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The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit

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Taking as its starting point a son's decision to alter his late father's last remaining suit for himself, this is a deeply moving and brilliantly crafted story of fathers and sons, of fitting in and standing out -- and discovering what it means to be your own man. For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy suit that hung at the back of his clos Taking as its starting point a son's decision to alter his late father's last remaining suit for himself, this is a deeply moving and brilliantly crafted story of fathers and sons, of fitting in and standing out -- and discovering what it means to be your own man. For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy suit that hung at the back of his closet -- his late father's last suit. When he decides to finally make the suit his own, little does he know he is about to embark on a journey into his own past. As JJ moves across the surface of the suit, he reveals the heartbreaking tale of his father, a charismatic but luckless restaurateur whose demons brought tumult upon his family. He also recounts the year he spent as an apprentice tailor at Modernize Tailors, the last of Vancouver's legendary Chinatown tailors, where he learns invaluable lessons about life from his octogenarian master tailor. Woven throughout these two personal strands are entertaining stories from the social history of the man's suit, the surprising battleground where the war between generations has long been fought. With wit, bracing honesty, and great narrative verve, JJ takes us from the French Revolution to the Zoot Suit Riots, from the Japanese Salaryman to Mad Men, from Oscar Wilde in short pants to Marlon Brando in a T-shirt, and from the rareified rooms of Savile Row to a rundown shop in Chinatown. A book that will forever change the way you think about the maxim "the clothes make the man," this is a universal story of love and forgiveness and breaking with the past. From the Hardcover edition.


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Taking as its starting point a son's decision to alter his late father's last remaining suit for himself, this is a deeply moving and brilliantly crafted story of fathers and sons, of fitting in and standing out -- and discovering what it means to be your own man. For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy suit that hung at the back of his clos Taking as its starting point a son's decision to alter his late father's last remaining suit for himself, this is a deeply moving and brilliantly crafted story of fathers and sons, of fitting in and standing out -- and discovering what it means to be your own man. For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy suit that hung at the back of his closet -- his late father's last suit. When he decides to finally make the suit his own, little does he know he is about to embark on a journey into his own past. As JJ moves across the surface of the suit, he reveals the heartbreaking tale of his father, a charismatic but luckless restaurateur whose demons brought tumult upon his family. He also recounts the year he spent as an apprentice tailor at Modernize Tailors, the last of Vancouver's legendary Chinatown tailors, where he learns invaluable lessons about life from his octogenarian master tailor. Woven throughout these two personal strands are entertaining stories from the social history of the man's suit, the surprising battleground where the war between generations has long been fought. With wit, bracing honesty, and great narrative verve, JJ takes us from the French Revolution to the Zoot Suit Riots, from the Japanese Salaryman to Mad Men, from Oscar Wilde in short pants to Marlon Brando in a T-shirt, and from the rareified rooms of Savile Row to a rundown shop in Chinatown. A book that will forever change the way you think about the maxim "the clothes make the man," this is a universal story of love and forgiveness and breaking with the past. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit

