He found a surrogate.
Bill Wong, the aging owner of Modernize Tailors in Vancouver's Chinatown, and master of the dying art of made-to-measure suits not to be confused with bespoke suits. The first meeting between master and apprentice took place, not coincidentally, a few months after John Lee's death at the too-young age of JJ, the eldest son, had followed his father to the West Coast after the end of his parents' marriage, but ultimately the two became estranged. His childhood longing to be just like his father had turned into his great fear that it might happen. He needed his space to become his own man, a process fraught with confusion and despair — his father may have taught him about suits and ties, but he wasn't that great about helping him with direction and focus.
John Lee had fallen from the heights of the restaurant business to life as a whisky-dependent encyclopedia salesman. He never did anything to change course. What's worse is that I thought his failures were contagious. I feared if he was in my life, he would drag me down with him.
And so I spent the next decade pretending I no longer needed a father. At the story's end, he steps into his father's reworked suit, with no better understanding of his father life, but with a greater mastery of his own. This beautiful, cleverly executed story gets to the very heart of the complexity of the first and most basic masculine bond, and how even through disappointment, abandonment, anger, confusion and pain, a son can still love, honour and protect his father.
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The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit
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For a debut work, I was impressed. His word choices were judicious without being pretentious and I am grateful to have easily expanded my vocabulary by reading this book. However, for my tastes, this book had a bit of a split personality so I did not appreciate the book to its fullest potential. In addition, he writes a memoir about his own life growing up with a father whose choice of suits and exterior impressions presented to the world were important to him. Also Lee held strong memories of his father. Lee kept the suit for many years in a closet before deciding to alter it to fit himself.
As mentioned, I found the writing excellent in the suit portion of the book. It is well researched, and with an extra feature of interesting illustrations of fashion changes done in black ink line drawings by Lee himself. Lee also wrote a memoir in the book about his personal life and growing up years as the son of Japanese immigrants. Living with an absent and alcoholic father who abused his wife physically and emotionally was particularl influential on Lee's development. Though his father did not seem to abuse Lee or his three siblings physically; he was emotionally abusive and physically absent.
Lee and his siblings' formative years were totally lacking in any sense of stability. This part of The Measure of a Man was where I experienced my connection and engagement with the story the most. Lee really drew me into the moment and had me feeling what he was feeling. His many dashed hopes and longings strongly came through. This part of the story was very powerful and I only wish he shared more of it with us. Lee took a unique approach to writing the story. Lee mentioned that the purpose for this process was to figure out what he would have learned from his father had his father been there for him.
His dad was big into suits and looking good and Lee wanted to understand more of what motivated his father. He also wanted to understand himself more and how as an adult, he measured up as a man and how he might fare when compared to his dad. Perhaps if I was a suit or even a fashion aficionado I might have enjoyed the book more.
It is not what I was expecting….. While the combination of the two stories was unique, I think the author may have done a disservice to each story. He seemed to be holding back, which of course if an author's prerogative.
The Measure of a Man
I also suspect that people who would prefer reading about the history of a suit and are not too interested in a touchy, feeling personal memoir would have preferred more fashion information and less of the personal memoir. I doubt making it any longer would have changed my rating. It was well-written, well-researched. I learned a lot, enjoyed the drawings and was impressed by the quotes and references. The rating is low simply due to personal taste. Overall my rating is 3 stars. I think there are excellent possibilities for separating the sections and publishing as is, or better yet, with the personal memoir in particular, possibly dig deeper and share more.
The suit biography is possibly sufficient as is or perhaps could be flushed out more; although it would be best to check the views of people who are more interested in such a book than myself. I can see 2 books instead of 1 and possibly 2 4 star ratings rather than a hybrid 3 star rating. Oct 18, Patricia rated it really liked it Shelves: If you have a less than perfect relationship with your dad - and I don't know many who haven't - then this book is for you.
Plus you get to learn a lot about sartorial history and men's fashion, like - something that's oft repeated throughout the book - never button the last button on your suit jacket. I do have to admit though, that the fashion history elements were a little head-spinning for me, even with the hand-drawn illustrations.
