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ADITYA DEV SOOD
TURTLE NECK

Aditya Dev Sood runs the innovation consulting firm Center for Knowledge Societies (www.cks.in). He can be reached at adityadevsood@gmail.

A suit is final bastion of individuality — and they make the man

Barney from How I met Your Mother, a great champion of the finely tailored suit

hat is it about suits that capture the imagination the way another, more variegated ensemble cannot? Is it that you could afford to buy all that fabric at the same time? Or maybe that it took forethought to have done so? Or perhaps something about how the whole body is sheathed, cossetted such that it couldn't very well be doing anything other than sitting leisurely, in repose, once in a suit. I think it is something about the artisanal experience of having a suit made to measure for your body, selecting pockets and vents and linings that suit your preferences and lifestyle and accoutrements and manner of being.

As a teenager, I was visiting Calcutta one summer when my uncle took it upon himself to ensure he got me my first suit. His masterji pulled me into the rag-tag ensemble held together with loose stitching and pins that made for the trial suit, pinning it closed at the waist and in the front of the jacket. My uncle walked in and found fault with the shoulder, ripping out both sleeves. Then he adjusted the button holes. Then he raised the lapel. Aah, now that's the look, he said, as I stared uncertainly back into the mirror. It is a rite of passage, I suppose, to be made to see oneself in a suit for the first time. One must eventually find oneself in the mirror, and come to know exactly how you want others to see you.

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It is a rite of passage, I suppose, to be made to see oneself in a suit for the first time. One must eventually find oneself in the mirror, and come to know exactly how you want others to see you

I had my first adult suit stitched at the hands of a masterji named Jani Pasha in Bangalore. In anticipation of a make-or-break client presentation, I had brought to him the most subtle black-on-black woolen fabric. Later, I brought him silks from Bhagalpur, thick canvas, linens of an almost industrial strength. No matter how outrageous the fabric he always enjoyed rising to the challenge. Why are you afraid? he would say to his assistants. You can't cut fabric in fear. It will come out, it will look great! It was about the pins and tucks, but it was also about acquiring the confidence, in the hands of a master, that you were going to be looking your best.

any suits later, when Jani Pasha had retired and I was moving back to Delhi, I needed to find a new masterji with whom to build that kind of patronage relationship. I visited a tailor named Rocky, close to my own age. From the photographs in his shop, it was evident that he had also made suits for Sachin Tendulkar and for every rank in the Indian Armed Forces. He listened patiently and with equal interest to all my instructions. Finally he said, well, I don't know if I've ever talked to anyone about lapels in that much detail. It seemed that I was in safe hands, that I'd found a collaborator in very personal art and craft of suit-making.

In these modern, urban times, you can go anywhere and buy anything from anyone from anywhere. Everything is available at the mall, and if you can have it so can anyone else. All that is left of the intimacies of tailoring is the bespoke men's suit, which only comes about because of your own eye, your own dedication towards its creation -- and the willing collaboration of your tailor master. That's why it maketh the man.

 
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