  1. 5 out of 5

    Magdelanye

    After years of hanging in the back of his closet, JJ Lee's fathers suit became part of a larger project. While carefully unpicking the jackets' stitches to tailor it to fit himself, he began to unravel the tangled history he shared with his glamorous, dangerous parent. Along the way he gives us history lessons from a less lofty perspective than an academic, but one somehow more reflective of of the reality that prevailed as fashion changed to accommodate it. Confession: I never planned to actuall After years of hanging in the back of his closet, JJ Lee's fathers suit became part of a larger project. While carefully unpicking the jackets' stitches to tailor it to fit himself, he began to unravel the tangled history he shared with his glamorous, dangerous parent. Along the way he gives us history lessons from a less lofty perspective than an academic, but one somehow more reflective of of the reality that prevailed as fashion changed to accommodate it. Confession: I never planned to actually read this book. Drawn to it by the Canada Reads longlist, it seemed to me the least interesting. The title was unappealing to my feminist sensibilities, and I am not so interested in fashion. I have never thought a suit attractive on a man, I rather dislike them and their white collar connotations. Not only all that. it isn't even a new release but written over a decade ago. Alas, when I made my first raid on the library in search of longlist tiles and to place my holds, this was the only one on the shelf, tucked away in the sewing section. I took it home. The plan was to flip through it in a measured way and return it on my next trip, just to make an acquaintance. I was charmed by the little black and white drawings that illustrate the text. I found no other reference so I am concluding JJ did them himself. This, as well as his lively humility, curious nature and the ease of his writing, endeared him to me. I read the whole book and found it interesting and moving and surprisingly easy to relate to. Fashion matters because every day people get up in the morning and, with the palette of clothes they find in their closets and dressers, they attempt to create a visual poem about a part of themselves that they wish to share with the world. p53 Measure of a Man skillfully weaves together his personal history and a history of fashion interspersed with an account of his apprenticeship at Modernize Tailor, an old Vancouver establishment. From Bill and the other tailors there he drew in the acceptance and guidance he needed to complete his own coming of age, and the sewing skills to restore his fathers suit. I am disappointed he did not get to show it off as a finalist. Irregardless, this is a book that all Canadians could benefit from reading, and it set a really high bar for the rest of the contenders.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    If you have a less than perfect relationship with your dad - and I don't know many who haven't - then this book is for you. Plus you get to learn a lot about sartorial history and men's fashion, like - something that's oft repeated throughout the book - never button the last button on your suit jacket. I do have to admit though, that the fashion history elements were a little head-spinning for me, even with the hand-drawn illustrations. I also had to sometimes grasp at the connection between the If you have a less than perfect relationship with your dad - and I don't know many who haven't - then this book is for you. Plus you get to learn a lot about sartorial history and men's fashion, like - something that's oft repeated throughout the book - never button the last button on your suit jacket. I do have to admit though, that the fashion history elements were a little head-spinning for me, even with the hand-drawn illustrations. I also had to sometimes grasp at the connection between the history of the suit lapel and the stages of JJ's painful relationship with his dad (with some transitions being smoother than others). However, in the end, this was an emotionally satisfying book. The journey felt as real and authentic as my own relationship with my father; JJ didn't completely absolve his father for his childhood but in the end, he does come to a deeper understanding of his father and JJ's relationship with him. Favourite scenes in the book: the department store scene; the boxing scene (which JJ talked about at the Word on the Street in Vancouver and which brought many in the audience to tears). Read it and you'll know what I mean.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    Absolutely loved this book. The author decides to alter his father's suit and this brings him to an exploration of his relationship with his father, a troubled and violent alcoholic. Interspersed with this is an exploration of the social history of the suit and menswear, and the author's apprenticeship with old school tailors. I was amazed by the sheer amount of information in this book, and by how much I learned from reading it. The author is a good descriptive writer, and I was surprised by ho Absolutely loved this book. The author decides to alter his father's suit and this brings him to an exploration of his relationship with his father, a troubled and violent alcoholic. Interspersed with this is an exploration of the social history of the suit and menswear, and the author's apprenticeship with old school tailors. I was amazed by the sheer amount of information in this book, and by how much I learned from reading it. The author is a good descriptive writer, and I was surprised by how emotional I felt while reading this story. Highly recommended!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mj

