Category Archives: Custom Clothing

The best fitting Sweater you will ever wear!

imageWhen I was a college student, a girlfriend of mine, who would later become my fiance, and then not (just think of all the handmade clothing I could be wearing…other than my Oxxford suits of course), knitted me a sweater. Not before or since then has someone made me a sweater. It was a substantial piece of clothing, made from heavy wool yarns with a zipper in the front (which made it a Cardigan.) Designed for genuinely cold weather – a sweater you might wear instead of a winter coat – it got limited use. My mother has the sweater now, which is appropriate since she and my former have remained lifelong friends.

The first “sweaters” were heavy, dark blue pullovers worn before and after athletic contests in the 1890’s in the USA.  Knitwear for the upper body had been around long before that, but not by that name.  Some form of a sweater- type garment can be traced back at least as far as the 15th Century around the English Channel islands of Guernsey and Jersey.  More recently, in the 19th century, the wives of Irish fisherman and sailors began to knit some of the early pullover, cable knit sweaters, aka Fisherman’s sweaters.  The heavy wool yarns they were knit from helped keep the fisherman warm, even when wet, thanks to the dual nature of wool fibers: a hydrophobic exterior (water repellant) and a hygroscopic interior (able to absorb about one third of its own weight in water.)  Later sweater innovations – the Cardigan and the Raglan – are credited to the functional desires of British admiralty.

My favorite sweater this winter has been a dark gray, button-up cardigan, with a mock neck and patch pockets. The sweater is wool, but it has a soft cotton lining so it’s comfortable over either long or short sleeved shirts. It’s my version of a Mr. Rogers sweater, my near constant companion when at home this winter. The fact that a cardigan doesn’t have to be put on and taken off over-my-head is a plus. Not to mention that Sinatra and Hogan both enjoyed the casual elegance of a cardigan from time to time when an extra layer was required.

imageI also enjoy the look and functional ease of a simple zip-mock sweater. A medium gray cashmere version has been my most versatile layer for several years running. I take it everywhere I go this time of year. Relatively fine and lightweight, it is easy to pack and provides just enough warmth when the weather is crisp, but not bitterly cold. The ability to wear it zipped down or up adds to its appeal and comfort.

imageThe V-neck sweaters in my closet also get a lot of play.  I have a purple high-V-neck that works well with several of my Fall/Winter sport jackets.  V-neck sweaters are designed to be worn with a collared shirt, whether that be the turn down collar of a cut-and-sewn dress or sport shirt, or the softer knit collar of a polo shirt. The high-V can be worn with a tie, but they work especially well as a layering piece over a dress or sport shirt and under your favorite sport coats.

Crew neck and Turtleneck (aka Roll neck) are the two other most common pullover styles.  Turtleneck wearing is on the upswing, whether in beefier knits like the ones Hemingway favored, or the finer versions that the Beatnicks, Beatles, and James Coburn as Derek Flint popularized.

A final style to mention is the polo collar sweater.  You would hard pressed to find a more comfortable piece of clothing for the upper body than either a long or short sleeved sweater, knit from either our 85/15 cashmere/silk blend or our 100% Pima cotton.  The polo collar lends itself well as a stand alone piece to be worn as a shirt.   Truth be told, a sweater or, more accurately, a knit shirt, made in any of our available styles with either the cashmere/silk blend or the Pima cotton are light and cool enough to wear all Spring and even Summer in most climates.  The breatheability and performance of both fabrics are sensational.

imageI have found that the sweaters I enjoy the most are those that fit great both in the body and the sleeve length. I’m a relatively standard size, but for a lot of people there is always some compromise with fit: Either the sleeves fit well, but the body of the sweater is too long or too short; or it fits the shoulders but has way too much or not enough room at the waist. For those who struggle with any sort of sweater fit issues, Tom James has an awesome solution for your dilemma: the Custom Sweater.

image image image image  image image

The measurements for your custom shirts are the basis for your custom sweater, so the process is very easy. In addition, your preferred front and back body length are measured so that you get precisely the length you need and prefer for your torso.

