Dick McMillan: Tuxedo Man
Richard "Dick" McMillan manages the Tux Shop, a chain store occupying a Northgate mini-mall. The setup is straightforward, with plaster walls, foam-tile ceilings, and windows with parking-lot views. There are suits everywhere, of course, and jackets in all imaginable styles: single- or double-breasted; cropped or long; with vents or without; and finished by a vast choice of lapels and collars, including the peak, notch, mandarin, or shawl varieties. (It seems like these shapes wouldn't make such a big difference, but they do.) There's also a white jacket with tails, paired with a white bow tie ("That's the most formalist," says Dick); racks of tuxedo shirts (pinwale or piqué fronts, with lay-down or wing collars); cummerbunds; rental trousers with a clever buckle-adjustable waistband to accommodate many sizes ("They took the idea from maternity pants"); vests embellished with brocades or metallic threads or geometric patterns recalling hotel bedspreads; and all the razzmatazz to go with everything—cuff links, studs, button covers. "We do proms, weddings, funerals, Saturday night fights. Whatever you want to get involved with."
(A little more about Dick, around whom legends swirl. He manages to seem totally in command and nonchalant all at once. He's been selling suits since 1965, and he's directed squillions of fittings. But can he really tell someone's height, shoe size, and weight just by looking at them? In my case: yes, yes, and yes, within three pounds.)
One recent Wednesday afternoon, a young man quietly absorbs one of Dick's conversational avalanches, which tend to be off-center and funny and latently educational. Dick is describing the best posture to generate pants' cleanest break (squared-off shoulders, and eyes gazing purposefully forward). Then he drifts along to the next thing: "Never wear a long tie with a tuxedo. It's a sin," he says. And later: "Customers come in and they're thinking about the pictures of Justin Bieberback or whoever. Timberlake! It's like he's poured into his clothes. So my guys are working out, they're pumping iron. They want to look like a five-pound sugar sack."
Dick keeps a stack of James Bond stills behind the counter, to let clients step inside the Hollywood fantasy tuxedos so smoothly embody. "Sean Connery was the best one," he says, and in Goldfinger, just before he stopped into a louche nightclub, tossed his lover into a fistfight, and breezily murdered an assailant, and just after he'd emerged from swamp water and set up explosives in an empty mansion, James had peeled off his wet suit to reveal a full tux beneath. It was crisply pressed. The Tux Shop, 10724 Fifth Ave NE, 363-5020.
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