    The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit is the first full-length book written by J.J. Lee (the son in the story.) Nominated for a number of non-fiction literary awards, I was expecting to enjoy a well-written book in one of my favourite genres - memoirs of a personal nature. It turns out I should have taken the “complete” book title literally. It is not just about a Father and a Son; it is about a Suit as well. I was anticipating that the suit would be a supporting actor, s The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit is the first full-length book written by J.J. Lee (the son in the story.) Nominated for a number of non-fiction literary awards, I was expecting to enjoy a well-written book in one of my favourite genres - memoirs of a personal nature. It turns out I should have taken the “complete” book title literally. It is not just about a Father and a Son; it is about a Suit as well. I was anticipating that the suit would be a supporting actor, sort of a prop in the father/son relationship. Instead, the author featured the suit in a starring role with what felt like equal time for the suit on its own when compared to the time spend on the father and son combined. Lee writes very well. For a debut work, I was impressed. His word choices were judicious without being pretentious and I am grateful to have easily expanded my vocabulary by reading this book. However, for my tastes, this book had a bit of a split personality so I did not appreciate the book to its fullest potential. Lee has written a history/biography on the history of men’s fashion, by treating the suit as a major character and expanding on how it changed over the years. In addition, he writes a memoir about his own life growing up with a father whose choice of suits and exterior impressions presented to the world were important to him. Lee’s approach to writing the book was original and unique. He weaves the history of the development of men’s clothing over hundreds of years, particularly the suit, with his own personal story of his father/son relationship, primarily because the suit was of such strong importance to his father. Also Lee held strong memories of his father. Upon his father’s passing he inherited his father’s suit after the family selected cremation rather than open casket. Lee kept the suit for many years in a closet before deciding to alter it to fit himself. It seems the suit became a big part of Lee’s grieving process and also his coming to terms with his father and their relationship and letting to and moving on. As mentioned, I found the writing excellent in the suit portion of the book. It is well researched, and with an extra feature of interesting illustrations of fashion changes done in black ink line drawings by Lee himself. Lee’s referencing of resources is also well done and he provides some excellent reading suggestions for readers interested in learning more about developments in men’s’ fashion industry. J.J. Lee also wrote a memoir in the book about his personal life and growing up years as the son of Japanese immigrants. Living with an absent and alcoholic father who abused his wife physically and emotionally was particularl influential on Lee's development. Though his father did not seem to abuse Lee or his three siblings physically; he was emotionally abusive and physically absent. None of the children received their father’s love, attention and guidance so important to flourishing and growing up to achieve one’s fullest potential. Typical of alcoholics, Lee’s father often changed jobs, moved his family frequently and had his family living in poverty due to his extensive spending on alcohol and unnecessary risk-taking in his numerous failures in his many get rich quick schemes. Lee and his siblings' formative years were totally lacking in any sense of stability. This part of The Measure of a Man was where I experienced my connection and engagement with the story the most. Lee really drew me into the moment and had me feeling what he was feeling. I thought Lee’s insight was excellent and while he did not share as much as I would have preferred (I sense that Lee is very reserved by nature); I definitely experienced the pain he felt. His many dashed hopes and longings strongly came through. This part of the story was very powerful and I only wish he shared more of it with us. Lee took a unique approach to writing the story. He tied in the history of the development of men’s clothing over hundreds of years, particularly the suit, with his own personal story. He did so because part of the story was about his attempt to take apart a suit of his dad’s that he received after his dad’s death that he wanted to re-cut it due to the large size differential between his father and himself. Lee mentioned that the purpose for this process was to figure out what he would have learned from his father had his father been there for him. His dad was big into suits and looking good and Lee wanted to understand more of what motivated his father. He also wanted to understand himself more and how as an adult, he measured up as a man and how he might fare when compared to his dad. He wondered if he could fill his dad’s shoes/suit given the chance, despite being so lacking in direction and instruction from his father growing up. Perhaps if I was a suit or even a fashion aficionado I might have enjoyed the book more. Don’t get me wrong - I did enjoy the suit portion of the story and felt Lee did a good job of making the suit story informative. It just didn’t really grab me and absorb me into the suit’s story. It is not what I was expecting…..and honestly I don’t think I would enjoy any stand-alone story about the transition of men’s clothing and suits in particular over the ages. It’s just not something I am interested in or would choose as a stand-alone book. While the combination of the two stories was unique, I think the author may have done a disservice to each story. The personal memoir portion I felt was 3 1/2 star worthy but could have been 4 star if written as the only memoir with more fleshing out and more meat on the bones. I would have liked to learn more about Lee’s mom and his siblings and I also would have liked Lee to write more about some harder issues, and show more of his vulnerability. He seemed to be holding back, which of course if an author's prerogative. I also suspect that people who would prefer reading about the history of a suit and are not too interested in a touchy, feeling personal memoir would have preferred more fashion information and less of the personal memoir. The suit memoir was 2 1/2 star worthy for me. I doubt making it any longer would have changed my rating. It was well-written, well-researched. I learned a lot, enjoyed the drawings and was impressed by the quotes and references. The rating is low simply due to personal taste. Overall my rating is 3 stars. (2 stars for the suit portion due to my lack of interest and 3 1/2 stars for the personal memoir portion - a subject I was much more interested and therefore enjoyed the content more and made a much better connection with the story and the family members in it. I think there are excellent possibilities for separating the sections and publishing as is, or better yet, with the personal memoir in particular, possibly dig deeper and share more. The suit biography is possibly sufficient as is or perhaps could be flushed out more; although it would be best to check the views of people who are more interested in such a book than myself. I can see 2 books instead of 1 and possibly 2 4 star ratings rather than a hybrid 3 star rating. Note: some future editing pending if more time allows

  5. 4 out of 5

    George Ilsley

    Took me a long time to get through this. There were a couple of reasons for that. For one the narrative is not pull-you-along; it's more meandering. The balance between discourses on the history of fashion and the family story was not always achieved. At points we would get back to the family story, and I was Oh right! The family! Um, what was happening with them when they were last seen? At times, the lectures on fashion history were longer than my attention span. The second reason is the font/fo Took me a long time to get through this. There were a couple of reasons for that. For one the narrative is not pull-you-along; it's more meandering. The balance between discourses on the history of fashion and the family story was not always achieved. At points we would get back to the family story, and I was Oh right! The family! Um, what was happening with them when they were last seen? At times, the lectures on fashion history were longer than my attention span. The second reason is the font/font-size. I ordered this book sight unseen, and probably would have rejected it if I had picked it up browsing. The font borders on being too small. The periods in particular are so subtle that I would be reading along and suddenly find the sentence made no sense... I had missed the miniscule period. This happened repeatedly and greatly impaired my reading enjoyment. I know, I know, I should just read on a device and crank up the type size. But isn’t the measure of a book the quality of reading pleasure? In other news, sometimes I go past Modernize Tailors (since 1913) on Pender Street.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Phoenix

