Hickey Freeman’s Secret Weapon | A Continuous Lean.

Hickey Freeman’s Secret Weapon

Mar 24th, 2011 | Categories: Clothing, Made in the USA | by Michael Williams

Hickey Freeman's Paul Farrington. Note the perfect shoulder.

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.

Soft and unlined, the real mark of a quality jacket is wadding it up and watching it retain its shape.

Mr. Farrington shows off the details and construction of his prototype jacket.

Different types of canvas that lines the inside of the jacket to give it structure.

Comments: 17

17 Comments to “Hickey Freeman’s Secret Weapon”

  1. Andy
    on Mar 24th, 2011
    @ 5:32 PM

    I am glad you put this profile on your blog.

    The absence of suits with natural and well-tailored shoulders is noticeable to anyone who has looked at photos from the 1940s and 50s, when suits generally fit men a lot better than they do today.

    Today’s suits look like wire forms with chintzy fabric. They have no drape. They render the wearer mute and robotic. A good suit works in tandem with anatomical movement.

    Even cheap suits are expensive now. So HF might just be a lifetime investment that makes sense.

  2. Omar Tentamaker
    on Mar 24th, 2011
    @ 7:35 PM


    Joseph Abboud,

    Michael Cohen,

    and now

    Mr. Farrington

    Absolutely sublime.

  3. AB
    on Mar 24th, 2011
    @ 7:45 PM

    When are you going to go Cliff Clavin and get a TV show? I’d like to see (at least) a half hour on each of these factory visits.

  4. WIsco
    on Mar 24th, 2011
    @ 10:37 PM

    Sign me up. When can we expect to see these new Hickey jackets on the market?

  5. allen
    on Mar 25th, 2011
    @ 2:07 AM

    Do you happen to know anything about this firm in Tennessee that also makes natural shoulder suits?


  6. derrick
    on Mar 25th, 2011
    @ 10:47 AM

    first hickey freeman suit i ever got was from a thrift store when i was nineteen- a grey pinstripe number- for $20. i’ve had many more expensive suits since then and i must say that in retrospect, it was one of the best fitting suits i’ve ever owned.

  7. Bonchance
    on Mar 25th, 2011
    @ 12:07 PM

    My lifestyle does not require a suit but this kind of craft is really exciting!

  8. justin
    on Mar 25th, 2011
    @ 2:31 PM

    Suggestion challenge . .. Michael & Co. – for a young guy wanting to invest in their first custom suit, a navy featuring the natural shoulder so astutely worn by Mr. Farrington, delivered on relatiely short lead time and with a budget around $2,000, who would you suggest in NYC?

  9. Kyle C
    on Mar 25th, 2011
    @ 4:58 PM

    @justin I hear good things about Michael Andrews Bespoke

  10. Ray Hull
    on Mar 25th, 2011
    @ 5:54 PM

    One has to wonder what took HF so LONG to find natural shoulders? They’ve only been committed to them about 5-6 years…just in time for the broad suit market to become innert. Must be HartMarx or whatever leadership.

  11. Craig D
    on Mar 25th, 2011
    @ 5:54 PM

    Justin: Forget about Michael Andrews Bespoke. Look up Napoli Su Misura – the owner comes to New York at least once a month. The price might be slightly higher than 2K, depending on your cloth selection, but the product will be far superior.

  12. david himel
    on Mar 27th, 2011
    @ 11:47 PM

    Funny I have been going through strife lately working with my white buffalo the last few good pattern makers to come up with the perfect natural shoulders. Old time motorcycle jackets require the same high armpit and perfect shape in order to allow mobility. We sweat millimetres working out the logistics, and its not so simple as software and cgi!

  13. Ralph T
    on Mar 28th, 2011
    @ 11:47 AM

    I’ve never understood why a jacket must be so stiff, why does it have to even have shoulder pads.

    It should fit like a shirt, be as comfortable as one, too. Looks like the man is on a mission.

    Good Luck.

  14. david himel
    on Mar 29th, 2011
    @ 10:04 AM

    lol shoulder pads are for slouchers!

  15. Help!
    on Apr 8th, 2011
    @ 8:11 PM

    Does the pattern of this jacket have a name?
    I really love the color – want to purchase. Does Hickey Freeman do made to measure/ bespoke from their Manhattan store?
    Thanks for the help!

  16. Michael Williams
    on Apr 8th, 2011
    @ 8:25 PM

    Hickey Freeman does do MTM / custom at the NYC store on Madison. I don’t know the name of the jacket. I’ll see if I can find out. -ACL

  17. Help!
    on Apr 8th, 2011
    @ 8:52 PM

    That would be amazing – thank you.