While attire in the workplace has become increasingly casual, there are still times when a gentleman needs to dress his best. And, sometimes being the best-dressed means not buying your suit off the rack at the local department store.
Powell Harrison of Harrison’s of Leesburg seeks to meet the needs of those men who don’t know what to wear. Or, to borrow a phrase, What Not to Wear.
A mathematics major at VMI, Harrison found his calling some years back when he took a job with Men’s Wearhouse. Harrison says, “To buy myself some time to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life, I looked for a low-pressure job that I thought I would enjoy for a few months, so I took a job in a men’s clothing store. I never expected to get hooked! After more than seven years growing and thriving at the Men’s Wearhouse, I launched Harrison’s of Leesburg in February, 2008.” Why not “Harrison’s of Richmond?” The Leesburg in the name, says Harrison, is a nod to his family heritage.
Harrison’s offers in-home wardrobe consulting, custom and ready-made clothing and a line of cufflinks to retailers. Harrison says he gets most of his business through personal referrals, and networking. He also takes advantage of speaking opportunities as they arise.
Harrison says that he’s always had an eye for detail, something he learned from his grandfather whom he describes as, “the consummate Virginia gentleman and a very snappy dresser.” Once he realized that this was his career path, he embarked upon a time of self education and research, visiting and talking with men’s wardrobe departments. Harrison also recommends these books, Alan Flusser’s Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion, Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion by Bernhard Roetzel, and the How to Be a Gentleman series of guides from John Bridges, and says that these books along with his personal attention to detail have rounded out his education.
According to Harrison, the blind spot for many men is their wardrobe. Most men assume they get along just fine. He says, “A gentleman who buys from a retailer or “cloth-slinger” doesn’t always get personalized advice and recommendations that are in his best interests; a man who uses a consultant as a shopping assistant must pay for both the time and the product.” His consulting allows the customer to strategically purchase for his wardrobe using the guidelines of Scope, Suitability, Condition, and Fit.
For the man not inclined to hire a personal consultant, Harrison very generously offers 10 Rules of Thumb on his website. What used to be basic knowledge for the business man, and men in general is outlined so that even the clumsiest of dressers can get it right; or at least better.
Harrison carries his own sense of personal style which includes, wearing his grandfather’s 1940s tails with beaver top hat, white kid gloves and cane to formal occasions; and donning one of the 20 hats from his vintage collection almost every day.
And about those hats? Harrison points out that it’s not just about fashion.
“I learned it at VMI; a gentleman tips his hat to a lady when he passes her on the avenue.”