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 3.5 stars in truth, for me. This book was a fascinating mix of memoir and fashion history. I'm not entirely sure it pulled together as strongly as I was hoping, but the author's writing was very precise and sincere. This one is worth your time, especially if you're mens fashion enthusiast. Part of me wants to say that it was the author's intention to have the seemingly disparate elements of his story remain somewhat separate even when it reaches it's climax, where there is some unity admitted be 3.5 stars in truth, for me. This book was a fascinating mix of memoir and fashion history. I'm not entirely sure it pulled together as strongly as I was hoping, but the author's writing was very precise and sincere. This one is worth your time, especially if you're mens fashion enthusiast. Part of me wants to say that it was the author's intention to have the seemingly disparate elements of his story remain somewhat separate even when it reaches it's climax, where there is some unity admitted between the three stories of himself, his father and the progression of the suit they share across generations. However, another part of me wants to say that the separate elements, although each compelling in their own right don't string together as seamlessly (ugh two puns I didn't initially intend) at the end of the tale as they should have. At the end of the day though, I enjoyed this book. I would even welcome a sequel to this, although I'm not sure what the subjects of that book would be.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    JJ Lee writes an autobiographical book about his relationship with his father. He frames the story around a suit of his father's which he decides he is going to modify. I like the parts of the book that tell the story about his relationship with his father. It is a real life account of the conflict between the love and hate that people experience when in a dysfunctional relationship with a family member. Lee does a masterful job of expressing the emotions he feels throughout his life. I do howev JJ Lee writes an autobiographical book about his relationship with his father. He frames the story around a suit of his father's which he decides he is going to modify. I like the parts of the book that tell the story about his relationship with his father. It is a real life account of the conflict between the love and hate that people experience when in a dysfunctional relationship with a family member. Lee does a masterful job of expressing the emotions he feels throughout his life. I do however, feel that Lee's account of his life in the tailor shop, his description of the alterations he makes to his father's suit and finally his brief forays in fashion history are too much of a distraction. I find the book disjointed and at times very dry. It's hard for me to recommend this book to anyone but those who are very interested in the fashion industry.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine

    The subtitle describes the book perfectly. As Lee works at remaking his only legacy from his father, a suit, he unravels his past. He comes to understand his father's demons in some aspects and also comes to understand himself. Lee takes the book to another level by including fascinating info about the origins of men's suits and their stylistic components. He ranges from medieval knights to the French Revolution, Beau Brummell to the Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII), pre-revolutionary dandies to 60 The subtitle describes the book perfectly. As Lee works at remaking his only legacy from his father, a suit, he unravels his past. He comes to understand his father's demons in some aspects and also comes to understand himself. Lee takes the book to another level by including fascinating info about the origins of men's suits and their stylistic components. He ranges from medieval knights to the French Revolution, Beau Brummell to the Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII), pre-revolutionary dandies to 60s "peacocks". I learned so much about how suits developed and changed over centuries. Who knew that men's fashion could be so interesting?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Srividya Rao

    This book is on the CBC Canada Reads 2018 long list and this is why I love Canada Reads. This is a book I would never have picked up on my own - I am not a fan of memoirs and have no interest in men's fashion. But I could not put this book down. I learnt a lot about a suit jacket and it's history. But it is the personal story which is compelling. It is a wonderful exploration of the complicated relationship of fathers and sons. I don't know how it will hold up against some real heavyweights in t This book is on the CBC Canada Reads 2018 long list and this is why I love Canada Reads. This is a book I would never have picked up on my own - I am not a fan of memoirs and have no interest in men's fashion. But I could not put this book down. I learnt a lot about a suit jacket and it's history. But it is the personal story which is compelling. It is a wonderful exploration of the complicated relationship of fathers and sons. I don't know how it will hold up against some real heavyweights in the long list, but I did find it 'eye-opening' and will never look at a man wearing a suit the same way again.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joanne-in-Canada

