The Measure of a Man
As Lee recounts his life, you see that it is part of a complicated emotional history that saw the artistically talented Lee drop out of school, live a near derelict existence in the Gastown section of Vancouver, sometimes suicidal and certainly desperate, obtain a Masters in architecture and eventually achieve some stability as a news reporter, columnist and father.
Lee elaborates the history of the suit while trying to physically remake his father's own suit when he worked as an apprentice. As he literally tears apart and reassembles the suit, the memories start to flow, and the troubled past of the elder Lee is summoned up.
It's not pretty; in fact, it is often harrowing: the domestic violence, the drinking, his father's affairs, his on-going economic woes and the numerous, literal, car crashes. These episodes underlie, I think, what appears to be the author's emotional fragility and his conflicted feelings about masculinity. And, throughout, one sees that the elder Lee's sartorial style, its ascendancy or decline, often reflected his economic and psychological state. Not surprisingly, prosperity and well being = attention to fashion and one's person. Psychological chaos and economic disorder = more slovenly behavior and attire.
Lee also unravels for the novice intriguing bits of menswear history in minutia: the tie points down to specific part of the male anatomy (I never thought of it that way!); the types of dots on Churchill's tie (Lipton dots); the origin of the suit (thank you medieval armor and the court of King Charles II); the origin of the fashion term "Macaroni" (in mid-18th century England, a fashionable fellow who dressed in an outlandishly "affected" manner) and general dandyism through the ages.