It wasn’t long after arriving at Hickey Freeman’s Rochester plant that I was introduced to the storied American suit-maker’s secret weapon, Mr. Paul Farrington. Prior to meeting Mr. Farrington I had heard quite a bit about him, heard rumors of his ability to make a suit with the perfect shoulder. Before being recruited to Hickey Freeman as the chief technical designer, Farrington worked for several well respected tailoring companies including, most recently, the clothier Samuelsohn (who, from what I understand, make a good deal of Paul Stuart’s suits). When it comes to clothing, nothing is more distinctively “American” than the natural shoulder, save maybe the sack suit with a natural shoulder. It’s amazing to think that it took a Mancunian that was recruited from a Canadian company to get Hickey Freeman to make a coat with a proper natural shoulder.
I was immediately drawn to Farrington — not only for his good English sense of humor — but because of his enthusiasm for quality clothing. Not many people probably think the shoulder of a jacket is a big deal, but for those that are interested in good tailoring, the shoulder is everything. At the factory Farrington showed me the process of making a totally unstructured Hickey Freeman “shirt shoulder” and I was completely blown away by the outcome. Most people probably think because the shoulder is “natural” it is just a matter of using less padding. Well, that is part of it, but it is much more intricate than that. Getting things right requires just the perfect amount of shaping, folding and sewing. It truly is an art form that, magically, takes place within a confines of a modern clothing factory. It is also an art that only a few men in North America still possess. Men like Greenfield, Ciccarelli and Farrington. Better to embrace the natural shoulder now, while you still can.