    I'm tempted to say that you don't need to have sewing experience to enjoy this book, but realistically an interest in sewing, fashion or fabric will keep you more engaged. For sure, you'll never look at a suit the same way after reading this book! Nice blend of three stories: the relationship between Lee and his father, Lee's time "apprenticing" for a tailor, and the history of suits and men's fashion. I make my usual complaint of some unnecessary repetition, in this case, of how to button (or no I'm tempted to say that you don't need to have sewing experience to enjoy this book, but realistically an interest in sewing, fashion or fabric will keep you more engaged. For sure, you'll never look at a suit the same way after reading this book! Nice blend of three stories: the relationship between Lee and his father, Lee's time "apprenticing" for a tailor, and the history of suits and men's fashion. I make my usual complaint of some unnecessary repetition, in this case, of how to button (or not) a two-button jacket. I got it already!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    For me, the best memoirs combine several storylines - several threads, if you will - into one cohesive story. This is the style of book I would like to one day write: a memoir, an unrelated topic that is nevertheless dear to me, smatterings of history, and a few unexpected asides, just to mix things up, all pulled together into one great story. JJ Lee's memories of parts of Canada brought me home again, and then, while I was there, he taught me previously unknown knowledge about the secretive wo For me, the best memoirs combine several storylines - several threads, if you will - into one cohesive story. This is the style of book I would like to one day write: a memoir, an unrelated topic that is nevertheless dear to me, smatterings of history, and a few unexpected asides, just to mix things up, all pulled together into one great story. JJ Lee's memories of parts of Canada brought me home again, and then, while I was there, he taught me previously unknown knowledge about the secretive world of men's tailoring. I'll never look at a fully buttoned suit jacket the same ever again.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dvora

    This "story of a father, a son, and a suit" is that and more. It's also about men's clothing in general and suits in particular -- how they are made and how they are (or should be) worn, that is to say, a satorial and cultural history of men's suits. All of this is well sewn together with invisible stiches. It may seem trite, but it's a book of many layers. This "story of a father, a son, and a suit" is that and more. It's also about men's clothing in general and suits in particular -- how they are made and how they are (or should be) worn, that is to say, a satorial and cultural history of men's suits. All of this is well sewn together with invisible stiches. It may seem trite, but it's a book of many layers.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    I picked up a brown paper bag filled with 5 books labeled "More Book Club Favourites" from the library. The bag was stapled shut so no peeking allowed. Of the five books I chose to start with this one. With so much reading to do in the allowed three weeks I rushed into this book but I couldn't skim it as I thought I was going to as it so well written. JJ manages to give an interesting history of fashion history, with special attention to the men's suit. This history of facts and famous people is I picked up a brown paper bag filled with 5 books labeled "More Book Club Favourites" from the library. The bag was stapled shut so no peeking allowed. Of the five books I chose to start with this one. With so much reading to do in the allowed three weeks I rushed into this book but I couldn't skim it as I thought I was going to as it so well written. JJ manages to give an interesting history of fashion history, with special attention to the men's suit. This history of facts and famous people is interwoven with his story of altering his father's suit and all the memories it brings back of his childhood, growing up and his family relationships especially that of he and his father. I can see why this was chosen as one of the book club favourites. Spoiler alert for the following link: This is a link to JJ's blog which adds another element to the end of his story. https://jj-lee.com/post/183428186528/...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Snorki

    Really enjoyed this examination of the relationship between a (now dead) father and his son through the lens of a suit that belonged to the father but was being altered by the son. The story weaves between the father-son relationship (which was difficult most of the time) and the examination of the structure of the suit and the son’s learning about tailoring. I understand that some reviewers felt that there was more suit history and sewing information than strictly necessary but I am a sewer and Really enjoyed this examination of the relationship between a (now dead) father and his son through the lens of a suit that belonged to the father but was being altered by the son. The story weaves between the father-son relationship (which was difficult most of the time) and the examination of the structure of the suit and the son’s learning about tailoring. I understand that some reviewers felt that there was more suit history and sewing information than strictly necessary but I am a sewer and found all the descriptions of rolled lapels, keyhole buttonholes and hand stitching really interesting.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Wendell Hennan

    J.J. apprentices in an old Tailor Shop, hoping to learn the trade quickly and remodel an old suit of his fathers that hangs in the back of his closet. During the journey, J.J. tells this history of his family and that of the tailor shop where he is apprenticing. He remembers things pushed out of his memory, the physical abuse drinking and anger of his father as well as the few occasions when he and his father clicked and played ball. At the same time this is the most thorough outline of the hist J.J. apprentices in an old Tailor Shop, hoping to learn the trade quickly and remodel an old suit of his fathers that hangs in the back of his closet. During the journey, J.J. tells this history of his family and that of the tailor shop where he is apprenticing. He remembers things pushed out of his memory, the physical abuse drinking and anger of his father as well as the few occasions when he and his father clicked and played ball. At the same time this is the most thorough outline of the history of mens wear including Beau Brummel, Edward the Duke of Windsor, Oscar Wilde and back to Charles II.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ian Coutts

