our coats have buttons.”

Then he lifts the tailor’s tape from around his neck and starts wrapping it around various parts of my physique, calling out numbers to Kenny as he goes.

This is what “bespoke” means. It exists at one end of a spectrum that starts with ready-to-wear, off-the-rack clothing moves through fitted and made-to-measure and arrives at the true customization that occurs only when you make a suit from scratch based on the unique measurements of one individual client. That customer is said to speak for his specific suit, and that suit is in turn spoken for, or bespoke.

I have come to the King brothers out of a looming sense that a 52-year-old in his father-in-law’s sports coat is failing one of the tests of male adulthood in Western society — namely, the ability to wear a suit better than a 12-year-old at his first piano recital.

If that realization is a tentative step toward enlightenment, it’s still no sort of preparation for the stack of swatch books waiting for me across the room. For their hundreds of four-inch cloth pages. For their herringbones and tessellations, their paisleys and plaids. For the scores of decisions I need to make in the language of colors, patterns, buttons, stitching, collars, linings, pockets and pleats.

I am not fluent in this language. I couldn’t order a ham sandwich in this language. And yet, swatch by swatch, the brothers translate for me, asking a series of this-or-that questions that eliminates one option at a time until, in less than an hour, I’m gazing down at three squares of Italian fabric that represent one coat, one shirt and one pair of pants.

Six weeks later, I return to the studio. I disappear briefly behind a curtain and emerge in the comfortable embrace of the first clothes that have truly fit my 250-pound frame since it was a 190-pound frame some 25 years ago. The King brothers help me slip on my coat, brush some lint from my shoulder and gently push me in the direction of the mirror.

They say sometimes people laugh. Sometimes they gasp. Sometimes they stare in silence. Sometimes they cry — especially very big men — at being given themselves back in such a way that they can begin to feel proud again.

What I did was look at myself straight on for a while. Then I turned sideways and smiled up and down at this guy who I thought I knew pretty well yet who suddenly looked so damned comfortable in a suit — and in his own skin.

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.


The Interview: The King Brothers

Featured in our autumn style issue, Kenny and Danny King make up the dapper duo behind Minneapolis’s King Brothers Clothiers. Inspired by their recently debuted book, The Image Advantage: Maximize Your Most Overlooked Asset, we tapped them to discuss that very topic.

Photography by Mary Jo Hoffman

How do you define image?

Image is one of the only things everybody on this planet has. Rarer still, image is one of the only things each of us has complete control over. Image isn’t just about the way you dress — it should communicate who you are and where you want to go.

What prompted you to write a book about image?

We have a unique lens into what image communicates to people. As twins, we live every day with people not being able to tell us apart. When we were very little, our mom consistently put one of us (Kenny) in red and the other (Danny) in blue. People assigned that color clothing to our identities.

We understand image as a part of who we are. It is what sets us apart from other people. We wanted to not only share our story but also to explain how others can take advantage of their own images to propel them to where they want to go and what they want to accomplish.

How can we use image as a tool?

One of the biggest ways we recommend using image as a tool is by identifying where you want to go or what you want to accomplish. How do those who have already accomplished that thing present themselves? Is there a way you could rise to their level — or even outdo them? Start there.

What easy steps can we take to make the most of our image?

If you don’t feel confident in identifying the checklist you need to achieve the image you want to project, you will need to trust others to help you. Keep that circle of trust small. More outsider opinions isn’t always better. Ultimately, this is your image, and you are the one who should feel confident in it.

If you feel the need to explain to others why you are or are not dressed a certain way, you’ve probably done something wrong. On the flip side, how great would it be to walk into any room and any situation confident in what you’re projecting?  This intentionally crafted image is your ticket to that place.

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