There is something ultra charming about a guy in a wool tweed three piece suit modeled after a picture of the notorious Jesse James, weeping. During my interview with Robert, his own tears were touchingly prompted by appreciation for his life’s good fortune, loving his career as the owner of his men’s clothing boutique deep in the old world allure of the Lower East Side. It is there that Robert is able to express his zeal for designing and running a business that has a “personal connection to humanity.” His clothes and shop tell the story of iconically male and heroic images from the 19th century wild west to the seminal cultural influences of the ’60s and ’70s. For example, his jackets are crisp, utilitarian and versatile interpretations of what he describes as “handsome dress work wear,” drawing from pop culture icons such as 1960s rock stars like The Beatles and Rolling Stones and their 1860s gangster predecessors.
I love how clever and precise the detail, fit and fabric is to time periods – buttoning a different way or unrolling a lapel changes the genre completely. Among the other folklore in Robert’s life are his parents and it is notable that there are pictures of them everywhere. His dad is a preacher whose Christianity was “so strict and hard to stick by that at times, there were only ten people in the congregation,” but also made Robert feel that he could do anything he wanted in his life. His mom was a “stickler” for pressed shirts and vests and an overall attachment to the importance of one’s identity in your appearance. “I can size a guy up and fit him in a suit,” Roberts says, “I understand the language.”
You can visit the By Robert James store at 72 Orchard Street New York, NY 10002.