    A wonderful book. If you look at the blurb in the Goodreads entry, you'll know what this book is about, so I won't recap that here. I loved this book because of the ease with which he wove together his apprenticeship as a tailor, the history of men's fashion, and his fraught relationship with his father. The human story is great and I loved learning about the evolution of that most male piece of clothing, the suit. This is a book that deserves to be more widely known. I would happily recommend i A wonderful book. If you look at the blurb in the Goodreads entry, you'll know what this book is about, so I won't recap that here. I loved this book because of the ease with which he wove together his apprenticeship as a tailor, the history of men's fashion, and his fraught relationship with his father. The human story is great and I loved learning about the evolution of that most male piece of clothing, the suit. This is a book that deserves to be more widely known. I would happily recommend it, and I hope he writes more books in future.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Funny, thoughtful, and moving, with tons of fascinating factoids about men's fashion, history, and culture. Funny, thoughtful, and moving, with tons of fascinating factoids about men's fashion, history, and culture.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jack Beaton

    I'll never look at a suit the same way again. Really thoughtful. I'll never look at a suit the same way again. Really thoughtful.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Judith

    Quite a touching story about a father, his son and the memories the son relives while altering his father's suit. Definitely a worthy read. Quite a touching story about a father, his son and the memories the son relives while altering his father's suit. Definitely a worthy read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    As a sewist, this story was a delight to read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael Kwan

    I was hoping for more about the father-son relationship with the suit as a supporting character of sorts, but this was almost equal part narrative and historical description of fashion trends.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mark Coté

    While it seems to have become de rigueur to thrash one’s father in memoirs lately, I still search for ones in which there is some recognition that all our ills cannot be laid at their feet – that we are independent but also the product of all our forebears, plus environment. Unfortunately, JJ Lee does not waver far from that tired script in this sometimes-tedious tapestry of fashion, father, and failure. Lee starts off promisingly enough with his late father’s suit and sets out to discover someth While it seems to have become de rigueur to thrash one’s father in memoirs lately, I still search for ones in which there is some recognition that all our ills cannot be laid at their feet – that we are independent but also the product of all our forebears, plus environment. Unfortunately, JJ Lee does not waver far from that tired script in this sometimes-tedious tapestry of fashion, father, and failure. Lee starts off promisingly enough with his late father’s suit and sets out to discover something about the man and perhaps himself through its alteration to fit its heir. It seems a suitable undertaking, if you pardon the pun. However, what follows, takes us kicking and screaming through the history of men’s fashion that I frankly never signed up for. Along the way, we meet some interesting people who seem to teach the reader far more about life than Lee, himself, learns. That is always the beauty of literature – the assemblage of words often seems to mean way more to the reader than to the author and this is book is a case in point. It was the only reason I read to the end. The verbiage is often drab, and the environmental imagery is unduly forced. The fashion history bits go on in WAY too much detail and their trimming would not have impacted the story one iota – indeed – just write another volume about it so that the dozen or so people actually interested wouldn’t be burdened by reading the memoir part. It certainly was a memoir worth writing and I truly hope that Lee gained some edification from the process. But I wish that in the sequel, he might consider exploring that he too was the product of another parent and that she has an equal share in what was sired. Maybe she’ll bequeath him a dress.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bibi

