March 1, 2014

82-year-old tailor still delights in painstakingly crafting men’s garments

Gennaro Macrini has designed Oscar attire and marching band uniforms, and he recently measured new members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Gennaro Macrini feels like an anachronism.

Quality craftsmanship in clothing demands patience and takes time, but how many in this hurried, off-the-rack age fully appreciate the look and value of a stylish, custom-tailored suit?

“We’re almost extinct,” Macrini said of his Old World trade.

So this pleasant, 82-year-old whose lifelong labor of love is designing and tailoring men’s garments felt honored when a chauffeured limousine provided by the Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co. appeared at his Denton County residence two years ago.

Macrini rode in style to Shreveport, home of Moonbot Studios.

There he met Fort Worth native Brandon Oldenburg and William Joyce, whose 15-minute animated film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, had been nominated for an Academy Award.

The movie’s co-directors planned to attend the nationally televised awards show in Los Angeles and wanted to walk the Oscars’ red carpet wearing matching tuxedos.

Happy to assist, eager to please, Macrini produced his tape and meticulously recorded their exact measurements.

The limo returned its silver-haired passenger to his home the same day.

Macrini, the son of an Italian immigrant, went to work, parlaying his creative vision and more than 60 years of experience. Bent over his kitchen table, he cut out patterns for the single-button formal wear using pages of the Star-Telegram.

That step completed, Macrini flew to Chicago with his design and spent three days, working under a deadline, with longtime friend Maurice Hood in Hood’s tailor shop. They assembled the coats and pants not from fine wool but from black twill, the same material used in Dickies work pants.

Macrini slept on an air mattress in the tailor shop, next to Hood’s sewing machine.

The finished garments were shipped to California.

A labor of love

Pasquale Macrini arrived in America as a youth in 1912. He became a barber on Wall Street and helped raise a family — four children — in West New York, N.J..

His teenage son, a child of the Great Depression, discovered his calling once he began visiting a neighborhood tailor shop and asking questions of the owner, who befriended him.

After serving in the Navy, Macrini took a job in a garment factory and studied design and tailoring in the evenings at a school in New York City.

“When you love something there is no end to what you will do for it,” Macrini said of his passion and work ethic.

He held positions with Robert Hall Clothing, Hart Shaffner Marx, Phillips-Van Heusen, Stratojac and H.D. Lee. He designed college and high school band uniforms. He cut the material used to make the shirt and jeans for Big Tex, the Texas State Fair icon.

He also received a patent for a device that determines the apparel size of an adult male based on a given height and weight.

Recently Macrini flew to New York. The day after Super Bowl XLVIII he measured the seven newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the Haggar-made gold jackets each will be presented at the induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, this summer.

Admiring his work

On Feb. 26, 2012, at the 84th Academy Awards, the Oscar for best short animated film went to …

“When they say your name, it’s like they dropped an anvil on your head,” Oldenburg said later, conjuring up a cartoon image. “Stars spin around. Birds are chirping, and you have a goofy grin that won’t go away.”

Watching at home on television, Macrini jumped from his chair in delight.

He smiled at his two friends’ surprised faces. Then the tailor’s eyes fixed on their clothing and lingered there. Macrini took in the shiny satin shawl collars, smooth and flat along the neck. The distinctive cuff sleeve opening. The two-needle accent stitch. The tuxedos’ stylish drape.

The suits were as identical as the shiny statuettes the two men held aloft.

Garments, Macrini wistfully recalled, once spoke of the people who made them, and on that exciting evening these tuxedos did.

They were a symbol of his and Maurice Hood’s knowledge, their attention to detail, their professionalism.

Oscar night was, in a way, a validation of Macrini’s rewarding career.

“What I stand for,” he said, not in a boastful way.

As the animators basked in the spotlight, they looked, in Macrini’s eyes, almost as elegant as his boyhood idol did the first time Gennaro entered Yankee Stadium in 1946 and saw Joe DiMaggio, No. 5, home from the war, in center field, dressed in pinstripes.

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