The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit
“An exquisite book.”
The Measure of a Man is JJ Lee’s critically-acclaimed debut book.
For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy suit that hung at the back of his closet — his late father’s last suit. When he decides to finally make the suit his own, little does he know he is about to embark on a journey into his own past.
Part personal memoir, part social history of the man’s suit, it is a deeply moving and brilliantly crafted story of fathers and sons, love and forgiveness, of fitting in and standing out — and discovering what it means to be your own man.
As JJ moves across the surface of the suit, he reveals the heartbreaking tale of his father, a charismatic but luckless restaurateur whose demons brought tumult upon his family. He also recounts the year he spent as an apprentice tailor at Modernize Tailors, the last of Vancouver’s legendary Chinatown tailors, where he learns invaluable lessons about life from his octogenarian master tailor. Woven throughout these two personal strands are entertaining stories from the social history of the man’s suit, the surprising battleground where the war between generations has long been fought.
With wit, bracing honesty, and great narrative verve, JJ takes us from the French Revolution to the Zoot Suit Riots, from the Japanese Salaryman to Mad Men, from Oscar Wilde in short pants to Marlon Brando in a T-shirt, and from the rareified rooms of Savile Row to a rundown shop in Chinatown. A book that will forever change the way you think about the maxim “the clothes make the man,” this is a universal story of love and forgiveness and breaking with the past.
FINALIST - BC Book Prize’s Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize (2012)
FINALIST - Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction (2012)
FINALIST - Governor General’s Literary Award - Non-Fiction (2011)
Praise for The Measure of a Man
“A graceful, compelling memoir… A thoughtful, loving and honest narrative, elegant in its clarity and observation.”
—Minneapolis-Saint Paul Star Tribune
“A personal yet universal story about a son’s quest to understand his father. This beautiful, cleverly executed story gets to the very heart of the most basic masculine bond, and how even through disappointment, abandonment, anger, confusion and pain, a son can love, honour and protect his father.”
—Globe and Mail
“Beautifully crafted, Lee’s memoir is a heartbreaking page-turner about a family, an abusive father, and men’s fashion. Who could have thought these themes could work together? In his first book, Lee has shown us how.”
—Jury citation, Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction
“Lee seamlessly weaves together elements of painful personal experience, fashion history, and his modern-day quest to learn the art of tailoring and find a place for himself in the world… . An intimate and thoughtful rumination on what it means to be a son, a father, and a man.”
“Touching and inquisitive … [A] striking and accomplished blend of humour, information and pathos… . [A] thoughtful and intermittently provocative memoir.”
“A deftly crafted memoir… .”
“At times incredibly witty and wry, and at other times endearing and touching … The Measure of a Man is a great read.”
—Tenth to the Fraser
“[An] often heartbreaking yet humorous and compelling memoir… .”
“Takes us into the nearly vanished world of exquisite, made-to-measure suit tailoring, and on his personal journey to understand his late father’s life and the sometimes-tormented relationship the two shared… . His tender, sometimes funny and often achingly sad story revolves around a suit left behind after his father’s death, and his desire to remake it into something that would fit him. I loved this book for its honest tone as well as for the spicy tidbits of suit-making history with which he seasons his story…”
—Chronicle Herald (Halifax)
“Lee’s book skillfully weaves a personal struggle to understand his estranged father after his death through the process of repurposing his dad’s suit to fit his smaller frame… . Truly inspires.”