Business is looking good
Everybody’s fixated on the economy. Is it up? Down? Will it be a “U’’-shaped recovery? A dreaded double-dip recession? What do the housing numbers show? Gas prices? Unemployment? And what does Alan Rouleau have to say about it all? For those who don’t know, Rouleau designs and tailors custom suits for some of the biggest names in the city. Athletes, restaurateurs, car magnates. As their fortunes go, so go Rouleau’s, and from the sound of things, business is better than you might think. We caught up with the master tailor just before he took off for the Black Hills of South Dakota and the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. He told us about what he’s seeing in his Newbury Street showroom, trends for fall, and why clothes really do make the man. HAYLEY KAUFMAN
Q. All right. How is it out there? Are people buying?
A. I’ve had the busiest July I’ve had in 20 years. I’ve been working through weekends.
Q. What about earlier in the year?
A. For the first two quarters guys were mostly on hold. But when there’s a new president there’s always a lull after the election. But my guys aren’t getting laid off. Athletes are still making $20 million a year.
Q. What about everybody else?
A. I haven’t seen guys dressing up like this in years. I think they want to show they’re serious. There’s a dearth of jobs out there. You have to look serious.
Q. How much does one of your suits cost?
A. $1,800, $1,900, $2,000. . . . I’d say the average is between $2,200 and $2,500. It goes up to the point that the fabric becomes the bulk of the price. For custom, we do all the fitting and measuring and then send it to a custom tailor shop where they put the garment together. . . . Then they send back and we do all the finishing.
Q. It doesn’t come cheap.
A. There’s an old Asian saying: Buy the best and cry only once.
Q. Oooh, I like that. What is the key to looking good in a suit? Are there tailoring tricks that men should be aware of?
A. Other than having a good tailor? I think guys have to realize they need to reassess their look. Guys say, I’m ‘X.’ But maybe that was 10 years and 20 pounds ago. You’ve got to take age, personality, career, what they do for work, and how they want to look. When they put on a garment I made for them, they have to look spectacular. And they have to feel the same way. Every person I make clothes for is a walking advertisement for me.
Q. What are the big trends for men this fall?
A. I see a return of elegance. A resurgence of French cuffs. Tie bars. I’m seeing a lot of interest from younger guys. They’ll come in and spend $2,400. I’m floored.
Q. You’re off to Sturgis. What kind of bike do you ride?
A. I ride a Softail Harley-Davidson and an Ultra Classic.