Fourth-Generation Master Tailor Angelo Falco Makes an Argument for Elegance

When Angelo Falco walks into a room, everyone pauses. They look and consider the possibility that he’s changed the atmosphere. People stand up a little straighter, not wanting to slump or appear disheveled. There is an immediate effort to make a good impression. His presence elevates the standard, not in a pretentious way, of course, but in an elegant way.

Maybe it’s not even him specifically. Maybe it’s the way he wears that suit.

Angelo grew up in Rome in a family of suit, dress and shirt makers. By age 10, he could take apart a sewing machine and put it back together. By age 11, he was delivering tailored suits to customers across the city under the careful eye of his family members and fellow tradesmen. It was in the stars for Angelo to become a tailor—fourth-generation, no less—and when the opportunity arose to move to North America, he jumped, settling in Canada in the 1970s.

The family eventually settled in upstate New York. As he got older, Angelo’s tolerance for cold weather waned, so he sharpened his resume and applied for a job in milder Tennessee at a well-established family business in need of an experienced tailor. He joined the John H. Daniel family in 1995 and has enjoyed tailoring suits for men not only in Knoxville but across the globe, including a smattering of public figures.

In today’s world of instant gratification and suits on demand, anyone can walk into a department store, even the specialty shops, and buy a suit off the rack. Sure, it can be altered to nip and tuck, but Angelo insists that this method is not the same as having a suit tailored to fit the body. In fact, the store’s mantra is his mantra: You can go out and buy a suit, but can you buy a suit that fits you?

“That is the difference. The important things for a tailor,” he continues, “are to vision the customer and the way he’s built, to transform from a piece of paper, which is the pattern, to a three-dimensional coat. You need to know where to shrink the cloth. You need to know the way the customer is built so you can provide a fit that the ready-to-wear cannot. Ready-to-wear fits the mannequin, and it can be beautiful, but the mannequin doesn’t move. You have to create the difference.”

If this idea feels otherworldly, that’s because it is. Angelo remembers a time when everyone visited the tailor. Ready-to-wear was no such thing, and while industrialization is an inevitability, the sacrifice of quality, luxury and elegance doesn’t have to be. Angelo may be nostalgic for a time when fashion icons such as Cary Grant and Fred Astaire were standard, but he understands that times change. Trends are born, people get new ideas. Yet, the art of a tailored suit will always be in vogue.

“Sometimes I hear people say, ‘I can’t drive with my coat on,’ and I say, ‘Why not? You should be able to do that. But you cannot do that because that coat’s not made for you,’” he says. “We come back to the situation that the mannequin doesn’t move and the customers do.”

The concept of elegance is an old one, a long-standing combination of refinement, dignity and taste, and it is not always parallel to the fashion trends of the moment. In fact, turning heads isn’t always a good thing. Be careful with the mixing of patterns and colors, Angelo warns.

“The checked shirt, the plaid jacket, some kind of tie — whoa,” he begins. “The elegant man, nobody notices. Lord Brummell said that. If you want to be seen, that’s the way.”

The process of procuring a tailored suit at John H. Daniel is a detailed one. The customer chooses the cloth he prefers, and based on that the salesperson recommends the type best suited (pun intended) to the man’s frame and style: two-button, three-button, notch lapel, what-have-you. Suggestions are made but never imposed.

The next step is a careful measuring, allowing enough leeway for a five-pound gain or loss, followed by the blue pencil marking, which involves taking a base pattern and modifying it to the customer’s frame. The fabric is cut, assembled and given interfacing, which gives the coat a body.

“I don’t want to call myself an artist, my God no, but an artisan, yes,” Angelo says. “It’s an art. The inside of the coat has to be sponged. The piece of cloth is nothing. It’s OK to have a shirt, but if we go back to the three-dimensional idea, you need to put in a coat what we call a canvas. It has to be sponged, let dry and pressed. It takes a few days.”

Whatever the fad, whatever the style, Angelo maintains that elegance is always in fashion, and for a man, elegance comes in the form a suit. It doesn’t matter whether it’s three-piece, one-button or two, plaid or striped. When a suit is made to fit that man, it is an elegant thing worthy of a nod.

1803 N. Central St., Knoxville, Tennessee, 865.637.6441, JohnHDaniel.com