Every man should have a shirt hand-tailored to their exact specifications at least once in his life. Yes, I know- this is textbook “things crazy privileged white people say,” and it isn’t actually high on the priority list (if on it at all) for a lot of men in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, skinny or fat, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you really should consider it. Because there’s nothing better than having a shirt or suit made to fit you and only you. It’s the fastest way to build confidence and trust me, when all your seams are in the right places, you’ll feel like a million bucks.
I got my first taste of what I call the “tailor hicks fix” (has nothing to do with the American Idol star, but it rhymes so I went with it), when I was just a kid and my mother used take us boys shopping. It was our annual Nordstrom’s extravaganza where we spent the entire day shopping for the clothes we’d need for the next few seasons, which in San Diego is a six month Spring followed by a sixth month Summer. We’d take over one of the disabled dressing rooms in the back, because those were the biggest and had a bench inside where my mom could sit. My brothers, mother and I would stay in there and try on clothes while the sales girls and guys would bring different outfits in each of our respective sizes. Looking back now, I was a young Julia Roberts in that Pretty Women scene when Richard Gere finally takes her shopping on Rodeo. Only we didn’t get to order pizza and as much as I wanted to, we didn’t try on lingerie or white gloves for polo!
After we spent thousands on preppy Lacoste tennis outfits and Osh Kosh Bgosh overalls we’d head downstairs to the men’s suit department and have suits made, which fingers crossed- if we didn’t hit a growth spurt- would last more than a year. This was rarely an issue for me because I didn’t start growing until I was 16 and I finally broke the 5’3” kiss of death, aka “dad’s height.” The tailor, usually a wrinkly old Italian man, would mark us up with those slivers of chalk in his shaky hands and we’d carefully remove the pieces of draped wool trying to avoid the puncture and pain of getting pricked by the many pins hidden throughout. Talk about finding the prepubescent kid in the wool stack of needles!
Flash forward 20 years, and I’m scrambling to make it to a fitting in this nondescript Beverly Hills Hilton suite. I’d just received a special invite to get measured by Pete, Louie, and David the Hong Kong Tailors from Pete’ Fashions Ltd.
When it’s not really tourism season in Hong Kong, the tailors go on their US roadshow where they hold themselves up like hermits in five star hotels in every major US city. Their clients have a short window of opportunity to get in there and get measured by the pros or we’d have to fly to Hong Kong to visit them or rely on using measurements from some third party…which they can’t honestly vouch for. I made it on time and myself and a stranger stood face to face with our arms stretched out in a Jesus-like fashion while our inseams were checked. Once the Savile Row samurais finished with me, I was free to flip through swatches of 100% cotton fabrics and blends. From the shape and size of the collar to the placement of the embroidered monogram and its thread color, the experience just feels very regal and chic….but since all labor is cheaper in China, it was something I could afford on my pitiful salary.
Then my body changed again. I got hairier and heavier and I happened to be in Hong Kong. It didn’t matter how bloated I was from the Shanghai Gardens Restaurant dinner from the night before. I was half way around the world and I had to visit with the infamous Hong Kong Tailor Pete’ Fashions Ltd over in Tsim Sha Tsui (the shopping area across the bay from Hong Kong island).
Not only did I want to see those guys in their natural environment, but I wanted to see their latest fabric swatches and have my very first tuxedo made. So we did…and after the entire family got their measurements updated (don’t ask me my waist size cause I’m not gonna tell you) for suits, sports jackets, leather jackets and Jonathan’s a mines tuxedos…we went to some delicious dim sum with Louie.
Serious Note: If you’ve traveled through Thailand or China you’ll get accosted by the guys and girls on the street trying to get you to have clothing hand-tailored on your trip. I can only vouch for the guys at Pete’ Fashions Ltd. My stepmother has known them for decades, and they keep a photo of her and my father behind the cash register in their shop, because they made part of her wedding dress and my father’s suit. I’ve been ordering slacks, shirts and suits from them for years, and getting exactly what I want for a fraction of the cost to have it handmade in the US. If you’re gonna spend the money anyways, remember…you get what you pay for.
Besides the guys at Pete’ Fashions Ltd understand great customer service, and will take you and your entire family out to lunch if you ever come and visit them in person! Well, if you spend enough money, anything’s possible. Right?
It just so happens this fitting in Hong Kong came at the tail-end of a food-fest through Thailand. So you can only imagine the eye rolls I got from Louie and his crew who took notice of all my measurements needing to increase by a few inches here and a few centimeters there. “I already have two mothers,” I said “but if I didn’t gain weight, you’d be out of a job.”
The comment was sad, but true, and the only thing that could possibly make me feel better about the weight gain was a delicious Dim-Sum-and-then-some experience. So Louie took us to his favorite place (Golden Palace Seaview Banquet Hall) just across the street and he ordered his tailored-pants off!
Dim Sum in Tsim Sha Tsui At Golden Palace Seaview Banquet Hall
The Golden Palace Seaview Banquet Hall is on 26th floor of the iSquare shopping mall and business center in Tsim Sha Tsui.
At first it seemed like a strange place for a traditional Cantonese banquet hall, but when we saw the views of the Hong Kong Harbor below we understood why the place had such a following.
The food was fantastic! I feel like we practically had everything on the menu, but I know it was only the tip of the iceberg. Us white folk just couldn’t pack it away as well as those little old Chinese women, but we did have that crazy meal from the night before incubating inside. Here’s a sampling of what we ordered:
Fried rice dough dumplings with vegetables and minced pork inside.
Pan seared turnip cake with small pieces of cured pork inside. This is like the Chinese version of a potato latke. “Soy-vay!”
Stuffed green grilled peppers with minced pork and scallions.
Roasted whole chicken. This was just ok. Like the dinner the night before, I think since Louie is a local, he ordered for us, and he thought some people might be less adventurous than others. It was fine, but again, not much of a wow factor.
Rice noodle rolls (Cheong Fun), which are oftentimes filled with whole pieces of cooked shrimp, but this time was filled with beef and pork. They did drizzle some of the sweet soy sauce over this, but not until after I took the picture. The Chinese broccoli (Gai Lan) was really just a garnish on this dish, but we ordered a plate of that with oyster sauce later.
Har Gow is one of the most popular dim sum dishes. This fan favorite is a steamed rice noodle dumpling filled with chopped steamed shrimp. They’re sticky on the outside, but you can’t pierce a hole in the skin with your chopsticks or getting them from the steamer to your soy sauce and chili paste- and then into your mouth in one piece- is next to impossible.
Then we got the Cantonese version of the brothy chicken soup from the night before. Instead of dumplings, this creamy chicken infused soup was filled with rice noodles, vegetables and pork. There were some bean sprouts for a little burst of chilly crunch.
Steamed dumplings with sweet potato and corn.
Ground meatballs served over shaved and steamed tofu skins.
This was one of the best dishes and they brought it towards the end of the meal. This was the fried rice with shrimp and duck. They intentionally leave all the good vegies, shrimp, chopped duck, and sauce on the top so each person can select their topping to rice ratio themselves.
BBQ Pork in a sweet Cantonese sauce, crispy skin, and juicy flesh. The way this meat just melted in my mouth and the caramelized crust made this a dessert in my mind.
Just for fun I’m including this photo I took of one of the menu items that looked and sounded interesting….and then I noticed the misspellings….which seemed strange considering how well everyone in Hong Kong spoke English!