I was at the New York Public Library doing some work today when at lunchtime I took a break and ran around the corner to the storefront of Winston Tailors: it was my goal to–hopefully–buy one of Paul Winston’s ties. The name may not ring many bells outside the world of men’s clothing but Mr. Winston’s father was the founder of CHIPP, a clothing store once on Madison Avenue across the street from Brooks Brothers. J Press was right there as well. I assume they were where they were due to the proximity to Grand Central Station. Brooks Brothers opened its flagship store at 44th and Madison in 1915, two years after Grand Central opened. CHIPP outfitted Cy Vance and John F. Kennedy among others. I read in an interview after getting home that Mr. Winston accompanied his dad on fitting trips to the Carlyle Hotel when President Kennedy was in town.
CHIPP is gone now but the family tradition continues through Mr. Winston. Now in his mid-70s, he runs his tailor shop out of the lobby of a building on 44th Street between 5th and 6th. He also sells ties through what he apparently considers an entity separate from the tailoring itself; he calls the tie business CHIPP2. When I got to the building today I could not find it, and so asked the concierge. He couldn’t find CHIPP2 in the directory and with incredible graciousness looked it up on his own cell phone and called. (I didn’t know at that moment that the tailor shop was the site too for the ties.)
I did not want any tie but was specifically looking for a navy grenadine: the most conservative of conservative neckwear. Why can’t men dress the way they did between the world wars? As my luck would have it a shipment had come in an 1 1/2 hour earlier. When I told him what I wanted, he literally went behind the counter and pulled it out of the box that the postman had delivered that morning. In other words–as he told me–had I come in at 11:00 instead of 1:00 I would not have gotten the tie. What is more, many in the delivery were pre-orders that were already spoken for. I had never met Mr. Winston before but he is clearly a witty and charming raconteur. It was so strange that I had showed just after he had received the shipment that we had a brief discussion about fate and coincidence. On the way out I thanked the building concierge once again and also shared with him that right there in the building works the man who with his father once made John F. Kennedy’s suits.