Menswear

A New Life for an Old Harris Tweed

Years ago, I had a beautiful Harris Tweed jacket from J.Crew that I had to give up because it was just too small. Off the peg, I’m a 38R, but I bought a 36R thinking that it looked good in the store. If I wore nothing but a t-shirt under it, the fit was alright. But something more substantial like a slim fit turtleneck sweater made the thing uncomfortably tight.

Since then, I’ve been quietly on the hunt for a new Harris Tweed, poking around online when the idea resurfaced. In terms of price, I was becoming frustrated with some nice options that were simply out of my budget. Then, a few months ago, I started searching on eBay for a 38R Harris Tweed jacket, finding tons of them of various colors, tones, patterns, pocket configurations, buttons, etc., all very reasonably priced.

Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor (1975).

One of my favorite tweed jackets of all time was the herringbone one worn by Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor. It’s beautiful. Imagine my happy surprise when I found one on eBay with a similar look (and in a 38R). The photos from the seller were very detailed and the condition looked good. I also appreciated the lapel width, since one of my pet peeves is the slim, anemic, little boy lapels on modern cut jackets. The width of the lapels on this were a healthy 3.5 inches. Nice.

The jacket would surely need tailoring, but with a price tag of $79, even $150 worth of tailoring would make this jacket well worth it. So I bought it.

The jacket arrived within a week. In terms of its condition, it was everything the seller promised. Very gently worn. The jacket had very light shoulder padding and was half-lined in the back with a full but uncanvased lining in the front. And my suspicion that the jacket would need extensive tailoring was correct. It was huge. A smarter version of me would have taken “before” pictures, because it was cut like a shapeless barrel with sleeves. The important thing was the fit in the shoulders and the overall length of the jacket. The shoulders were perfect, and the length just covered my ass as it should.

The tailor I found here in Downtown Cleveland is named Mark Srour, the proprietor of Maestro Tailor – a humble but plush and comfortable tailoring emporium in the Hanna Building in Playhouse Square. He has a thick, charming Lebanese accent and works hard at his English, so I try to keep it basic when I speak with him. And his skills as a tailor, I would learn, are superlative. He has a terrific sense of how a garment should fit, and pays extremely careful attention to detail.

When I put the jacket on for Mark, he knew exactly where to start pinning. I didn’t even need to ask. The only question that came up was about the single vent in the back. He suggested sewing it up to make it ventless, but I really wanted to keep it. Since the jacket was originally made barely lined, the work would be trickier (you can’t hide anything). Keeping the vent would cost more, but I didn’t care. The total for the tailoring was going to be $135, which didn’t surprise me at all.

Four weeks later, I got a text from Mark’s assistant Anastasia that the jacket was ready for a fitting. Off to Maestro Tailor I went to see how it looked.

When I put it on, it looked and felt exactly how Mark pinned it. It was terrific. Taking the “barrel with sleeves” I bought and turning it into this beautifully tailored jacket was a sign of exquisite craft. The only hitch was something he didn’t like about the vent in the back, so he asked if he could keep it for a few more days to make a minor tweak. No problem. I wasn’t in a hurry.

A few days later, I went back in to try it on again. Whatever he did to the vent, it looked great. This was money well spent, and I was very happy.

A new life for an old Harris Tweed.

The jacket’s next stop was the dry cleaners around the corner from my apartment. Three days later, I took it home.

The only little fix I may make is to lengthen the sleeves slightly. Maybe .25 inches. I can feel an extra inch and a half of fabric under the cuff, making plenty of fabric to let the sleeves down a bit. Other than that, I’m the very happy owner of a beautifully tailored old/new Harris Tweed jacket I’d been wanting for a long time.




16 Comments

  1. And they tend to wear like iron anyway George, so a sound investment. I have several and can’t wear them out. Glad you found a stout and experienced local tailor – like good cobblers, they are becoming a rare breed.

  2. Patrick Iser Sleem Reply

    Thanks for sharing this experience with your tweed jacket. I think it and you look great in it. Is there a tailor here in NYC you can recommend? I have an old double faced cashmere car coat that needs a little lining love.

  3. Eric A. Neumore Reply

    Nice jacket! Mark and Anastasia are simply the best I’ve found in Cleveland and the new location is so much more reflective of Mark’s personality compared to the previous, somewhat cramped, shop in Tower City Center. He did the same for an unlined wool blazer I had that was shapeless and, as such, I was considering donating. Being unlined and a delicate fabric, it required quite of bit of hand stitching which ended up costing a little more, but Mark’s work was impeccable. Suppressing the waist, slimming the sleeves and redoing the vents resulted in a jacket I hardly recognized and now adore. As a matter of fact, I’m wearing it as I type this!

  4. Great post! And I agree that lengthening the sleeves a bit will make it look even better. It looks terrific on you.
    The Redford jacket was Polo with double vents!

  5. George, nice blog. I stumbled across it somehow while searching for Harris Tweed stuff. Very well done. I’m a big eBay purchaser an utilize a tailor for those buys as well. What brand jacket did you get? Looks great.

  6. Bruce Blackerby Reply

    Great write-up! Timeless will always be timeless! Nice to see someone who appreciates classic style! Looks sharp on you, good Sir! (And Three Days of the Condor is still an awesome movie, 40 years on.)

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