Suits rose to be defence force fashion in the 1940s, when they moved away from their gangster association, to be a symbol of both business and authority. Commander Vernon J. Geberth once referred to the suit as psychological armour.
The Secret Service wear suits to appear less military looking, uniforms following the president or first family can be very intimidating and send out the wrong kind of public message — more of a dictator than a leader. They are meant to be visible yet invisible. The president needs to be approachable, kiss children and speak to the people, yet be kept safe. Suits are subtle, and fashionable. They are designed specifically for the public eye, and allow the team to fit into all kinds of situations without scaring the nation with their presence.
Articles of Style have found a way to suit men from all walks of life, including the Secret Service.
Articles of Style, previously known as The Style Blogger, was launched in 2009, and developed a global readership, featuring in magazines such as Playboy and Sports Illustrated. The blog was designed ideally, to reach a male audience and make fashion as relatable as possible for the everyday man.
In particular, finding the perfect suit is something men have always struggled with, listening to the advice of a store clerk trying to make a sale rather than dress a man to impress, the creator of Articles of Style, Dan Trepanier CEO and creative director of AoS, also known as ‘America’s Best Dressed Man’, was left with no choice but to launch his own company to make customised suits in America, for Americans, and have never ever had a return. Partnering with Southwick Clothing, America’s oldest menswear manufacturer, AoS is made up of a team of five men and fits each client personally using try-on garments (they send a first draft of the suit if you like, which they also consider a ‘welcome to the family’ bonus).
Men’s fashion is different because it isn’t always seasonal, it’s long wearing, and in today’s market, there was no good option for something timeless yet simple. Dan upskilled as a tailor and together with his team turned the popular blog into an online store, which launched in 2015.
What’s so unique about Articles of Style is that, not only are they ethical, American-made and a high-quality suit, but the whole process is done online. You won’t find another service quite like it. Dan said for years they sampled every online tailoring brand, and were always very disappointed with the product and experience. There was a massive drop-off between an in-person fitting experience and the online ‘self-measure’ experience: “This, combined with our readership worldwide constantly requesting to buy the garments we were showcasing in our editorials…led to the ‘aha’ moment. The online fitting process is an absolute game-changer for e-commerce. It allows people, anywhere in the world (we have clients in more than a dozen countries), to have a bespoke experience with experts that they trust creating quality clothing for them.”
Run through the process of how you make your suits?
It starts with the client filling out a physical profile on our website — height, weight, sizes, problem areas, and so on. We then cross reference your profile against millions of data points that map the human body — essentially getting a rough estimate of your measurements, dimensions, and importantly, your personal preferences. We then cut your personal try-on garments, which are custom-made for you (and yours to keep). This allows the client to have a ‘fitting experience’ that bridges the digital/physical gap, and gives the client and our expert tailors a point of reference. We then review the fitting photos and feedback to make all the adjustments to the client’s pattern. This is where the magic happens. We do full bespoke adjustments, including posture, shoulder slopes, and asymmetry. Without the fitting garments, these things are impossible to determine — with just body measurements, for example. As far as I know, the one-on-one try-on fitting process is exclusive to AoS.
In terms of making these suits, did you have to test the fabrics first? How did you know what would be suitable for the Secret Services? What kinds of fabrics do you normally use, and did this differ when making them for the Secret Service?
I’ve been testing fabrics for 10-plus years, and it’s an industry that is always evolving. For the Secret Service, they need something custom made, as most of these guys are huge and they can’t look like slobs. They also need something very lightweight as they often stand in the sun for long periods and they can’t be sweaty next to the president. Most importantly, they need something that stretches and has a maximum range of motion — they have to be ready to react to any threat, without restriction. Lastly, it has to be black, and it has to be built to take a beating. For this project, we sourced a lightweight pure wool with natural stretch and moisture-wicking properties, which we had to dig for, but turned out to be the perfect cloth for a very difficult job.
Do the suits have any secret pockets of extra room to conceal communication tools or weapons?
Yes, the garments have secret — ha! — details like hidden wire channels, holster straps, and extra room in areas for things like pistols and ammunition. Each guy’s requirements are slightly different, which makes custom the best solution for these guys, in addition to their unusual size and shape, of course.
What was the reaction to the suits by the Secret Service?
They were very impressed, especially with the fit and comfort. I keep asking for pictures, but that’s sort of against the rules.
Any more interesting stories?
You never know who you’re going to meet with such a large online reach worldwide. Last week we made garments for a champion UFC fighter, a state senator, an executive with SpaceX, Vladimir’s Putin’s translator, and a taxi driver. We get a fresh perspective on life from every client, that’s probably the best part of the job — aside from their reactions when they receive their garments.
Words: Laura Reid