This month, the Colette Book Club will be looking at the world of men and menswear as we read The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit.
When journalist JJ Lee buys his first made-to-measure suit from an iconic Chinatown tailor, it’s the first step on a life-changing path. Transfixed by the peace and precision of the workroom, he starts hanging out at the tailoring shop. The tailors reluctantly let him train as an apprentice, even though they’re old and busy and don’t really have time for an apprentice, especially a 37-year-old apprentice who doesn’t know how to sew.
But perhaps the tailors sense that Lee isn’t really looking for a job. He’s searching for something bigger. For Lee, suits are powerful symbols of identity and what it means to be a man. They’re also connected to the trauma of his family history.
“There is a suit in the back of my closet. Over the years dust has gathered on its shoulders. I own other, better suits but I hold on to this one because, for me at least, it is special.
The suit attracts and repels me. It came to me under the saddest of circumstances, and I’ve dared to wear it in public only once. I wore it to test myself, to see if it would fit—not only in its cut and dimensions, but to prove to myself that I could bear the mantle and wear it without feeling like an impostor, a boy posing as a man. Most of the time I try to ignore it, and so years can go by without my touching it. But even so, I always know it’s there.”
The suit belonged to JJ Lee’s late father, an ambitious restaurateur with an addiction to alcohol that slowly destroyed his family. When JJ decides to re-tailor the ugly blue suit, he must come to terms with his past and the memory of a man he both loved and hated.
How to find it:
We’ll discuss the book on this blog, six weeks from now, on September 15th. Let people know you’re reading along with the hashtag #ColetteBookClub. Send any comments or recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you can’t find a copy of the book, you should check out Lee’s radio series/podcast, Head to Toe, which you can listen to for free. This series originally aired in Canada in 2014.
Our next book will be Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner. This novel imagines the inner life of iconic designer Coco Chanel. It is available at book stores or at your local library. You can read a sample here.
Lastly, don’t forget to join the Colette Book Club email list!
We’ll send you book announcements and reminder emails, so you never miss a discussion, or a good read!