Marty Mathis does not participate in grumbling about millennials.
“It’s the first real segment of the market, since the boomers, that really likes and embraces wearing a suit jacket,” said the owner of Marty Mathis Direct, a haberdashery in the skyway of Northstar Center. “I like that.”
But millennials aren’t a complete throwback to the ’40s and ’50s, a golden era for being well dressed that Mathis showcases in old movies playing in rotation on the shop’s big-screen TV and a framed photo of the Rat Pack.
In the video attached to the online version of this column, there’s another rare photo of Mathis and a famous man that was taken in Jamaica. Well, Mathis is not really all that close to the famous American, who died within months. Mathis likes to introduce the photo by saying: “‘You know two people in this photograph.’ They say ‘Martin Luther King’ 99 percent of the time. Some then [point to another man in the photo and] say, ‘That guy right there?’ I say, ‘It’s January 1967. You think I was that big and had that hairline?’ That is me, that little boy carrying the bongo drums.”
Q: You had a rough upbringing between your dad leaving your family, which resulted in you being on the streets of D.C. before a Minnesota couple [Kern and Mary Rodeberg] decided to provide you with stability. Did you ever imagine you’d be in such a high-class business?
A: No. I tell [wife] Judy this store is a lot classier than I am. Never thought I’d have anything this nice, that’s for sure.
Q: Can MTailor [a phone app] do a better job measuring someone than you?
A: No. I take more than 30 measurements. I was taught by two Italians on the East Coast. It’s really hard to measure yourself, [too]. My body changes so when I have to send in an order for myself, that’s really difficult.
Q: Is there anything you wish men wouldn’t wear?
A: Crocs. I’m sorry. Maybe from a gardening standpoint. Leave them out there in the dirt. I also hear flip-flops in the skyway in the summertime. I understand women with sandals, but flip-flops? Come on, now.
Q: Have you ever refused a tailoring request because it was just too strange?
A: Yes. Things have to balance. So if I get a guy in here who is 5-6 and he wants an eight-button front, I’m going extreme here, “No, sir, that’s not going to balance off, that [last] button is going to be at your shin.” When someone asks for something unbalanced, I do my best to say “That doesn’t work.”
Q: How many suits are in your home closet?
A: Now that I’m older, not as many. Most of my suits are here [at the shop] since I bike in quite a bit. I would say probably 18 suits or so. A lot of guys in my industry, when you are younger you end up having a lot. I get tired of writing orders. The last thing I want to do is write another order for a suit [for me]. Get the customers’ orders in first.
Q: What’s the most expensive suit you’ve ordered?
A: I remember a couple years back selling a couple $6,000 suits. That’s a lot of money. Our average-price suit here is probably $1,400. That seems to be the sweet spot for us.
Q: Are a lot of young men asking you to give them what amounts to pants that look like they are expecting a flood?
A: That’s starting to die away now, which is nice. I’m a boomer. My friends tend to send out e-mails about the millennials, this and that. I like the millennial age. They’re wearing suits. Now they are wearing really trim things because they don’t want to wear what the boomers are wearing. They are not wearing stripes. They’re wearing plaids, window panes, solids. We get a lot of guys in their late 20s coming in [as new customers]. They are wearing shorter pants, tighter shirts, tighter suit coats, shorter suit coats, but that’s changing. Things are starting to get a little fuller.
Q: Is the point of the short-about-the-ankles pants that the wearer wants to show off his socks?
A: [Laughter] Well, a lot of them don’t wear socks, which up here is not a good idea. They think it gives them a longer, leaner look, which it does. Nice thing about the men’s game is it takes a good 15-plus years for styles to change. The women’s industry, that changes, what, every two months?