Dressing a 19th Century Railroad Baron

The new season of “Hell on Wheels” is underway on AMC and Kozinn+Sons had the privilege of dressing Colm Meaney, one of the stars of the show. Although he may be better known for his performances in the “Star Trek” franchise, in “Hell on Wheels” Mr. Meany shines in the role of Doc Durant, a sly businessman who hopes to benefit from the connecting of the two coasts by railroad in the post–Civil War era. At right is a photo of Mr. Meaney in his circa-1867 frock suit completely built by Kozinn +Sons.

As you may know, my wife is from Aberdeen, South Dakota which owes its existence to the building of the transcontinental railroad, so “Hell on Wheels” is a favorite in our household. Have you ever seen it?

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Murray Kozinn 1914-2011

On September 2, 2011, my father, Murray Kozinn, who was President of Kozinn+Sons from 1950 to 1983, died peacefully at the age of 97 in his home in Aventura, Florida.

Certainly, my Dad made important contributions to the men’s clothing industry. But, his real legacy lies in his incredible resiliency in the face of adversity.   There was no challenge which overwhelmed him, no set back which was insurmountable.   I still am not sure about the source of his eternal optimism.  I suspect it had spiritual origins, but he would have been embarrassed to admit it.

Murray was only 15 1/2 years old when his father, Sam, required him to join the business which Sam had founded in 1913.  It was 1929 and the stock market had just crashed a few months before.

To say the least, Murray was not thrilled about going into business at such a young age.  Unlike his father, his primary language was English, not Yiddish or Polish, and he relished the American schooling he was receiving.  So he continued his education at night, attending Brooklyn College and eventually receiving a degree in law from Brooklyn Law School in 1938.

(Coincidentally, my father and I both had the same professor for evidence—Jerome Prince.  My Dad had him during his first year of teaching and I had him during his last year when I attended Brooklyn Law School in the 1970’s.  I also carried on the family tradition of being unprepared when Professor Prince called on me to recite!)

The Great Depression would inform my Dad for the rest of his life as it would for his entire generation.  Most importantly, the Depression taught my Dad the importance of proper financial management.  Throughout its long history and all its ups and downs, Kozinn+Sons' credit remained strong and all its obligations were always met in a timely fashion. No matter how good our product has been or how well we treated our clients, proper financial management has sustained the business for almost 100 years.

My Dad never practiced law.  (Nor have I.)  But, it did make him a better businessperson.  During the Second World War he kept our factory busy with government contracts to make officers’ uniforms for the Army.  (He was 4F due to a childhood accident that left him deaf in one ear.)

When the war ended, he was one of the champions of the “Ivy League Look.”  This soft shouldered, humble silhouette was a dramatic shift from the wide shouldered macho look of the 1940’s.  It soon became the trademark of a college-educated man.

In 1957, my Dad made a fateful trip to India to visit the textile mills there.  He fell in love with Madras, the hand-made cotton cloth in plaid patterns that was a mainstay of Indian fashion during the hottest months.  There was an explosion of orders when he introduced Madras to the US market upon his return.  At left is one of our ads from that period, when we were known as Chester Laurie Ltd..

Our business during those years was primarily as a wholesaler to specialty stores around the country.  And a major part of that business was servicing the stores in college towns that catered to students who wore sport coats around campus.  In the early 60’s my Dad introduced hand-woven Harris tweeds to those stores and the reaction was also sensational.  The picture below shows my Dad (second from the right) on the Wendy Barrie radio show in 1963 engaged in a lively discussion about men's fashion.

All this changed with the social revolution of the late 1960’s.  College students leading protest marches wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a tweed jacket.  Styles started changing on what seemed like a weekly basis.  Wide lapels replaced narrow lapels, Edwardian looks became the rage, particularly if the jacket was made from velvet.  Nehrus, leisure suits, and polyester double knits soon followed.  Our conservative industry, where fashion evolved at a snail’s pace, was in revolution.  Surprisingly (at least to those who didn’t know him well) my Dad welcomed these developments. He explored St. Tropez and Carnaby Street to incorporate into the Kozinn+Sons collections the flavor of those venues in which cutting edge styles thrived.

