During Typhoon Tapah, which just swept through Busan, destroying umbrellas, breaking trees, and flooding parking garages, I stayed inside eating ramen and researching tailors. This isn’t the easiest research to do online. For starters, tailors aren’t necessarily social media mavens and, as with all things, there’s no direct relationship between social media competency and competency in anything else — especially when it comes to difficult tasks that take time and skill. SNS takes time. So do worthwhile things.
A person only has so much time.
A few other difficulties emerge. There’s language, of course, and, adding to that, Korea is online in a different way than North America. It’s Naver instead of Google, Facebook is basically for foreigners, and Kakao is the primary SNS. Now, there is an expat community, some of whom like suits. There’s a couple of problems with that.
The first is that most of their efforts focus on Seoul. Itaewon, in particular. Now, that was of some use when I was near Itaewon. But here in Busan? Not so much.
The other problem is having to listen to the expat community. Especially those in it who like suits. Especially, when it’s the expat community, who likes suits, reviewing things on the Internet. Like, that’s a lot and, frankly, any of it is pushing it. And swear to God, if it’s not some insufferable white asshole holding forth on how the natives treat him like a God and the women all adore him, it’s some other fussy pedant who just wants you to know how above all of it he is, while not actually wanting to pay for anything. Cheap, suit-loving expats, who review things they don’t know shit about online? That’s like super compounded geek shit. And I fucking hate geeks. Geeks wreck everything.
So I wasn’t able to find any information online. At least, not much. So today, with the Typhoon safely behind us, I decided to do it the old fashioned way. Just hit the streets and check out a couple of the tailor shops that I’ve seen around.
The first shop is a bit of a walk from me. But it’s near my favorite batting cages. Sadly, things didn’t work out there. There was just too much of a language barrier. Communication is really important when you’re having a suit made. I mean, that’s one of the things that made Don Fabian Lee in Toronto such a great tailor. He listened. We had a rapport. It’s hard to have a rapport when you don’t share a language.
And tailoring terms — how do you translate them? Think about the term “rolling shoulder.” Like, it’s not really rolling. And a computer sure as fuck isn’t going to know what you’re talking about. It’s just going to put those words together to make gibberish.
But the tailor there was a very nice lady and very patient with me. It just wasn’t going to work. I mean, it might have. I liked the spot. But I found a place I prefer.
This one is closer to home.
Now, I’m not going to get into a bunch of naming names and all that – this isn’t a travel guide nor is it Yelp. Just talking about my personal experiences and observations here and I don’t want to put anyone under any sort of searchable spotlight. It just makes me uncomfortable when people start talking about other people online. It’s a bit gross.
And who knows – this could all go badly.
But the young woman who worked at this spot seemed to know what she was about. She spoke some English, which is more than enough, and we were able to go through fabric samples, draw some pictures, and take some measurements. She had an interesting process. While measuring me, she made me change into a suit. Now, that’s a new one by me. I don’t even know if it’s normal. It might be, But, with me, I’m usually in a suit so it usually wouldn’t be necessary. At the moment, though, all of my suits are sailing across the Pacific — that is, hopefully, they’re sailing. Maybe some typhoon has dropped them into Davy Jones’ locker. If so, Davy Jones will be looking sharp these days. But, long story short, she wanted to see me in a suit. I like that.
With tailors, you hear a bit about “rock of eye.” That’s basically a tailor’s ability to size you by looking at you, to see things that the drafts and measurements may not pick up. It’s kind of where the art takes over from the math. So if she needs to see me against a sort of blank canvass to use her rock of eye, I’m all for it. I trust rock of eye and I trust tailors who use it. And she seems to have a good one. She spotted something on me –in my posture– that other tailors have spotted. That’s a good sign.
But what really sold me on this place was the cloth. When you read about tailoring in Asia, there’s usually two things that people talk about as pros and one that is a con. The tailors are good and they’re fast and it’s cheap. These are good things –though, if a cheap, fast suit is what you’re after, maybe bespoke isn’t really the thing. The big knock has always been the quality of the cloth. A lot of it isn’t very good. It’s not wool.
And all that seemed true enough when I was in Itaewon a few years back. But the cloth that this tailor had? It was a lot better. It was wool. It felt good.
It’s a bit more expensive than the cheapest they had and if you’re looking for a suit on the total cheap, it’s probably not for you but —and I wouldn’t say this about the cloth my previous Korean suits were made of— it’s quality. And at the price? A really good deal too. Like, I can scrape this money together. I should be able to do one a year.
Now, the proof will be in the pudding. This all has plenty of time to turn into a disaster. But I’m back on my bullshit and I feel comfortable with this tailor.