    I picked up this book from the counter with book suggestions for Father's Day. Right from the beginning, the reader is made aware that the author's father has died; the trajectory of the narration is not in strict chronological manner. In fact, there are significant chunks of text which refers to the origins of menswear and the evolution of style and onward to the social mores of what in today's term is the business suit. At times, I wondered if this book is merely the outcome of a research proj I picked up this book from the counter with book suggestions for Father's Day. Right from the beginning, the reader is made aware that the author's father has died; the trajectory of the narration is not in strict chronological manner. In fact, there are significant chunks of text which refers to the origins of menswear and the evolution of style and onward to the social mores of what in today's term is the business suit. At times, I wondered if this book is merely the outcome of a research project with sporadic interjection about JJ Lee's family. This would account for my generous 3 star rating. There was nothing overly spectacular about Lee's family. His father was sent to Canada to live with his grandparents hopefully because his own parents felt that he would have a better life. He grew up in Montreal and given the time period, it was not surprising to learn that he received a beating/spanking over the years by his great grandfather and also by the Jesuit educators at the school he attended. Senior Lee appeared to be flamboyant, was an impeccable dresser - his repertoire included large patterned ties, aviator glasses, and bold cufflinks. His dad felt that to get ahead, one was must be properly attired In fact, here is an excerpt from the book: The next morning my father set me down at the foot of the bed. "What does one need to live?" "Food?" "Wrong," he said. "You can spend $50 on food or $1,000. At the end of the month you will have nothing. If you spend $1,000 on how you dress, if you look good, clean, and presentable, you will never go hungry. Someone will always give you a chance to work for them. Then you can eat. Do you understand?" His father showed him how to make a tie knot and how to be discerning about fabrics merely by the touch. This may have influenced his career as the author is a menswear columnist for the Vancouver Sun. He never did credit his father for the direction of his career. He was focussed on never repeating the mistakes and folly of his father who he resented for not being able to provide a better life for his family. His father, over the years turned to alcohol and made poor business decisions. His relationship with his wife deteriorated. He physically abused her when drunk. She left him and the children, and many years later, reconciled with him only to leave him again. He left Montreal for the west coast - Vancouver- where he died. JJ Lee's recount of his memories of his father and his early years were suffocated amidst elaborate historical account of the evolution of menswear much the same as if JJ Lee is writing articles for his journalistic columns. While very interesting, I found it distracted from his personal story. I did learn quite a bit about lapels, notched collars and peaked collars, number and placement of buttons, colours and fabric, and much about coat tails, pleated pants and tight/slim fits, and the impact of jeans. JJ's affinity to the tailor shop in Vancouver and his relationship with the owners provided solace for him and he attributed that to the lack of strong Chinese male role models in his life. In any event, writing this book must have been therapeutic for him. He writes eloquently - excellence in his words and prose. His sources are well referenced and the overall take way is that You can look good in a suit no matter what figure you've got. Also: A man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them. The last part, he relates to James Bond - climb out of a submarine and come out of it on land, shake yourself, and you're ready for the diplomatic reception without a moment's pause or a look in the mirror. It was just an okay book for me.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    This is a phenomenal book which spans the topics of sociology, personal attire and its historical evolution, and personal development in relationships with the self and others. Reading this will teach you about tailoring, political and class history, art and the artist, and about men as fathers and men as sons. Read this for pleasure, give a copy to a new father, or your own father, or your grandfather; women in the same stages of their lives will also appreciate this. This is the perfect book t This is a phenomenal book which spans the topics of sociology, personal attire and its historical evolution, and personal development in relationships with the self and others. Reading this will teach you about tailoring, political and class history, art and the artist, and about men as fathers and men as sons. Read this for pleasure, give a copy to a new father, or your own father, or your grandfather; women in the same stages of their lives will also appreciate this. This is the perfect book to give anyone, whether they wear suits or merely like looking at others wearing them. This is the best memoire I've ever read, mostly due to the variety of information in the book as well as the excellent quality of the writing. Do not walk, but run to your local bookshop to buy a copy of J.J. Lee's The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit .

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    The Measure of a Man is as beautifully crafted as the handmade suits that J.J. Lee describes making in a tailor's shop in Vancouver. After his father's death, J.J. begins to deconstruct one of his suits, hoping that by transforming the suit to fit himself he might also find a better understanding of his father. As he works, the suit brings out past memories of J.J.'s troubled childhood relationship with his father. In the present, J.J. begins a laborious apprenticeship in a tailor's shop that se The Measure of a Man is as beautifully crafted as the handmade suits that J.J. Lee describes making in a tailor's shop in Vancouver. After his father's death, J.J. begins to deconstruct one of his suits, hoping that by transforming the suit to fit himself he might also find a better understanding of his father. As he works, the suit brings out past memories of J.J.'s troubled childhood relationship with his father. In the present, J.J. begins a laborious apprenticeship in a tailor's shop that seems to be pulled from the pages of a Dickens novel. As he learns this nearly-forgotten trade, we learn more about the history of men's fashion and how the suit developed over time. The notch of a lapel, the placement of buttons: the suit begins to tell a story of the man who wears it. These narrative threads are expertly woven together, creating a rich depiction of J.J.'s journey. The Measure of a Man combines personal and social history, and will interest anyone who likes memoirs or fashion history. A wonderful piece of narrative non-fiction.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Myrtle Siebert

