Have you read “The Secret Vice?” It’s a wonderful article by the journalist dandy Tom Wolfe. Published in 1966 in the New York Herald Tribune, it’s about how men in the United States are hooked on the allure on custom tailoring.
“Practically all the most powerful men in New York,” Wolfe wrote, “especially on Wall Street, the people in investment houses, banks and law firms, the politicians, [and] especially Brooklyn Democrats, for some reason […] are fanatical about the marginal differences that go into custom tailoring. They are almost like a secret club insignia for them. And yet it is a taboo subject. […] At Yale and Harvard, boys think nothing of going over and picking up a copy of Leer, Poke, Feel, Prod, Tickle, Hot Whips, Modern Mammaries, and other such magazines, and reading them right out in the open. Sex is not taboo. But when the catalogue comes from Brooks Brothers or J. Press, that’s something they whip out only in private.”
Today, men with The Secret Vice find community online – where they can talk about tailors and clothes without shame. When possible, however, the world of bespoke tailoring is best explored through more traditional social networks. It’s always better to meet with another tailoring enthusiast in person, not only to see what his suits look like in real life, but also to get his thoughts. For a variety of reasons, clients are often eager to give praise, but reluctant to share criticism. To know how someone really feels about their tailor, you have to talk with him behind closed doors.
When I met with George from BRIO last week, he was wearing a blue sport coat and grey overcoat from Sartoria Corcos, a bespoke tailoring shop based in Florence, Italy. George has been a client of many tailors over the years (he introduced many enthusiasts, including me, to Liverano, for example), but tells me that Sartoria Corcos is probably the one he’ll stick with for life.
Sartoria Corcos is as small of an operation as you can imagine. The head cutter and tailor is a Japanese man named Kotaro Miyahira, who got his start at Ring Jacket before moving to Italy to learn tailoring. His wife does all the buttonholes, and he employs another tailor to do some basic sewing. For the most part, however, it’s a one-man shop.
Miyahira’s style is distinctive, and according to George (who has been his client for five years), has only gotten more Italian with time. “He’s been living in Florence for almost ten years now,” George tells me. “So it’s only natural that he picks up a few things from the locals.” His jackets are slimming, with waists and skirts that sit close to the body, and narrow sleeves that are never too far from the arm. His chests, on the other hand, are slightly swelled – not as much as a true drape cut, but enough to add a little masculine fullness. Shoulders are soft and sloping, but also slightly extended.
Most important is how Miyahira cuts his lapels and quarters, and how he sets his buttoning points. His lapels are cut very straight, meaning they lack the belly that you find on English jackets, or the concave line on Liverano’s (notice how this Steed, for example, has lapels that slightly bow outwards, while these Liveranos have lapels that bow inwards). His quarters are also distinctively Florentine, so that the fronts sweep back towards the hips. These two elements, combined with a slightly lowered buttoning point that elongates the lapel line, gives these jackets a striking look that’s built on traditional soft tailoring.
What’s great about Corcos’ jackets is that they feel so classically Italian, but also have that bit of dash to make them exciting. In some ways, these feel exactly like Miyahira’s story: a young man who fell in love with classic English and Italian clothes in Japan, then went to Italy to learn his trade. They have a sense of traditional style, as well as a bit of youthful flair. Such as the marginal details that are “so small, they’re practically invisible,” as Wolfe put it, yet are critically important to men infected with The Secret Vice.
George tells me that Miyahira doesn’t travel much, as he already has his hands full in Florence and doesn’t pursue things just for the sake of money. He has used trunk shows, however, to see the world (previous ones have taken place in other parts of Europe, as well as his home country of Japan). Miyahira looks like a young man with a lot of life to live. Let’s hope at some point, he’ll want to see the United States.