The Bespoke Life
By Meda Kessler
Haberdasher Austin Roberson sings the praises of a suit and tie
It’s a 95-degree day in September, but it feels a lot cooler inside Fort Worth’s West Jax Cigars & Spirits.
We’re talking men’s fashion with Austin Roberson, who’s wearing a gorgeous classically inspired glen plaid suit while everyone around us is dressed in T-shirts, jeans or shorts, and sandals.
Roberson looks cool, comfortable and confident. As the saying goes, he’s wearing the suit; it’s not wearing him. In fact, he prefers a thoughtful ensemble of jacket, cotton dress shirt and tie to something more casual. He owns jeans (Italian denim, natch), but if he had to eliminate anything from his wardrobe, they would be the first to go.
Roberson’s style journey began at an early age but with a bit of a twist. He admits to being bullied as a boy, which put dark thoughts into his head. He grew up in Stephenville, a small town where wearing a suit and tie typically prompted queries of whether he was headed to a wedding or a funeral.
Roberson’s answer was to follow his own “dress for success” mantra: If you look good, you’ll feel good. He credits his mom’s encouragement for helping him develop his personal style. “She would ask me and my brother how she looked in a certain dress or whether a particular pair of earrings was the right choice. My brother always told her she looked good in everything. I was always more opinionated.”
Roberson dabbled in retail early, working at stores like JCPenney and James Avery (he wears a JA signet ring daily). He dropped into The Man’s Shop in downtown Arlington to check it out, and the staff took notice of his wardrobe. He met the next day with owner Wally Hardin, who has been in the business since he was 17. Hardin bought The Man’s Shop in 2000 and has made it a go-to place for menswear, from casual attire to custom suiting. Hardin offered a “lifestyle, and not just a job,” and Roberson has been there since March 2018.
A student of men’s style, Roberson can talk with confidence about breathable cloths, pleats versus no pleats, cap-toe shoes and more. He’s aware of the complete picture, too. Accessories such as cuff links, a vintage wristwatch and the proper socks are critical to finishing his look.
On Instagram, Roberson looks a little more serious than he is in person, but his main goal is to be inspirational and approachable. He dislikes the word “dapper” and prefers the word “gentleman” as an adjective, which spawned @gentlemansavenue as his account handle (he has more than 35,000 followers on the platform).
“This is the essence of me,” says Roberson, pointing to his suit. “I am most comfortable in something tailored, even if I’m going out with friends after work or on a dinner date.” He talks about James Dean and Fred Astaire, both admired for their vastly different styles, and both icons in his eyes. We ask Roberson if he wishes he’d grown up in a different era. “I love the 1930s, but I think I was born in the right era. My long hair wouldn’t have worked back then,” he says with a smile.
Wearing his locks pulled back or loose is a decision he makes daily, along with what to wear. “I don’t typically plan out my outfit. I look at my closet and build an outfit based on how I feel.” At his two-bedroom apartment, the larger of the rooms is now his office/closet, which he calls a “cloffice.”
“I own about 20 suits and 15 sports coats,” he says. He’s a fan of custom-made shirts, classic tuxedos — he owns two — and a mix of vintage and new. He sourced a quality dry cleaner but prefers having garments hand-laundered. He would love to add to his collection of clothes and accessories as his personal style evolves. And he recognizes that while his tastes for a good cigar and a nice Scotch or whiskey are mainstream affections, some would raise an eyebrow with his wardrobe choices.
“Hey, if this is my vice, I’m good with it.”