    I had read good newspaper reviews of this book when it was first released. Then I had the opportunity to meet the author and hear his presentation at the Surrey Writer's Conference in October, 2011. What really drew me in was my own life experience with sewing, first at school and then at university where I learned pattern creation, tailoring and fashion design. I've created my own garments from 'scratch,' including ball gowns, my wedding dress, suits and coats (both use those tailoring technique I had read good newspaper reviews of this book when it was first released. Then I had the opportunity to meet the author and hear his presentation at the Surrey Writer's Conference in October, 2011. What really drew me in was my own life experience with sewing, first at school and then at university where I learned pattern creation, tailoring and fashion design. I've created my own garments from 'scratch,' including ball gowns, my wedding dress, suits and coats (both use those tailoring techniques). This was my first opportunity to learn of the trade from the inside, so to speak, from a man who had known it intimately his entire life. I was especially impressed with the emotional significance Lee was able to impart to each phase in the lives of his family members. I found the story to be fully drawn by an author who lived it, and having written about it at the same time he was employed and helping to raise two young sons was a huge accomplishment.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tinika

    JJ Lee’s book, The Measure of a Man, is not particularly long but it is packed with many different story lines. As he makes alterations to his father’s last surviving suit, the author tries to come to terms with his relationship to his alcoholic father. The discussion of lapels, button holes and seams leads to an examination of the course of their lives together. Heart-breaking and honest. Interwoven through this is an upbeat, entertaining history of men’s fashion. I never consciously paid atten JJ Lee’s book, The Measure of a Man, is not particularly long but it is packed with many different story lines. As he makes alterations to his father’s last surviving suit, the author tries to come to terms with his relationship to his alcoholic father. The discussion of lapels, button holes and seams leads to an examination of the course of their lives together. Heart-breaking and honest. Interwoven through this is an upbeat, entertaining history of men’s fashion. I never consciously paid attention to this aspect of life until his mention of the Beatles early look or the suits on Miami Vice brought images readily to mind. Interesting, too, were his tips on how to wear a suit. My favourite theme, though, was the story of Modernize Tailors, a long-time family run business, and Lee’s apprenticeship with Bill, an octogenarian master tailor. Lee’s relationship with these two men, his father and Bill, make up the heart of this book. 3.5 stars.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    I think this book deserved all the buzz and every nomination and prize it received. Brave and witty, honest and revelatory, it's a fascinating blend of personal memoir, third-person biography, and fashion history. Starting with the author's decision to retailor his father's last suit - a thing of frankly inferior style, fabric, and construction - to fit himself, the book takes the reader from Montreal's restaurant kitchens to the author's family's suburban home, from the suitmakers in Savile Row I think this book deserved all the buzz and every nomination and prize it received. Brave and witty, honest and revelatory, it's a fascinating blend of personal memoir, third-person biography, and fashion history. Starting with the author's decision to retailor his father's last suit - a thing of frankly inferior style, fabric, and construction - to fit himself, the book takes the reader from Montreal's restaurant kitchens to the author's family's suburban home, from the suitmakers in Savile Row to a small tailor shop on the edge of Vancouver's Chinatown, with visits to the French Revolution, Beau Brummell, and the Duke of Windsor along the way. Its examination of the evolution of the suit parallels the evolution of one man's relationship with a father whose early easy affection gave way to depression, alcoholism, and abusiveness, and an exploration of memory, love, forgiveness, and coming into one's own.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marlene

    I really enjoyed this book. Packed into few pages are stories about a father/son relationship, about living in Montreal and Vancouver, and about being Chinese, and threaded (pardon the pun) through it all is a history of the male fashion, the suit. For me, all themes were interesting, but particularly the latter. In my current sociology class we have considered how fashion and style establish identity. Clearly such is the case with a man's suit, but who knew that all those details were so import I really enjoyed this book. Packed into few pages are stories about a father/son relationship, about living in Montreal and Vancouver, and about being Chinese, and threaded (pardon the pun) through it all is a history of the male fashion, the suit. For me, all themes were interesting, but particularly the latter. In my current sociology class we have considered how fashion and style establish identity. Clearly such is the case with a man's suit, but who knew that all those details were so important? Women wear suits, too, but somehow the classic suit is an item of men's clothing, which individual women borrow from time to time. Perhaps the styling does not lend itself to the female body shape (eg breasts, small waist, etc.). It intrigues me that males all over the world will wear the Western suit when in international situations, particularly political. Check out UN meetings.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Simon Böhm

    An interesting, yet somewhat uncoordinated approach of telling a father's life through fashion and suits. Good language but all over the place. An interesting, yet somewhat uncoordinated approach of telling a father's life through fashion and suits. Good language but all over the place.

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