Seattle recently lost a bit more of its color: Leroy Menswear closed its doors for the last time on Saturday. The proprietor, Leroy Shumate, has been battling cancer and can’t run the shop any more. His kids put on a big sale over the weekend and it felt like the whole city showed up.
Growing up, I saw people worrying about their appearance when I was sure their inner selves were more important. I saw my peers divided by how they dressed, and I wanted no part of that. As I got into punk, I saw people trying to rebel, but it felt like they were just marching in a different army, wearing a different uniform. Personal style seemed like a waste to me, so I didn’t bother cultivating any. And on the rare occasion when I wanted to, I didn’t know how.
It was only years later, after getting involved with rockabilly music, that I came to realize that dressing up can be fun. Identity and appearance aren’t separate, they’re connected; Putting on a garish outfit can break you out of your shell, and looking your best can help you feel your best. That was a powerful idea, but it took me the better part of a decade to figure out how to make it work for me. Mainstream stores didn’t have what I was looking for. Vintage clothes didn’t fit. I couldn’t find anything on the Internet, and going the custom route would have been prohibitively expensive.
Then I heard about Leroy Menswear and we stopped in one afternoon. Leroy greeted us like old friends, asked what we were looking for, and in no time flat told me “You’re in luck. You look like a 2X, and that’s the only size I have right now in the color you’re after (blue). Try this on.” When I did, that sequined blue tuxedo jacket fit like it had been made just for me. My older daughter’s jaw dropped. My younger daughter started hyperventilating. And Heather said “I don’t care what that costs. Buy. It. NOW.”
Needless to say, I did, and have since gone back for more. I get compliments every time I wear Leroy’s clothes. Strangers approach me and ask me about them. Women want to be in pictures with me. I’ve sent friends there and everyone has raved about Leroy, the clothes and the service.
A dance instructor once told me that a lead’s job is to make their follow shine, and I’d settled comfortably into that role with Heather, since she shines brightly enough for both of us. It had never occurred to me that I could shine too. Leroy knew it all along, and has helped not only me, but countless other men, to shine.
Thank you Leroy, you will be missed.
- Store closure announcement (Reddit)
- The “Purple Suit” Story (Reddit)
- News coverage (KCPQ 13)
- News coverage (KING 5)
- News coverage (KOMO 4)
- Macklemore’s farewell/thank you (Instagram)
- 2001 Leroy Menswear TV commercial (YouTube)