Recently, I had a very pleasant phone call with Juhn Maing – the man behind the men’s clothing blog sleevehead. Juhn is a dedicated supporter of high quality craftsmanship, and he likes to travel and explore new cultures. So, although Naples is often considered heaven for bespoke suit lovers, Juhn decided take the road less traveled and ventured to Sicily in 2011 to have a few
bespoke garments made. During his trip, he took many pictures, met many tailors and gained a lot of useful experience. Instead of keeping his findings all to himself, Juhn decided to create Sleevehead’s Guide to Sicilian Tailors. The result is not only a compiled list of tailors, but it is also a hands-on travel guide that covers all other important details such as transportation, language tips, shopping, eating, and even what cell phone sim card to buy. One could easily navigate Sicily, regardless of how sartorially oriented a trip might be! As if that alone would not be enough, he also created a digital version of his guide that is optimized for the iPad! Juhn very kindly provided me with a printed copy of Sleevehead’s Guide to Sicilian Tailoring, which I am happy to review today.
Sleevehead’s Journey to Sicily
You can tell that Sleevehead approached his Sicily project in a very serious way when you learn that he hired a native Sicilian to assist him. His local guide then called all the tailors in the area to ask them about their styles and willingness to work with customer cloth. This way, he could narrow down his target tailors before he even arrived.
He arrived in Sicily armed with a few lengths of cloth ranging from tweed and over worsted to flannel. This was very wise, in my opinion, because it spared him from having to go through fabric books and minimized the number visits he needed to finish a suit. Without fabric, chances are the tailor has to order it, which requires extra time.
Since he did not speak Italian initially, he made sure to have an interpreter with him during his first few trips. Eventually, he picked up enough Italian to explain the tailor what he likes in a suit, but in the beginning, it saved him a lot of frustrations.
With regards to traveling, he planned his time exceptionally well. Juhn worked out a route, so that he could easily visit each tailor in a certain order and then repeat the process, having left each tailor just enough time between visits to complete the work. This way, he returnd home with fully finished bespoke garments. This method is much better than having something sent to you without a final fitting. Even if you have been with a tailor for a long time, no bespoke suit is exactly like the other and it might not fit 100% properly back at home. You would need to send it back with pictures and the whole procedure takes so much longer.
Moreover, he knew what the Sicilian style of tailoring looked like, and so he determined the style he wanted for each particular fabric before he embarked on his trip. He opted for the traditional spalla camicia (also known as manica camica or shirt-shoulder) for all of his jackets.
Overall, you can see that Juhn is a very savvy traveler and an experienced bespoke client; he came as prepared as he could be for his bespoke adventure.
Sleevehead’s Guide To Siliclian Tailors
The entire Guide to Sicilian Tailors is well structured and full of practical tips. After the acknowledgements and FAQs, the introduction begins with a quote from Goethe – “Without seeing Sicily, one cannot get a clear idea of what Italy is”. He further elaborates on the kind of person that will gain the most pleasure and use from his particular guide. Certainly, a bespoke project of that kind is not for everybody, but only for men who are a little adventurous, flexible and open to new things and cultures.
In the chapter “Planning Your Trip”, you will learn all you need to know about how to get to Sicily, how to travel within the island, and what you need in order to have a great time. Before he begins his journey in Palermo, he writes a little bit about Sicilian tailors, explaining their general mentality with regards to things like emails, etc.
In Palermo, he profiles the three bespoke tailors Guido Davi, Guiseppe Ferina and Guiseppe Zacco and their work. Not only does the Guide provide a number of great pictures of the city, but as a bespoke lover, Juhn also takes great shots of the garments and their details.
Next in line is the city of Catania, where he visited another three tailors: Nello Caponetto, Salvatore Giuffrida and Vittorio Palmisciano. Every tailor section starts with the essentials, including the number of fittings usually required, the estimated time for completion of a jacket, price, pros and cons. Along with the address, I found this to be very valuable and helpful in determining whether a tailor could be a good match.
The last city is Messina, where Juhn met with Sebastiano Savoca, Pipo Arrigo and Fratelli Gorgone. None of these tailors has a website or uses email – they are all very much old school.
Apart from all the tailor-specific information, Sleevehead provides links to videos and other valuable things like the history of Sicilian tailors or recommended iPhone apps. As such, I would suggest the electronic version over the printed version, especially since a electronic pdf file can be updated and distributed very easily. So, if you own an iPad, don’t bother with the paper version. While the electronic ebook of Sleevehead’s Guide to Sicilian Tailoring costs $49, the printed version is $69. In any case, the information you receive in this 53 page guide is extremely valuable and I assure you it will more than pay for itself if you visit Sicily.
Overall, this Guide to Sicilian tailoring is well written, informative, and contains beautiful pictures. In my opinion it is an absolute must for anybody who contemplates having bespoke garments made in Italy. If you are thinking about going to Naples or Milan for a bespoke suit, you may very well decide to choose Sicily instead. Ideally, you could combine your trip with a vacation, and then you will bring home a hand made suit guaranteed to outlive a nice tan.
Sleevehead’s Guide to Sicilian Tailoring can be purchased online for $49 (ebook) and $60 (softcover) – (look at the top right corner).