Not unlike custom clothing and shirts, fit is not the only advantage to having a sweater custom made.  You also get to pick from four different fabrics: 100% cashmere, merino wool, cashmere/silk blend, or Pima cotton.  The cashmere knit is 12 gauge, and all of the others are 16  gauge – the perfect weight and structure for layering.  Ten great colors are offered in each fabric. Even better, you can choose from among seven style options for men and six style options for women.  As this part of our business continues to grow, more options will be made available.

For now though, what better way to add a few simple, elegant, and versatile layering pieces than to have them made to your preferences.  Sure, they cost more than off-the-shelf, but they are the kind of garments that will become like a best friend.  Hard to put a price on that.

Cashmere and the Comfort Zone

imageI like the comfort zone. It’s not what I value the most in life, but given the option, I prefer to be comfortable. The comfort zone, of course, is that range of temperature which is neither too hot nor too cold. For most people that range is somewhere between 68 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

OK, so when you first read those words – comfort zone – you may have been thinking about something other than your physical comfort and the weather. According to Peter McWilliams, the comfort zone is also “our arena of thoughts and actions within which we feel comfortable–all the things we’ve done (or thought) often enough to feel comfortable doing (or thinking) again. Anything we haven’t done (or thought) often enough to feel comfortable doing lies outside the parameters of the comfort zone. When we do (or think) these things (basically, anything new) we feel uncomfortable.” In this respect, we all know that getting out of our comfort zone is the only way to grow, improve, and achieve our dreams.

But getting back to that other comfort zone…..Short of being in the comfort zone I would rather be a little bit too warm rather than cold, which is good, because it is usually easier to get back into the comfort zone when it’s cold, rather than too warm, because you can simply add layers of clothing or clothing that is more thermal until you have reached that point of comfort. Wow, that sentence has a lot of layers. To summarize, adding layers has a higher limit than reducing layers of clothing….if you know what I mean.

As mentioned in a previous post to this blog, my favorite fiber or fabric to layer with is cashmere.  If you’ve worn much cashmere, you probably feel the same way.   Cashmere comes from the fleece of goats living in the high uplands of Central Asia, including China, Mongolia and other countries.  The luxurious fibers are gently gathered from the goats by carefully hand-combing their fleece.  Cashmere is one of the most valued and exquisite animal hairs because of its incredible softness.  Cashmere can be knit – as for sweaters and scarves, or it can be woven – as for tailored clothing, from luxury suits to sport jackets and outerwear.

While it comes with a luxury price tag, quality cashmere more than pays for itself because it is pure pleasure to wear and is actually very practical.  When properly cared for, quality cashmere will provide you with warmth, comfort, and elegance for many years and can be worn from early Fall through late Spring in most climates.


In addition to cashmere, wool flannel, a great tweed, Camel’s hair or Alpaca, and corduroy are also great choices to add a layer of stylish warmth.  A custom car coat made from wool flannel or a Fall/Winter sport jacketing cloth is sure to add to your personal style and be easy to wear over everything from a smart casual look to your favorite suit.

All that being said, if you have yet to try cashmere, may I suggest that you get out of that other comfort zone – do something different – and get into the zone of real comfort this Fall and Winter by wearing some clothing made with cashmere.

A Suit and some Sage Advice = Winning!

imageOn Saturday, March 28, in Detroit, Michigan, 137 high school age young men were encouraged and outfitted for success at the day long, and 10th annual, Project Pinstripe event.  Everybody won that day.  And the odds that the winning will continue were greatly increased for all who participated because of what they came away with.

imageEach young man was given a suit, tailored to fit, and a coordinating shirt and tie. “Project Pinstripe outfits young men who want to look good but don’t always have the means to do so with quality career clothing — gently used suits, dress shirts, and ties – donated by Tom James Co., clients, and other area professionals,” says Sue Voyles, spokeswoman for Project Pinstripe.   Professionals from the Southfield office of Tom James, including the local coordinator of Project Pinstripe, Rob Wachler, did all of the measuring and fitting.  “Looking good is only one part of it”, said Mr. Wachler. “We want to impact these young men and their confidence levels,”











