Hollywood's Golden Age, Tailor-made in Tokyo


From the dark wood paneled walls sporting head-shots of classic movie stars, to the dapper and bespoke shopkeepers themselves, it doesn't take long to get a sense of the aesthetic of Shibuya's Caid tailor. We are not fashion snobs, but we know a few simple rules reads an old fashioned felt-board sign, sat next to an even older turntable which is currently pumping the dulcet tones of Dean Martin into the small but well appointed shop.

Yuhei Yamamoto, tailor and proprietor of Caid, is enthusiastically explaining these rules as we meet at the central table in his store. Before me he has laid out dozens of photographs and prints - stills from movies and shots of the great leading men of the last century - Gary Cooper, Paul Newman, Sean Connery, and Steve McQueen stare up at me, nonchalant in their perfectly fitting suits and ties.

"It's not just the suit that makes up the classic man; it's his mannerisms, the way he walks, talks and behaves. Look at these classic actors. They look comfortable and relaxed in their bespoke suits - completely effortless." Unlike many tailors, Yamamoto didn't inherit his profession from his father; instead he received a deep love of classic movies that would inform his business as much as his skill at tailoring.

The process of ordering a bespoke suit from Caid begins with a long consultation with Yamamoto in his second floor shop, near Bunkamura in Shibuya. With the help of the myriad movie stills and photographs, Yamamoto sets out first of all to get to know his potential clients. Some have a suit in mind from a movie, and chances are if it was made between 1930 and 1970, Yamamoto will know it without even looking. Want that turtleneck and sport coat combo that Steve McQueen wore in Bullitt? Yamamoto has still of it from every angle. Sean Connery's Glen Urquhart Check Suit in From Russia With Love? Yamamoto knows the one.

The initial consultation can last from 20 minutes to an hour, or as long as it takes to get a sense of a customer's tastes, personality, and needs. No friends or significant others are allowed at this stage - you're buying a suit that will last you decades, and Yamamoto takes this task extremely seriously. "I've even turned away the occasional customer, some people with bad attitudes, or just completely different tastes."

With the recent success of Mad Men in the US, the classic Ivy style of Brooks Brothers and Chipp has made a major resurgence, especially in the home of the hit show, New York City. For Yamamoto, the perfect suit not only matches the wearer, but fits the city in which it's worn. New York has long had a vibrant mix of artists and businessmen, Beats and socialites, all of whom informed its fashion legacy. "Andy Warhol may have been a Mod in spirit, but he was dressed in simple and classic suits. Your personality and art can be revolutionary, but great suits are timeless."

Yamamoto says that Tokyo has its own style as well, despite the cheap and tacky suits of the host bars and the more casual and effeminate styles of young men that tend to dominate the current landscape. To achieve its potential, the impassioned tailor sees the need for more community surrounding male fashion in Tokyo. "I want to organize events here in town where people can dress classically - not like cosplay, but in truly stylish classic attire - as they're doing more and more in New York now. I'll even DJ such an event. The city needs to get things like this happening." Dean Martin agrees as he belts out another tune from the surprisingly hi-fi vintage sound system.

Whether an Ivy trend can really pick up steam here or not, however, doesn't worry Yamamoto. His clients know what they like, and they like a perfectly made, timeless suit. Caid also enjoys a large foreign clientele (hipster darling Nick Waterhouse is a famous regular customer) who go out of their way to get Caid's singular talent at recreating the great styles of yesteryear.

Though he has a small staff of people to handle the accounting, some sewing, and other small duties, every suit is made from start to finish by Yamamoto himself, and takes on average one month to complete. This includes the initial consultation and some cooling off time for the customer to be sure they want the suit they've planned for; this is an investment after all.

A Caid suit can start around 200,000 yen, but Yamamoto makes suits that will last for 20 years or more, given the proper care. For those serious about building a bespoke wardrobe, Yamamoto will also guide customers over the course of years - tailoring a variety of suits for different occasions, building up one's personal collection suit by suit. Yamamoto himself dresses only in his own creations. Listening to the passion with which he can speak about films, and the great suits that inspired him to become a tailor in the first place, it's clear that he is not a fashion snob. With a few simple rules and some not-so-simple expertise, however, Caid can bring out the sharp dressed man in anyone.

More information can be found on their website, and the shop's blog (in Japanese, but with many pictures) is here.

Written by
Chris Nelson
Austin James Rea