Picture it and write: The suit
The following is this weeks picture it and write contribution for Ermilias blog, available here. The low-down is I don’t own the photograph, it is just for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.
When I was much, much younger my father brought me into town one Saturday morning, to see Old McGuinness, the tailor so that I could be fitted for my first suit. I can’t remember what it was for, maybe one of my many old relatives had passed on and I was needed for the funeral, but anyway this was, my father decided an important occasion for a young man. He would always wax lyrical about how important a good suit was to success and how a good tailor was indispensable.
Father dressed himself in one of his own work-suits, something he seldom did on a weekend, and made me wear my Sunday clothes. I was uncomfortable from the second we left the house, but we were moving too quickly for me to fidget. We took the bus in and walked to a hidden lane off Dame Street. There was a small sign, saying “McGuinness, Tailor” over one of the door. My father pushed a button and there was a muffled buzz and the click of a door unlocking. He opened the door and we both went in.
Inside, it was like stepping into another world. The three walls of the small room were filled with row upon row of suits in all colours. There was a blue curtain hiding a changing area and through a small door in the side could be heard the low rat-tat-tat of a sewing machine. The tailor himself , a man at least in his fifties, was behind a low shop counter and went to greet my father. There was a formal quality but genuine warmth with how they addressed each other, kind of like how you would talk to a favoured priest. “Mister O’Brien” The tailor shook my father’s hand “How can I help you today?” My father looked over to me “I would like a suit for my son, Robert. It will be his first” The tailor looked at me “The first eh? This is an important occasion for a young man. All the more important to get it right.” He then went to the door and called through “Áine! My tools please.”
A youngish woman came through the door carrying a stool and a small box. He asked me to remove my jacket and to stand on the stool. He then opened the box, taking out a small notebook and several lengths of measuring tape. He handed the notebook to the woman and got to work. He made me put out my arms with my legs apart and used the tape measure to take my measurements, calling out the results to the woman who studiously entered them into the notebook. All the while he was having an animated conversation with my father about everything from the right kind of fabric for my suit to the effect the current political situation would have on the banking business. The old tailor exhibited a quality that I had never seen before but have subsequently seen in many professional men were they can be efficiently performing a task while at the same time conversing or reading or doing anything else than just concentrating on their work. This is not to say that I felt in any way neglected on my stool. I was fascinated by how quickly and surely he sized me up and the little extras like showing me the true value and adding a little bit to the value he told the woman whispering to me with a wink that it was for “growing space”. Within minutes he was done.
There was a quick discussion between the men over details and it was announced that my suit would be available to collect for next Saturday along with several replacement suits for father. It was nice to be the centre of attention for even that short time. Even standing still wasn’t a major bother unheard of for a boy at my age. We left the tailor and travelled through the old town so that father could collect some messages then topped off the morning with tea and cream buns in Bewley’s. I felt, I think we both did, that something important had happened that day, that a milestone had been reached.
The next week we went in together to collect our suits. I thought mine was magic, It looked so good, so grown-up that I was reluctant to take it off again to pack it. I wore it as often as I could, it became my Sunday best, I would have worn it to school if I would have gotten away with it.
That suit is now gone, I outgrew it years ago, but there has been many more to replace it. I have become quite the connoisseur and like my father, attribute some of my success, to the ministrations of a good tailor.
My son is only young yet but when he’s old enough I hope that I am able to take him into town to the tailor. To sit talking inanities and watch, while he is fitted for the suit of a man.