Around 2 p.m. CT on Monday afternoon, I caught up with Michael Wiesenthal, who runs the venerable Harold's In The Heights in Houston. I was looking forward to this meeting; Michael doesn't normally invite just anyone on a whim to show his latest lines in menswear.
So I heeded his e-mail missive over the weekend and prepared to be pleasantly surprised this day. What I saw exceeded expectations.
After walking through the glass doors and passing the diversified business casual lines of Robert Graham, Coppley, Canali and Bills Khakis, Michael led me to the section where the likes of Oxxford and Hickey-Freeman reside. He then had me try on a suit jacket from Oxxford's latest line, one that costs about a third less than the time-intensive, made-to-measure counterpart that starts at about $3,500.
It was a glove fit. One of the differences in this Oxxford is its standard construction in the waistband, a departure from the continuous waistband in the made-to-measure versions. It's perhaps a minor detail that likely will be lost on today's generation, but do not fret: If you want the old Oxxford, Harold's will measure you up accordingly with its state-of-the-art technology.
Another highlight at Harold's is its selection of Robert Talbott neckties. These are gorgeous pieces that provide the right accent to your sartorial presentation. Those who prefer a bow tie need not panic; a Robert Talbot catalog is available and such selections can be ordered through the store.
Michael and I made one final stop through his shop -- the shoe department, which is run by Jim Pierce. Mr. Pierce's knowledge of shoes is vast. He focuses on a few brands that are popular among Harold's customers: Gravati, Mephisto, Santoni and Toschi. To the average customer looking for a stylish and comfortable pair of shoes, there's no compromise on either criterion in Mr. Pierce's department.
As my visit wound down after about an hour at Harold's, a couple of surprises sprung forth. Anthony Surface, a popular Saks Fifth Avenue menswear specialist who is now general manager of Norton Ditto's Woodlands location, stopped by to say hi. Last year, Norton Ditto and Harold's merged but continue to maintain their respective identities in the Houston clothing scene.
The best surprise was saved for last. I got to meet Harold himself.
Harold Wiesenthal, who started his clothing store in 1950 by outfitting neighborhood kids for school, remains in upbeat spirits as son Michael greets customers and runs the day-to-day operations of the store. Harold Wiesenthal instantly surmises that I will need a long size in a jacket. I try on a 44L Coppley black-and-white houndstooth cashmere sportcoat.
Yep. Father knows best.