Dressing For Success !!
Updated: Jun 11
"You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure" - Zig Zigler
Not long after I joined the Force, I decided that I really needed some new clothes, having arrived on these shores with not a great more than what I was wearing. In the ’60s a garment called a safari suit was very much in vogue. This was a lightweight safari jacket with matching trousers or shorts. It was cool and comfortable, smart and had plenty of pockets, what today we would probably call smart casual. I asked around – as we do – and was recommended to try Sam’s Tailor.
This turned out to be a small shop in the Burlington Arcade, Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. Opened in 1957, the owner was a gentleman by the name of Nari Melwani who ran the shop with his two sons Manu and Sham.
As I recall, I paid a visit to the establishment on a Saturday afternoon and was not surprised to see a number of Force members. What did surprise me were Nari’s first words to me, which were to ask me if I would like a beer. It was a steaming hot day and an ice-cold beer seemed to me to be the perfect way to cool off. Over the next hour or two, it was the first of many.
I explained the purpose of my visit and this done it seemed as if the entire staff had been anxiously awaiting my arrival because I was subjected forthwith to the red carpet treatment par excellence. I had not had any real thoughts about color and so on, but even if I had it would have made little difference. In no time at all every square inch of counter had been covered with bolts of different colored cloth – reds, blues, whites, creams, checked, striped, ad infinite. By this time the ice cold beer was slipping down effortlessly and this seemed to make choosing considerably easier – along the lines of “Oh, to hell with it, give me one of each!”
Another very useful service that Sam’s Tailor provided to trusty folk in those days was to cash cheques. Getting money out of your own account was a pain – and involved writing a cheque and physically going to the bank. In addition, banks never seemed to be open during the hours when people wanted them. The ‘Sam’s Mini-bank,’ therefore, was a real boon.
I duly purchased a number of safari suits that afternoon – not the one or at a stretch, two that I had budgeted for - and this was the start of a relationship, indeed friendship, that has endured for coming up to 50 years. Over those years, it is fair to say that Sam’s Tailor has provided a significant proportion of my wardrobe and if indeed I am – as I inevitably think I am – the epitome of good grooming, then Nari and offspring must take credit for that. Quite a number of items have lasted to the present day – shirts, ties, shorts, in particular. Indeed, it was only relatively recently that I had a good ‘chuck out’ and dispensed with a number of old suits, jackets and trousers. Looking at these, it was amusing to see how fashion has changed over the years and how I inevitably changed with it. My first decent suit had bell-bottoms, very wide lapels and was a very pronounced pinstripe design (the stripes were wider than the spaces in between). My wardrobe these days is positively conservative or ‘square,’ by comparison.
In due time, Nari passed away and the shop was taken over, if you will, by Manu and Sham. It was at this point that I started to get to know Manu better. Manu ran – and still runs – a kind of Kowloon police intelligence sub-office. During each visit one would be regaled with the latest developments within the Force, including postings, promotions, who the next Commissioner was going to be and so on. This source of news was considerably more up-to-date and comprehensive than that through official channels, I might add.
One of Sam’s Tailors more memorable customers – for me at any rate because I was present at the time – was an American gentleman who had just qualified as a doctor. He was due to take up a post at one of the New York hospitals and had evidently decided that he needed – in police parlance – to ‘project a positive image’ upon his arrival. He had ordered, and was collecting, a number of doctor’s white coats. Now I am certainly no expert on doctor’s white coats; maybe there are special pockets for stethoscopes, scalpels, thermometers and the like. Nevertheless, I would have thought that a doctor’s coat is a doctor’s coat; the gentleman concerned did not appear to be of an unusual shape or size. However, each to his own.
Manu’s son, Roshan, who is in his late thirties, is now a prominent figure in the shop. The mind boggles at some of Roshan’s outfits, including golden – and silver – shoes, would you believe. The greetings have changed as well. With Manu it was “Hullo Mister.” With Roshan, it is “Hey, what’s going down, man?!” and “You know what, I’m on fire this morning!” I have endeavored to match Roshan’s ‘with it’ ideas about fashion. These include shirts with decidedly odd-shaped collars and cuffs, jacket pockets which cannot be opened, display ‘handkerchiefs’ which pull out of the breast pocket, only doing up three of the four sleeve buttons on a jacket, and so on. All very cool.
Things have now come full circle. I took my son, Alexander, to Sam’s some years ago to get him outfitted. Roshan took him in hand with a “Hey, get rid of your Dad and we young people can get you dressed up good!” I remember getting a ’phone call from Alexander later that day. He had clearly been imbibing all afternoon and was exuberant, exclaiming blithely “Hey Dad, I just bought three suits!”
Thank you, the Melwanis, for your friendship over the years and for the haute couture that has made my grooming and style the envy of the civilized world.