Trousers are pretty straightforward, at least when compared to jackets. Except for what goes into the waistband, there’s no real internal construction to speak of – just pocket bags and lining, which are hidden underneath the garment’s shell. They’re also a lot easier to fit, which makes them nice for custom tailoring. Once your tailor has your pattern down – one for flat front pants, and another for pleats – you can order trousers straight-to-finish.
I recently received my first order from Salvatore Ambrosi, the famous (and at times infamous) tailor from the Spanish Quarters of Naples. Salvatore, for those unfamiliar, had a meteoric rise eight years ago when he was first introduced to the online community of bespoke tailoring enthusiasts. People were crazy for his stuff, but after a few good years, Salvatore couldn’t keep up with the increasing number of orders. Deliveries were delayed and emails went unanswered. As far as I know, everyone eventually got their trousers or money back, but people are still rightly sour about the experience. The last time I wrote about Salvatore, a well-respected menswear writer emailed me to say I was breaking iGent omertà. He was probably half joking, but also … probably half not.
Since that debacle five years ago, Salvatore has slowly rebuilt his business. He’s developed a healthy customer base in East Asia, partnered with boutiques to handle the logistics of his orders, and expanded his workshop. Instead of just the small workroom that he and his father used to occupy – and Michael Alden once filmed – his family’s operation now takes up two floors in the same building.
Things seem to be flowing pretty smoothly nowadays. I received my pants just a short month after my fitting, and I’m happy to say: they live up to their hype. As simple as trousers can be, Salvatore’s are exceptionally good. The pants fit perfectly clean through the legs and seat, and perhaps most importantly, they’re styled quite well. Unlike my English or other Neapolitan trousers, these are slimmer through the thighs, which allows the legs to be nicely pegged without making the hips look too wide. The rise comes to about my naval, but the pants don’t look frumpy because of the slim leg line and pleats. The pleats are subtle, but they help break up the swath of fabric that would otherwise stretch across the lap.
There’s also an impressive level of detailing. There’s handstitching throughout, including the outseam that runs down the leg (the seams are machine sewn, but the subtle handstitching adds a nice touch). The cuffs are cleverly finished with buttons, so that you can easily uncuff the trousers to get any dirt out. Additionally, the interiors of the all the pockets – including the coin pocket – are made with the cloth’s selvedge. Mine funny enough say “Savile” and “London” inside, as the cloth was woven for Holland & Sherry on Savile Row, although the pants were made in Naples.
When Salvatore was in San Francisco last, we went out for coffee. He admitted that he’s always been a tailor first, but over time, has also had to learn how to be a businessman. That learning process hasn’t come without some bumps on the road, but things do feel more promising now. And there’s no denying his tailoring skills. Even people who’ve complained about him in the past have had to admit – this guy makes really good pants.
Or as the Italians charmingly say, “pents."