These fashion changes plus the recessions of 1974-75 decimated the independent men’s retail shops who were our customers.  In order to keep our workrooms active, my Dad and I took the company in a unique direction—we would sell direct to the public, both ready-made and custom-made clothing.  It proved to be the right move because we were committed to keep manufacturing in New York.  We are now the oldest maker of men’s clothing still producing in the city.

I learned a great deal from my Dad besides the importance of proper accounting.  He believed that our clients were the best forecasters of fashion trends if you just asked them the right questions.  He also taught me the intricacies of fabric design including yarn size, spinning, fiber quality, weaving and finishing.  And, he taught me to prepare for the tough times when times are good.

His wisdom will continue to guide Kozinn + Sons  for many years to come.

Andy Kozinn
President
Kozinn+Sons Merchant Tailors
22 West 32nd Street, 5th Floor
New York NY 10001
212.643.1916

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The Fabrics of Summer

One of the most enjoyable parts of our business is preparing for the changes of seasons.  In fact, like everyone in the fashion business, we call our collections by the name of the season.  In the winter collection there are the flannels and tweeds.  And the summer collection is filled with cottons, linens and silks.

While wool is admittedly the most versatile fiber for tailored clothing, there are advantages to the other fibers in hot weather.   Unlike cloths woven from wool, cotton and linen cloths will not expand in volume when subjected to moisture.  Therefor, they are generally more comfortable to wear than wools when you sweat or it's a humid day.  (Of course, one of the attributes of wool is that it will insulate even when wet, which could save your life in the winter months!)

So, when Gregory Peck has to appear in a steamy Alabama courtroom in "To Kill a Mockingbird," he is appropriately attired in a three-piece seersucker suit.   Woven to be intentionally wrinkled along the stripes, seersucker is a pure cotton cloth developed for wear in the tropical British colonies.  The crinkling helps keep the cloth away from the skin which makes it feel even lighter than it is.

Linen is similarly very comfortable to wear in hot weather.  However, as we all know, linen is the fiber most prone to wrinkling.  Despite its wrinkles, linen can be an elegant, dressy cloth when finished properly.  Think of table linens or draperies that have a smooth, lustrous finish.

Our favorite mills for these dressy linens are in Ireland, particularly in the North.  The Irish cloths are on the heavier side which helps them maintain their shape.  If you're after a 1920's looking summer suit, these Irish linens will look outstanding.  Italian linens are lighter and sportier.  They make for wonderful casual jackets and suits.

Silk is another versatile natural fiber for summer.  Ironically, it is a creature that is so destructive to wool-- the moth-- in its caterpillar form that produces the best silk for textiles.  Silk is resilient, very fine, and lustrous.  On the negative side, as any sloppy businessman knows when he eats wearing a silk necktie, stains are difficult to remove from silk.  For that reason, silk is not recommended for jacket linings.  Instead, synthetic silk, or rayon has been used for the last 70 years.

During the 1950's silk suits were best sellers for Kozinn+Sons.  What were particularly popular were Dupioni silk fabrics.  The name Dupioni comes from the Italian word, "doppio," meaning "double." The twin silkworm produces the thread which has tiny variations in the thickness and creates a nubby texture to the finished silk cloth.

So, whenever a client says he prefers year-round fabrics, I am slightly disappointed because he may miss out on some of the exceptional cloths that are created for the extremes of the seasons.

Andy Kozinn
President
Kozinn+Sons Merchant Tailors
22 West 32nd Street, 5th Floor
New York NY 10001
212.643.1916

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Kozinn+Sons—The Thinking Man’s Tailor

No business can be all things to all people.  Kozinn+Sons Merchant Tailors is no exception. Everyone doesn’t like the same movies, music or art.  There is no reason that everyone would like the same clothier.

