Category Archives: Tom Talks

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!




The Return of the Blazer

imageThe blazer has returned, which begs the question, “Where did it go?”  The blazer, the navy blazer in particular, has been a wardrobe staple of the well-dressed man for more than a century. True enough, but for nearly a generation it had fallen out of favor to a degree, thought by many to be either a bore or too conformist.

Well, the circle of life keeps spinning, and the blazer has returned as the most essential jacket for pretty much everyone.  All of the cool kids are wearing them again!

Truthfully, the blazer probably hasn’t been “cool” since the early days of the term, when the jackets by that name were mostly made of brightly colored cloth in shades of blue, red, and green.  In fact, the first use of the term “blazer” dates back to the bright scarlet jackets first worn by the members of the Lady Margaret Boat Club of St. John’s College, Cambridge in the late nineteenth century.


Why the return of the blazer?  For one, wearing a tailored jacket is so very modern and is enjoying a renewed importance as a symbol of professionalism and civility.  Beyond that, what makes a blazer cool and is further fueling it’s return to prominence is an openness to more vivid colors.  The blazer is once again (to varying degrees) blazing!

Dating back to the mid-eighteenth century uniforms of British naval officers, navy blue is the traditional color for a blazer, and is always appropriate.  A navy blazer is the most formal of all your key casual wardrobe pieces.  Darker shades of blue represent a high level of authority and seriousness without appearing too severe or menacing.  As Bruce Boyer put it in Elegance, “Today that dark blue jacket, having been a staple for so many years, is internationally civilized, equally at home in the boardroom as on board, and its versatility and classic lines make it the perfect jet-age jacket, even though it was born on the sailing ships of the North Atlantic.”



But a lot of blazers are showing up in shades of blue that are more “heightened,”more….blue.  Blue is the color of confidence, loyalty, and sincerity.  While a full suit in a brighter blue would be over the top for many men, a blazer that is brighter than navy blue is more broadly appropriate and is much easier to pull off, because a blazer is more casual than a suit and is worn with trousers of contrasting color.

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Originally blazers were paired with white or cream colored flannel trousers.  More typically a blazer is worn with pants that are a shade of gray or tan (beige).  For social wear, white, cream, and especially red pants are also making a strong return with the blazer.

The cut and the details of the modern blazer have also been updated.  A modern blazer fits close to the body, but not tight, and a little shorter than a more traditional version.  While a 6-on-2 double breasted style is traditional for a blazer, most blazers today are single breasted, two button models, emphasizing ease of function and a modern minimalism.  Distinguishing details include buttons, button holes and their color (you may want to do one or more of the button holes in a contrasting color), accent stitching, and pockets.

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Traditionally a blazer is made with gold-tone buttons, usually gold over brass, and often with a motif that represents a club, school, or regiment.  I still love my classic hopsack blazer with Holland & Sherry Buttons of 24K gold over brass that say “Carpe Diem.”

But my favorite blazer at present is my bright navy one, styled with a narrower lapel and light brown buffalo horn buttons.  That’s the one that makes people stop, and smile, and say nice things.  I’m wearin’ the blues and feeling anything but blue.

My next blazer (heck yeah, I could easily have another blazer) will have silver buttons.  Silver is the new gold! (I just made that up.)  I may also have it made with patch pockets, which is a more relaxed, casual detail.  The ticket pocket that you see on a couple of the blazers pictured in this post are not traditional, but are another way to detail and personalize your blazer.

The lining you choose for a custom tailored suit, blazer, or other jacket is one other way to personalize it.  Jackets with more expressive linings – contrasting colors and patterns – have grown in popularity during the past decade or so.

How should your blazer be styled?  In a way that defines you.

How do you wear a blazer?  Any way that you feel comfortable.

Know the rules, and make them your own.


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.

Suit Project pays it forward!

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One day last month the lives of twenty five men in St. Louis were changed for the better and forever by the simple gift of a tailored suit.

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The men are of varying ages and backgrounds, but have two particulars in common: serious and persistent mental health challenges coupled with a strong desire to join or re-join the workforce. The gift of a suit (with coordinating shirt and tie) came their way through a partnership of  two St. Louis based non-profits, Suit Project: St. Louis and Independence Center: Restoring Lives.

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The mission of The Suit Project is to provide professional business attire to deserving individuals in need, toward the goal of eliminating the barriers caused by financial inequality and unfortunate circumstances throughout all aspects of life.  Tom James professional Ben Lawler is one the organization’s three co-founders.  Since their founding in 2012 The Suit Project of St. Louis has grown each year and has given well over 2,000 suits and sport coats to deserving individuals who needed the help.  The Suit Project is active in St. Louis and Memphis, with plans to open in at least three more cities this year.  Late last year The Suit Project was able to help an Aspiring young student reach for the Stars!

St. Louis Suit Project 2015 195“Work is essential… it is the glue that binds us to society.” – Bob Harvey, Founding Director (Independence Center)


The Independence Center provides tools such as resume preparation, interview training, assistance with job searches, employment workshops, job placement services, on-the-job training and ongoing follow up.

The tailored suits provided by the Suit Project are not only helping those twenty five men make that ever-important first impression, but even more importantly, the appropriate professional clothing helps them to gain the confidence they need to succeed. For many of them, it’s critical to simply feel like they deserve it. It’s hard to state how important that is for anyone, let alone men with the additional challenges they are dealing with each day. Everyone involved agreed that “Seeing these men transformed by the gift of a suit was truly special for all of us.”

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Would you like to help the Suit Project fulfill their mission?

Do you have some business attire that is in good condition that you are ready to part with?

Why not donate them to a worthy cause that will put them to good use.  If you could use some assistance in properly donating that clothing, there is likely a Tom James professional in your area who would be happy to directly help or to at least point you in the right direction.