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By Tony West
Nicholas Joseph is a downtown custom tailor shop with contemporary flair. Finally, I can go to a custom suit shop, get an in-store tailoring experience, and get all this for less than a grand. I’m talking suits, shirts, belts, jackets and tuxedoes, customizable down to the last detail. Located in River North, this custom treasure offers the finest Egyptian cottons and Italian wools, even custom alligator belts. But the best part of the Nicholas Joseph Custom Tailor experience is that they educated me about how to get a suit made and how to perfect it. I love to look nice, but I admit that I don’t everything about getting a suit custom made. Especially not at a place like Nicholas Joseph, where they take over two dozen measurements.
Late Spring, U.R. Flair visited Nicholas Joseph Custom Tailor shop with 3 white-collar Gents to get the custom suits you experience and talk with Owner, Nicholas Hansen and his Master Tailor.
The Finest Materials and In-House Craftsmanship
We were all impressed by the sharp ties, fabrics, pocket squares, and lining options made from the finest cotton, Super 120 and Super 150 wools that were displayed in eye-catching designs throughout the store. The layout of the space is inviting and unpretentious. We were all ready to dive in. This must be how women feel at Nordstrom shoes or something. Along with a ton of different styles on display, Nicholas Joseph has fabric swatches and little pictures throughout the store with demos like “How to Tie a Tie,” and what acceptable jacket, lapel, collar, and tie proportions are. I didn’t feel limited by all this talk about measurements and proportions, it made me open my creativity to all the possibilities.
Moreover, owner Nicholas Hansen has a wonderful team of tailors and expert designers. They are integral to the great custom experience. That is what makes Nicholas Joseph a game changer. Each customer is given an initial consultation, where a designer speaks with them about what they need and where they’ll be wearing their new custom look. Then the designer opens up her plethora of options for what can be customized. Allow me to name just a few: fabric lining, pockets, lapels, vents, button holes, pleats, cuffs, vests, and each of these has near endless options to make for a truly one-of-a-kind look. Of course the designers give suggestions and let us know the latest trends, but it’s really my choice.
During the consultation the Master Tailor takes over 2 dozen measurements which are kept on file, and an individual pattern is crafted for me. Then Nicholas Joseph’s team of Tailors with over 50 years of combined experience, create my suit.
Correspondent Bryan Grimmage- also our White Collar Gent #1, received the full custom experience, and loved every minute of it. Bryan prefers a more vintage classy look, but has versatile swag. He was fitted in a grey suit.
Formal Flair and Accessories
Neil Thakkar, our Gent #2 had the custom formal wear experience. Nicholas Joseph also offers customizable tuxedos with the finest wool and wool silk blends and satin accents. Neil, President of a real estate investment firm, has had custom suits made overseas, but was happy that the one of a kind custom experience was in downtown Chicago. When asked if he would return to Nicholas Joseph to buy that tuxedo or perhaps another suit, Neil replied, “Absolutely! It’s not just a place where you buy a suit. They give you the full experience, the custom experience.”
Along with many customizable options for a suit, overcoat, blazer, and tuxedos, Nicholas Joseph also customizes nearly every accessory for a suit. Allow me to name a few: hand crafted belts, cufflinks, ties, tie bars, scarves, and pocket squares. The cufflinks make for a great gift. Nicholas Joseph offers 6 shapes, 12 colors, 6 semi precious stones, and engraving for custom cufflinks.
Fred McDonald, our 3rd white collar Gent already owns a few custom suits, so he was given suggestions on tie styles and pocket squares to accent his own look by Nicholas Hansen. Nicholas gave Fred, owner of McRealty, a personal demo on how to tie tie and the “knot of the moment” which is a skinny four-in-hand knot. Then Nicholas gave Fred a fresh looking pocket square. According to Nicholas Hansen, a white cotton pocket square = a clean classic look and a silk pocket square in fun colors or patterns is more adventurous and can be swagged out for an evening look.
After spending 20 minutes with Nicholas Hansen, Fred was anxious to come back to buy some suits he had seen in the store.
Nicholas Hansen, Classic Style -Modern Savvy
I had the opportunity to sit down with the owner of Nicholas Joseph, Nicholas Hansen. The first thing I observed about Nicholas Hansen is that he has impeccable style. The suit he was wearing was a perfect fit, classic, yet it had all these subtle purple accents. He’s actually a really cool guy, with a lot of great ideas.
Nicholas Hansen started Nicholas Joseph for one reason, he was a tall guy with long arms and a skinny waist, who wanted a custom suit made in the U.S. But in 2005 his idea grew from wanting to help unproportioned guys like him look good, to innovating the custom tailor business. While many tailors are outsourcing their orders, Nicholas Hansen focuses on the basics, the experience. “We try to make sure that everyday the customer walks out feeling better and more confident than he did when he walked in,” says Nicholas Hansen.
The second great thing that Nicholas Hansen did when he launched Nicholas Joseph was hire an expert staff that not only give clients knowledgeable suggestions, but they also make clients feel welcome, and educate them with the measuring, consultation, and fitting. The Master Tailor was taught craftsmanship by 2 tailors who each had 70 years of experience in the business. Along with the Master Tailor, Nicholas Joseph has a team of designers, tailors, and interns on hand to assist clients.
Nicholas Hansen also gave me a tour of some of his favorite parts of his tailor shop. He showed me what he says are his favorite designs for spring- a linen and wool suit, and a funky purple blazer with subtle pink stripes that had a pocket square that matched its lining- fresh. Another cool thing Nicholas Hansen showed me was the monogram that he designed to be at the abdomen of a shirt, instead of the traditional position on the watch cuff or the collar.
When I asked Nicholas Hansen what progressive things he was adding to his customizable options, I was amazed at how this guy really thinks of every single detail of the look.
“When we started the business, we were including functional button holes on every suit, which became standard,” says Hansen. “Then we started to contrast color the button hole. Then we started to change up lapels too. We have fancy linings, we added a cell phone pocket [near the collar], but it doesn’t change the silhouette of the suit. Then by request on all pants, I added a side tab because if you live in Chicago, every guy’s weight goes up and down during the year. So we can pull the side tab and let it out or take it in.These are things that make life easier but are fun as well,” says Nicholas Hansen.
Step Your Suit Game Up with Nicholas Joseph
While Nicholas Hansen doesn’t disapprove of the guy who says, “I’d rather go to Target and get my jacket,” he reminded me that his suits are very affordable. A custom two piece sells all inclusive for $795.00, in some cases, less than department stores. “For the same price he’s getting them off the rack, and tailoring them, we offer over two dozen measurements, a photo shoot of his posture and the position of his shoulders,” says Hansen.
That’s what made me wanna finally get a nice custom suit. Every man should have at least one. Even if you’re the guy that wears jeans everyday, you can get a cool blazer from Nicholas Joseph that you know no one else will have. If you’re the gym shoes and sweat’s type…step your game up and get a suit. Now thanks to Nicholas Joseph’s awesome location in downtown Chicago, it’s easy to get there for a fitting. Even though the website is replete with their selection and options, Nicholas Hansen prefers that every customer come in the shop to be measured, adding that it’s important that a man know his measurements anyway, and that some customers fly in from all over the world.
All in all, the 3 Gents and myself had a great experience at Nicholas Joseph. Though we are all from different backgrounds, we all want to buy a suit from Nicholas Joseph. And let’s not forget ladies, custom suits and accessories make great gifts.