On a recent Saturday morning, The Observer promised our boyfriend we would buy him lunch if he’d come with us to that same Soho shop to try on a Ludlow. The store director is a charming, dapper 33-year-old man with a rather weightily literary name: Tremaine Romeo. Mr. Romeo, who goes by Tre and owns a Ludlow in every color, said a single salesperson in the Soho store once sold 17 Ludlows in a week.
It’s a welcoming place to buy a suit, soundtracked by Pitchfork-approved bands like Girls and Beach House and peppered with tongue-in-cheek “manly” décor – a display of taxidermied birds in the fitting room, for instance. Mr. Romeo thinks the shop, and the Ludlows inside of it, are at the forefront of a sea change. “The more men’s shops you open up, the more comfortable they feel coming into the store, shopping together. It’s strange; you’ll see a bunch of frat boys coming in to shop,” he said. “Two, three years down the line, it’ll just be the norm. Your husband or your boyfriend is going to say, ‘I’m just gonna go out with the guys and shop.’”
The idea doesn’t seem so far-fetched in an era in which men both straight and gay see nothing strange about noticing another man’s suit, identifying it, and using its name to start a conversation. The Ludlow provides the rare masculine safe space to talk about clothes without seeming prissy: it’s a cool suit, after all, but it’s also one that’s available to any man with a thin-to-average frame and $650 to spend. Maybe what makes the cult of the Ludlow so exciting for the young men who own them is that it feels like uncharted territory: just a couple of dudes, talking about their suits, being Ludlows.
As with all fraternities, though, there comes a time in a man’s life when other concerns trump loyalty to the brotherhood. For some, a year or two of Ludlowing can whet an appetite for the next sartorial step, a suit that other men can’t immediately recognize. To revisit Mr. Vilensky’s drug analogy, the Ludlow may be the gateway suit that gets young men into the harder, bespoke stuff.
“I’m still looking for my perfect suit,” Don Stewart said. “The next thing I get will probably be tailor-made.”