Discovering Sam’s Tailor
In November of 2004 I found myself flipping through an issue of the magazine GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly). Within that month’s issue I saw an article titled “The Quest: Find the Perfect Suit… in Hong Kong”. The author, Greg Emmanuel, was retelling his experience of flying from New York to Hong Kong. His entire reason for the trip was to buy a suit at Sam’s Tailor. To me it sounded insane that someone flew sixteen hours to buy a suit when they could just visit a tailor in New York where they lived. Except then the author detailed the cost of the trip versus buying a high-end tailored suit in New York. It was at this point I realized Greg Emmanuel wasn’t crazy but a brilliant fellow. In the article he wrote, “I found an $850 round-trip flight and a $100-a-night hotel. Factoring in a three-night stay and a reasonable budget for food and drink, I planned to spend only $1,500 on the entire trip – in other words, about half the cost of a custom suit back home” (GQ: Gentlemen’s Quarterly; Nov 2004, Vol. 74 Issue 11, p106). Flying to Hong Kong to have a tailored suit custom-made fascinated me. After reading the article I ripped it from the magazine and sequestered it in a safe place. I figured it be best to hold on to as reference just in case I ever wound up traveling to Hong Kong.
Visiting Sam’s Tailor
I’m not as adventurous as Greg Emmanuel, I never traveled to Hong Kong just to buy a suit. Yet two years after reading the article, in 2006, I found myself in Hong Kong on vacation. As I prepared for my trip I re-read Greg’s article. I knew that during my time in Hong Kong I was going to get myself a tailored suit. After I arrived in Hong Kong I made way to Kowloon. As I walked along Nathan Road a slew of shopkeepers bombarded me and asked me if I wanted to get a tailored suit. I realized how fortunate it was that I found and read that article in GQ. Without Greg’s recommendation I do not know how I could have selected which tailor to visit. Yet there I stood in front of the door to Sam’s Tailor, just as Greg Emmanuel had two years prior. Before visiting Sam’s Tailor I’d never owned a piece of custom-made clothing. I admit I was nervous but excited that my dream of owning a custom-made tailored suit was going to come true.
Two things struck me the moment I entered Sam’s Tailor, how small the shop was and how many types and colors of fabric lined the walls. As I gazed upon the various fabrics I noticed photos hanging on parts of the walls. I moved closer to the photos and realized that these were not random photos, but photos of celebrities from around the world. There were politicians, musicians, actors, and athletes getting measured for a suit at Sam’s Tailor. When I saw these famous faces I realized that I was at the right tailor shop. It was my lucky day because behind the counter there was Sam himself. In an instance I recognized him from the photo in the GQ article. I came to find out that Sam’s real name is Manu Melwani, who took on the business from his father. Manu welcomed me and even asked if I wanted a beer while I perused the various color and fabric samples. The beer helped calm my nerves, and I narrowed my fabric and color selections. Manu and his colleagues answered my questions and after a while I’d settled on a black pinstripe suite. In addition to the suit I ordered two custom-made dress shirts, one white and one light blue. With my color and style of suit decided upon it was time for my measurements. Another tailor took my measurements and told me to return in two days for another fitting.
I was fortunate on this trip to Hong Kong in that I was in town for over a week. This allowed me the luxury of being able to return to Sam’s Tailor for a fitting during the sewing of the suit. If you aren’t in town that long Sam’s Tailor claims they can make a suit for you within 24 hours. Even if you won’t be in town that long you can have the suit shipped to your home. Best-case scenario though is to return to Sam’s Tailor over the course of a week to make sure that the suit being made will fit. At the fitting the suit still appeared rough, with a missing sleeve, and inner lining bare for the world to see. What this fitting ensured was that the length of the jacket sleeves and pants was correct. The tailor checked the size of the waistband and if the jacket closed without issues. After the fitting the tailor told me to return in two days.