I also had to sometimes grasp at the connection between the If you have a less than perfect relationship with your dad - and I don't know many who haven't - then this book is for you. I also had to sometimes grasp at the connection between the history of the suit lapel and the stages of JJ's painful relationship with his dad with some transitions being smoother than others. However, in the end, this was an emotionally satisfying book. The journey felt as real and authentic as my own relationship with my father; JJ didn't completely absolve his father for his childhood but in the end, he does come to a deeper understanding of his father and JJ's relationship with him.
Favourite scenes in the book: Read it and you'll know what I mean. Feb 14, Phoenix rated it liked it Shelves: This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was a fascinating mix of memoir and fashion history. I'm not entirely sure it pulled together as strongly as I was hoping, but the author's writing was very precise and sincere.
This one is worth your time, especially if you're mens fashion enthusiast. Part of me wants to say that it was the author's intention to have the seemingly disparate elements of his story remain somewhat separate even when it reaches it's climax, where there is some unity admitted be 3.
Part of me wants to say that it was the author's intention to have the seemingly disparate elements of his story remain somewhat separate even when it reaches it's climax, where there is some unity admitted between the three stories of himself, his father and the progression of the suit they share across generations. However, another part of me wants to say that the separate elements, although each compelling in their own right don't string together as seamlessly ugh two puns I didn't initially intend at the end of the tale as they should have. At the end of the day though, I enjoyed this book.
The Measure of a Man by JJ Lee | xecykisypife.tk
I would even welcome a sequel to this, although I'm not sure what the subjects of that book would be. Jul 13, Lorraine rated it really liked it Shelves: The subtitle describes the book perfectly. As Lee works at remaking his only legacy from his father, a suit, he unravels his past. He comes to understand his father's demons in some aspects and also comes to understand himself.
Lee takes the book to another level by including fascinating info about the origins of men's suits and their stylistic components. I learned so much about how suits developed and changed over centuries. Who knew that men's fashion could be so interesting? Nov 11, Joanne-in-Canada rated it really liked it Shelves: I'm tempted to say that you don't need to have sewing experience to enjoy this book, but realistically an interest in sewing, fashion or fabric will keep you more engaged. For sure, you'll never look at a suit the same way after reading this book!
Nice blend of three stories: I make my usual complaint of some unnecessary repetition, in this case, of how to button or no I'm tempted to say that you don't need to have sewing experience to enjoy this book, but realistically an interest in sewing, fashion or fabric will keep you more engaged. I make my usual complaint of some unnecessary repetition, in this case, of how to button or not a two-button jacket. I got it already! Feb 20, Linda rated it it was amazing. For me, the best memoirs combine several storylines - several threads, if you will - into one cohesive story.
This is the style of book I would like to one day write: JJ Lee's memories of parts of Canada brought me home again, and then, while I was there, he taught me previously unknown knowledge about the secretive wo For me, the best memoirs combine several storylines - several threads, if you will - into one cohesive story.
JJ Lee's memories of parts of Canada brought me home again, and then, while I was there, he taught me previously unknown knowledge about the secretive world of men's tailoring. I'll never look at a fully buttoned suit jacket the same ever again. Jan 31, Rick rated it it was ok Shelves: JJ Lee writes an autobiographical book about his relationship with his father.
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He frames the story around a suit of his father's which he decides he is going to modify. I like the parts of the book that tell the story about his relationship with his father. It is a real life account of the conflict between the love and hate that people experience when in a dysfunctional relationship with a family member.
Lee does a masterful job of expressing the emotions he feels throughout his life. I do howev JJ Lee writes an autobiographical book about his relationship with his father. I do however, feel that Lee's account of his life in the tailor shop, his description of the alterations he makes to his father's suit and finally his brief forays in fashion history are too much of a distraction.
I find the book disjointed and at times very dry. It's hard for me to recommend this book to anyone but those who are very interested in the fashion industry. Jan 19, Srividya Rao rated it really liked it Shelves: This is a book I would never have picked up on my own - I am not a fan of memoirs and have no interest in men's fashion. But I could not put this book down. I learnt a lot about a suit jacket and it's history. But it is the personal story which is compelling.
- The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit by J.J. Lee?
- The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit;
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It is a wonderful exploration of the complicated relationship of fathers and sons. I don't know how it will hold up against some real heavyweights in the long list, but I did find it 'eye-opening' and will never look at a man wearing a suit the same way again. Quite a touching story about a father, his son and the memories the son relives while altering his father's suit.