Tom James clothiers were joined by members of the Detroit A.M. Rotary Club and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (Gamma Lambda Chapter) as they volunteered their time to sort and display the clothing to create an atmosphere similar to a fine men’s store.  Once the clothing was selected for each young man they were professionally tailored and prepared for the new owner by Huntington Cleaners.

imageIn addition to the clothing, the day included mentoring and coaching for interviewing and networking, and a catered lunch.  More sage coaching and advice on ways to make a positive first impression was offered by the annual emcee, and local Tom James haberdasher, Damon W. Perry.


My favorite comment from the day (As quoted in the Detroit Free Press), DaRon Burgess, 18, of Harper Woods and a senior at Cousino High School in Warren, said, “I learned it’s not all about grades on paper,” he said. “It’s about how you present yourself to other people.” 

As recounted by Karen Dybis, writing for Corp Magazine, “We try to do it every year in the spring, so the kids get their clothing before graduations. We’ve added new elements every year to keep it fresh and relevant,” said Mr. Wachler. (

Oh, and if you need some tips on how to shine your shoes, just ask Damon!




Living Well: A Custom suit made from Merino wool from Cloudy Bay

imageI was reading about wine, while drinking a little wine (as I am prone to do,) and I was reminded about the lingering pleasure found in a mouthful of sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand.  More than 60% of the wine produced in New Zealand comes from that region.  Among the many fine producers,  Cloudy Bay Vineyards,  located in Blenheim, about 8 miles from Cloudy Bay, is one of the better known wineries on the island.

Bob Campbell wrote about the 2012 vintage in Gourmet Traveller,  “After all these years, Cloudy Bay has still got it. It’s encouraging to know that the brand is not merely resting on its laurels. Beautifully harmonious sauvignon blanc with a mix imageof grapefruit, gooseberry and capsicum contrasting with riper tropical and tree fruit characters while the acidity and sweetness are perfectly balanced. The net effect is an elegant and moderately complex wine that delivers power with great subtlety.”

Kind of makes you want to take a sip, doesn’t it?  Well, as much as I enjoy the sauvignon blanc varietal, there is more to the region near Cloudy Bay than just beautiful vistas, rows of grapes, and tasting rooms.  There are also rolling pastures that boast lush vegetation, fertile soil, and a temperate climate, making it the ideal habitat for Merino sheep, and the inspiration for a new suit cloth, for a custom suit, that can be encapsulated in a single word: “sublime.”

A custom suit, tailored from one of the more then forty patterns in the exclusive and “sublime” Cloudy Bay Super 140’s Merino wool collection by Holland & Sherry will cost you a pretty penny more than a bottle or even a case of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc, but rather than drink it up, you can wear it and enjoy it any day of the year for seasons to come.


Merino sheep were first introduced to New Zealand in 1773 by British explorer James Cook.  That venture didn’t work so well, but in 1814, Samuel Marsden re-introduced Merino sheep to New Zealand and from that time forward they have thrived on the islands, producing among the finest of all wool fibers.

The Cloudy Bay region of New Zealand is located in the north east of the South Island, south of the Marlborough sounds.  Named by Captain Cook in 1770, the bay itself connects the Tasman Sea to the South Pacific Ocean.  The Cloudy Bay Collection of cloth is woven in both warp and weft direction by 2 ply yarns and is constructed of a 2/2 twill weave.  It is a full-bodied cloth with bloom and a luxurious, sleek handle.

The color and pattern choices range from classic mid-gray solid to a slate blue alternate stripe, a series of completely amazing shadow stripes and reverse plaids, six colors of birdseye, and plaids with mirrored window panes. Any cloth from the Cloudy Bay collection will form an amazing foundation for a custom suit – your next suit.  How you style a custom suit is up to you.  Yeah, you should see them!

To see and feel the Cloudy Bay collection, or any of the more than 40 other cloth collections offered this season, please contact your local Tom James professional.