On my next visit the tailor handed me my completed suit to try on one final time inside Sam’s Tailor. It was amazing how well the suit fit. Every part of the suit lay upon me in perfect proportion to my body. Unlike an off the rack suit there were no unseemly bulges or bulky shoulder pads. The suit just fit. I felt as if I was James Bond and I couldn’t ever again imagine owning a non-tailored suit. When I left Sam’s Tailor I felt happier than I’d ever had leaving a department store with one of their suits.
I’d heard horror stories of suits from Hong Kong disintegrating once tourists arrived back home. The pinstripe suit I bought still hangs in my closet and to this day not one seam has ever come undone. I wore the suit on many occasions, and it has withstood the test of time. The only issue I ran into was that I’d outgrown the suit. Since 2006 I’d lost over forty pounds through diet and exercise. I didn’t believe it was worth having the suit altered considering my waist size had decreased six inches. Truth is it saddened me to not have a suit that fit me so well anymore. Then in 2015 an opportunity arose for me to once again visit Hong Kong. Without hesitation I knew a return trip to Sam’s Tailor was in store for me.
Returning to Sam’s Tailor
On this trip to Hong Kong after I landed and checked into my hotel I wasted no time and went straight to Sam’s Tailor. Although nine years had passed since my last visit the shop had not drastically changed. Sam’s Tailor is still in the same location on Nathan Road and still run by the Melwani family. In fact Manu’s son, Roshan, is following in the family’s footsteps and these days is running things at the shop along with his father. In the nine years since my last visit the shop had become more popular, with more shoppers and more staff to accommodate them. Even with the extra people a controlled chaos emanated throughout the store and I received the same great customer service as on my first visit years ago. A woman who worked there helped me pick out a color and fabric and asked me what style I wanted for both my suit and shirt. This time around I went with a slim fit dark gray suit and a traditional white dress shirt. I was in town for a week and able to return for the fitting and to pick up my new suit. Once again Sam’s Tailor created the suit of my dreams. A year later and the suit and shirt are still in perfect condition.
Twice in my life now Sam’s Tailor has made me a happy customer. To this day I have no buyer’s remorse with the two suits I bought at Sam’s Tailor. Over the years I’ve received countless of compliments on both of the suits. When asked where I bought the suits I grin and say “oh from my tailor in Hong Kong”. If I’m fortunate enough to visit Hong Kong again I will for sure go back to Sam’s Tailor. There is something satisfying in flipping through fabric samples in person. If I’m not able to go back to Hong Kong I can contact them on-line to have a brand new suit sent to my home. Either way I will always look forward to the times I wear a custom-made Sam’s Tailor suit.
Tips for Visiting Sam’s Tailor
Your first visit to Sam’s Tailor is overwhelming, especially if you have never bought a custom tailor-made suit. Before you go, I recommend you skim through magazines and clip out the photos of any suits you fancy. Take those clipped photos with you and show them to the employees at Sam’s Tailor so they know what style of suit you want made. Besides the style of the suit it’s a good idea to have decided on what color suit you want. It’s hard enough deciding on color at the shop when every color has a wide spectrum ranging from light to dark. For example if you’ve narrowed your color to gray you’ll still have tons of color swatches to browse through at the shop. Along with color you will want to think ahead of time what fabric you want, for example wool or linen. This decision-making beforehand will make things easier on yourself once you are at Sam’s Tailor. If you have questions while there don’t be afraid to ask as the workers at Sam’s Tailor are knowledgeable and will help you.
One perk of being a customer at Sam’s Tailor is that each person is given a unique number. That number is kept on record at Sam’s Tailor and includes what you bought and your measurements. With that information on file you can contact them via their website, e-mail, or by phone and order another suit. In 2015 Sam’s Tailor could ship a new suit to the United States for a shipping cost of only twenty-five U.S. dollars. Even with the added shipping the final cost of the suit is still a bargain compared to having a custom-made suit made in the United States.