Hickey Freeman’s Secret Weapon

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 on “Hickey Freeman’s Secret Weapon

    Andy on March 24, 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.

    Omar Tentamaker on March 24, 2011 7:35 PM:


    Joseph Abboud,

    Michael Cohen,

    and now

    Mr. Farrington

    Absolutely sublime.

    AB on March 24, 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.

    WIsco on March 24, 2011 10:37 PM:

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

    allen on March 25, 2011 2:07 AM:

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


    derrick on March 25, 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.

    Bonchance on March 25, 2011 12:07 PM:

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

    justin on March 25, 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?

    Kyle C on March 25, 2011 4:58 PM:

    @justin I hear good things about Michael Andrews Bespoke

    Ray Hull on March 25, 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.

    Craig D on March 25, 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.

    david himel on March 27, 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!

    Ralph T on March 28, 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.

    david himel on March 29, 2011 10:04 AM:

    lol shoulder pads are for slouchers!

    Help! on April 8, 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!

    Michael Williams on April 8, 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

    Help! on April 8, 2011 8:52 PM:

    That would be amazing – thank you.

Comments are closed.