Definitely a worthy read. I'll never look at a suit the same way again. Nov 15, Sharon rated it it was amazing. Funny, thoughtful, and moving, with tons of fascinating factoids about men's fashion, history, and culture. Jun 06, Bibi rated it liked it. I picked up this book from the counter with book suggestions for Father's Day. Right from the beginning, the reader is made aware that the author's father has died; the trajectory of the narration is not in strict chronological manner. In fact, there are significant chunks of text which refers to the origins of menswear and the evolution of style and onward to the social mores of what in today's term is the business suit.
At times, I wondered if this book is merely the outcome of a research proj I picked up this book from the counter with book suggestions for Father's Day. At times, I wondered if this book is merely the outcome of a research project with sporadic interjection about JJ Lee's family. This would account for my generous 3 star rating. There was nothing overly spectacular about Lee's family. His father was sent to Canada to live with his grandparents hopefully because his own parents felt that he would have a better life. Senior Lee appeared to be flamboyant, was an impeccable dresser - his repertoire included large patterned ties, aviator glasses, and bold cufflinks.
His dad felt that to get ahead, one was must be properly attired In fact, here is an excerpt from the book: The next morning my father set me down at the foot of the bed. At the end of the month you will have nothing. Someone will always give you a chance to work for them. Then you can eat. This may have influenced his career as the author is a menswear columnist for the Vancouver Sun.
He never did credit his father for the direction of his career. He was focussed on never repeating the mistakes and folly of his father who he resented for not being able to provide a better life for his family. His father, over the years turned to alcohol and made poor business decisions.
His relationship with his wife deteriorated. He physically abused her when drunk. She left him and the children, and many years later, reconciled with him only to leave him again. He left Montreal for the west coast - Vancouver- where he died. JJ Lee's recount of his memories of his father and his early years were suffocated amidst elaborate historical account of the evolution of menswear much the same as if JJ Lee is writing articles for his journalistic columns.
While very interesting, I found it distracted from his personal story. JJ's affinity to the tailor shop in Vancouver and his relationship with the owners provided solace for him and he attributed that to the lack of strong Chinese male role models in his life. In any event, writing this book must have been therapeutic for him. He writes eloquently - excellence in his words and prose. His sources are well referenced and the overall take way is that You can look good in a suit no matter what figure you've got.
A man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them. The last part, he relates to James Bond - climb out of a submarine and come out of it on land, shake yourself, and you're ready for the diplomatic reception without a moment's pause or a look in the mirror. It was just an okay book for me. Jan 20, Ian rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is a phenomenal book which spans the topics of sociology, personal attire and its historical evolution, and personal development in relationships with the self and others.
Reading this will teach you about tailoring, political and class history, art and the artist, and about men as fathers and men as sons. Read this for pleasure, give a copy to a new father, or your own father, or your grandfather; women in the same stages of their lives will also appreciate this. This is the perfect book t This is a phenomenal book which spans the topics of sociology, personal attire and its historical evolution, and personal development in relationships with the self and others.
This is the perfect book to give anyone, whether they wear suits or merely like looking at others wearing them. This is the best memoire I've ever read, mostly due to the variety of information in the book as well as the excellent quality of the writing. Do not walk, but run to your local bookshop to buy a copy of J. Lee 's The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit. View all 3 comments. May 05, Erica rated it really liked it Shelves: The Measure of a Man is as beautifully crafted as the handmade suits that J.
Lee describes making in a tailor's shop in Vancouver. After his father's death, J. As he works, the suit brings out past memories of J. In the present, J. As he learns this nearly-forgotten trade, we learn more about the history of men's fashion and how the suit developed over time. The notch of a lapel, the placement of buttons: These narrative threads are expertly woven together, creating a rich depiction of J.
The Measure of a Man combines personal and social history, and will interest anyone who likes memoirs or fashion history. A wonderful piece of narrative non-fiction. Jul 04, George Ilsley rated it really liked it Shelves: Took me a long time to get through this. There were a couple of reasons for that. For one the narrative is not pull-you-along; it's more meandering.
The balance between discourses on the history of fashion and the family story was not always achieved. At points we would get back to the family story, and I was Oh right! Um, what was happening with them when they were last seen? At times, the lectures on fashion history was longer than my attention span. I ordered this book sight unseen, and probably would have rejected it if I had picked it up browsing.
The font borders on being too small.