What our clients have in common is not simply their professions, although many are attorneys, bankers and accountants.   It’s not simply their education level although a survey revealed that 76% of our clients have a postgraduate degree.  Nor is it simply their income level—you’d be surprised at the breadth of our clients’ net worths.  What they do have in common is that they are all “thinking men.*”

The "thinking man's" approach to shopping is as follows:

  • He does not make purchasing decisions solely on the basis of price.  He doesn't assume that the most expensive is the best or that the cheapest is a bargain.  He seeks value in his purchases which requires a thoughtful cost/benefit analysis.
  • He does not rely on the name on the label as the sole criteria for establishing the merits of a product.  Instead, he wants to make an intelligent decision and soaks up relevant information  like a sponge.
  • He values expertise. He takes pride in an address book filled with experts to help him succeed in life.   His trust has to be earned, but once it is, he is extremely loyal  and forgives the occasional error.
  • He understands that how one dresses is an important form of non verbal communication.  He takes pride in the way he looks.  He also is considerate of others by dressing appropriately for an occasion.

If you share these traits, you’ll probably be very happy with Kozinn+Sons' product and service.  We work by appointment so that we can give you the attention you require and deserve.  Please give us a call or send us an e-mail and together we will intelligently address your clothing needs.

Andy Kozinn
President
Kozinn+Sons Merchant Tailors
22 West 32nd Street, 5th Floor
New York NY 10001
212.643.1916
*I am old enough to remember the first book that intelligently analyzed the art of playing baseball—“The Thinking Man’s Guide to Baseball,” published in 1967.  The author, Leonard Koppett, a sports writer for the New York Times took an unprecedented editorial approach to what was viewed at that time as strictly a “blue collar” sport.  His writing style was eloquent, scholarly and with the touch of a connoisseur.  The book revolutionized sports reporting thereafter.

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Can You Shop for a Custom Suit in Your Home or Office?

It never ceases to amaze me that some of the wealthiest people have the most ill-fitting clothing.  It's not because they haven't spent money on their wardrobes. It's that they haven't spent enough time to get things right.

I once was called to the townhouse of a super wealthy client by his personal assistant who had complained about the ill fit of the clients' clothing which was purchased at one of New York's most prestigious men's stores.  The gentleman was in his early forties, slim, and was a relatively easy fit except for the fact that he stooped a bit.  He was exasperated that none of the suits were quite right.

I asked him whether he had ever gone back to the store for a "final fitting." Did he ever show one of his favorites to a tailor for him to use as a reference? He looked at me with bemusement and explained that with four homes and six businesses, he didn't have time for such "luxuries."

I thought to myself, here's the poor little rich boy, who thinks his money can buy anything.  But, it doesn't.  Tailors need to see the results of their work on their clients.  Sometimes, we are making educated guesses and are not eactly sure what the outcome will be.

So, does this mean you have visit a tailor shop to get the best clothing possible? The answer is, for the most part, "yes."  One tailor cannot move all his equipment to your location, nor can he bring along all his colleagues who may have special skills.

So, what do you do if you simply don't have the time to make the necessary visits to the tailor?  Here's my suggestions if you're planning for a tailor to come to you:

  1. Accept the limitations of your situation.  Lower your expectations a tad.
  2. Make time available for multiple visits by the tailor.  You will have to give him an incentive to do so-- do not look for special bargains and place sizable orders.
  3. Find a quiet comfortable space in which to work.  Ideally, there should be a full length mirror.  Don't let yourself get distracted with phone calls or screens.
  4. Make sure that the person who visits your site has good diagnostic skills.  He or she doesn't have to be a "master tailor." But they do need to have at least 10 years of experience fitting clients and have excellent communication skills.

I do make house calls myself and the results are generally quite satisfactory because my clients follow the above guidelines.  It can truly be a "win-win" when everyone realizes that all worthwhile endeavors take more than just money.  They take time and effort by all the parties.  But, the rewards are worth it-- great looking custom suits, jackets, pants and shirts.
President
Kozinn+Sons Merchant Tailors
22 West 32nd Street, 5th Floor
New York NY 10001
212.643.1916

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New York, NY 10001
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