Clothes make the man

Patrick James

Photo By Larry Dalton

Patrick James, the Fresno-based haberdashery chain, advertises itself as a “purveyor to gentlemen.” The local outlet, in the old-California-style Town & Country shopping center at Marconi and Fulton avenues, is on my dog-walking route, and, a while back, the pooch and I noticed a framed check from President George W. Bush in the window. “You need to upgrade your image and dress like a Republican,” the dog barked, Scooby Doo-like. I quietly mulled it over. Could Patrick James help? I stopped by the store the other morning and spoke with Joe Pardini, the amiable 40-something Fresno native who manages the local branch, to see if he could make me look like a grand old partier.

Do clothes really make the man?

Yes, I think they do.

And do conservatives dress differently from liberals?

[long pause] I … couldn’t … answer that question.

Yeah, but you had a framed check from George W. Bush in the window, so I figured this must be where you want to go if you want to dress like a Republican.

Oh, no [laughs]! That was a promotion. Or not a promotion; the president of [shoe manufacturer] Allen-Edmonds is John Stollenwerk, and he’s the one whose name is written on that check. They send high-profile people shoes, to get them to wear Allen-Edmonds shoes. And because [Bush] is the president, he has to pay for his own shoes. So, they made a promotional piece out of that, and we still have it in the window there. It gets a lot of attention.

I saw it, and I thought, is that a signal to Republicans walking by?

I joke about it—it’s got his account number. I should check the account, and I’d have the FBI at my front door [laughs].

Would you say that, in business, people really do look at what you’re wearing and evaluate you on that basis?

Absolutely. These last few years, we’ve seen a trend toward dress-casual, and that’s reversed itself now. Starting with last season, we’ve seen a big increase in our suits again—people dressing in the traditional solids and stripes and having to dress up again and look the part because if you don’t look that part, people are going to go to the competition.

What are the hot colors in power ties this year?

The purples, lavenders and that type of thing are pretty popular. It’s kind of all over the board; it hasn’t changed too much. Reds are good, burgundies. The popular colors, when you’re getting into fashion, are some of those lavender and purple shades, which look good with gray. Yellows were popular at one time, but we don’t see a lot of that now.

What about tasseled loafers? Is there a certain mystique associated with those particular shoes?

A mystique with tasseled loafers? [pause] Some like them, and some don’t. It’s a traditional look [laughs]. You know, with a suit, we sell a lot of lace-ups—your plain toes or your wingtips, that type of thing. Tasseled loafers go from sport to dress. You know, some men like the tassels, and some don’t.

For your traditionally minded clientele, what’s the popular item in casual wear this year?

Tommy Bahama is one of the most popular lines we carry. They have a lot of the aloha, Hawaiian-type prints, but they’re starting to move into more mainstream sportswear and not so much of the print. Very popular—one of our biggest-selling lines.

You don’t sell too many 1970s-style white belts and white shoes anymore, do you?

No. That’s gone, of course. … Uh, but, y’know, this [points toward a rack of Hawaiian shirts] is what we’ve sold a lot of is that dress-casual look—that Tommy Bahama, solid colors. And, like I said, the prints were really popular, although I think that’s going to start fading a little bit. Hate to say that because I’d like to see it keep selling.

What about golf clothes? Do you sell golf wear here?

Yeah, your cotton pants and golf shirts. Tommy Bahama puts them out, too.

Is it OK to wear a Hawaiian shirt on the golf course?

A lot of people do. It’s popular to wear this sort of thing there.

But, in the office, you’re seeing a renewed appreciation for a classic dress sense?

Definitely, a major change. Suit sales have had a history of declining over the years because of the [trend toward] casual dress; this just reversed itself last season.

Would that have anything to do with the economy? For a long time, you could be a poorly dressed, high-tech geek who’s pulling down a lot of money, but a lot of those jobs seem to have gone away.

It goes along with that; as business gets tougher, people have to look better, have to dress the part. It definitely makes a difference—in how you look, and how people perceive you, and trust. A guy dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, working in a bank, well … [laughs].