NHL’s fashion mastermind: How Tom Barnett’s suits became hockey’s prized possession

NHL’s fashion mastermind: How Tom Barnett’s suits became hockey’s prized possession

Donald Barnett very first will come to thoughts when Tom Barnett is asked what motivated him to work as a tailor. Tom then thinks about the ritual that ensued just about every evening when his father returned from his career at the now-defunct Buffalo (N.Y.) Courier-Specific.

At the end of the day, Donald would arrive dwelling, and Tom would comply with him to his room. Every thing had a proper area, this sort of as his go well with jacket on a wood hanger. When Donald’s footwear came off, the shoe trees went in. Every single shoe produced its way to the back again of the closet. Upcoming, Donald’s belt would be put in a drawer, adopted by his tie clasps, which experienced their possess distinctive drawer. Donald’s ties ended up then hung, his trousers immediately after that, and his shirts would go in a laundry basket.

As a little one, Tom employed to have a paper route. When he gained his paycheck, he’d experience his bicycle to the community apparel retail outlet and expend all his income on dresses. Tom beloved currently being in clothes suppliers, and now he owns three merchants and has develop into the pre-eminent tailor for guys around the National Hockey League.

“I do not know if folks even know what shoe trees are anymore,” Tom advised The Athletic, “but my dad had shoe trees. My dad was a quite fantastic-hunting cat, and he was a effectively-educated guy. He was generally extremely nicely dressed, so no subject what, you would in no way see that person without remaining groomed beautifully.

“No issue what time of working day, no matter where by you’d be, he would generally be in his finest clothes. I will have to have realized that every thing had price, because he took good treatment of it, and he was always impeccably dressed. I guess I normally liked that.”

In truth, there was no guesswork about it. Vogue seeped its way into Tom’s heart and captivated him. He beloved it, and in flip, it supplied him with a lifelong determination.


For the previous 32 yrs, Tom has been able to incorporate his good enjoys: hockey and vogue. Donald was on the inaugural hockey staff at Canisius Higher education as a goalie and taught Tom the activity 25 yrs later on, Tom followed go well with (pun meant), participating in his father’s place and attending the identical college, graduating in 1979. In 1990, Tom opened his possess outfits business, and many thanks to his sons’ pursuits in his enjoys, he now is effective with them — Oliver, 33, and Cloogie, 27 — also.

The trio served style and design and produce the match that Nick DeSimone, an East Amherst, N.Y., indigenous, wore forward of his NHL debut for the Calgary Flames on Nov. 7 against the New York Islanders.

“Our staff could not have been happier for him and his family,” Tom explained. “And to underscore just how fellas in the video game are, Nick arrived at out the subsequent day to allow us know that his Tom Barnett threads have been a portion of that memorable instant at UBS Arena.”

This is Tom’s initial time performing with his sons in a specialist tailoring area, but it’s the second time all 3 have been on the similar staff. In 2001, Tom launched the Buffalo Shamrocks Hockey Club, which concentrated on private enhancement very first and player advancement next. Tom was dismayed when he enrolled Oliver on a hockey crew with a mentor who yelled obscenities at younger athletes for the slightest issues.

A hockey system that began with 30 players is now an business with a utmost of 300 participants, and Tom proceeds to choose an energetic part with the Shamrocks. In June 2009, throughout the Stanley Cup Last, Hall of Famer Mark Messier presented Tom with an award for his perseverance and support to youth hockey.

NHL’s fashion mastermind: How Tom Barnett’s suits became hockey’s prized possession


Mark Messier, left, and Phil Pacsi from Bridgestone, right, existing the Youth Leadership Award to Tom Barnett during the 2009 Stanley Cup Remaining in June. (Gregory Shamus / Getty Photos)

Tom discovered, as a participant and a coach, the classes from hockey have translated seamlessly to his get the job done in fashion.

“The initially matter I assumed about … teamwork, appropriate off the bat,” Tom explained. “You just cannot do what we’re undertaking with no a large amount of palms-on deck helping, ideal? We have received people on the profits floor, we’ve acquired tailors, we have persons accomplishing social media. There’s so a lot that you have to do to run a small business. You have to perform with people, and you understand that when you are participating in in a crew sport.

“You also discover how to not get as well significant on the fantastic times and not get as well lower when items aren’t going so nicely. I imagine you learn how to offer with adversity … for the reason that when you are also setting up a hockey plan and beginning a business, they are all not Stanley Cup winners the initial day.”

Explained Cloogie: “We experienced a great deal of fun. I think he is aware when to get the most out of everybody, but I think he can make the surroundings a pleasurable, competitive one particular. A good deal of his time is now used mastering to skate and obtaining young children into the game. That’s the foundation for the Shamrocks system: having little ones on the ice and believing and owning pleasurable.

“For us, expanding up, he was our mentor, and we’ve constantly had wonderful perspective on items, a way to handle ourselves, a way to enjoy hard, a way to be gritty. Which is also a large amount of just Buffalo roots, much too, proper? This is a gritty town that is blue-collar … and I consider you get an appreciation for tough work. That was undoubtedly instilled in us.”


The initially man or woman in the league Barnett built a accommodate for was not a participant it was an NHL owner. Seymour H. Knox III, the founder of the Buffalo Sabres and a Hockey Hall of Fame member, attained out to Barnett to have an outfit built for him and the team’s board of directors.

What Barnett didn’t know that day was the go well with he developed would become a section of the organization’s cloth and id. The “Sabre blazer” turned Knox’s trademark accommodate he finally wore it to just about every recreation.

“The coats were being magnificent in every respect and embodied the vision and pleasure of a new franchise, complete with a gold bullion Sabres crest, enamel workforce buttons and, groundbreakingly, the interior of each and every coat lined with the authentic blue-and-gold Sabres symbol,” Tom recalled. “Fittingly, Mr. Knox’s coat is now on long lasting exhibit at the Buffalo Museum of Background.”

Just one does not turn into the go-to clothier for the NHL without the need of sturdy associations and persons outside of Buffalo shopping for their threads. Tom’s Rolodex is in depth. Each go well with for Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson is comprehensive with a tackle-twill “8” within (he wears No. 8). For New Jersey Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, there is a loved ones crest.

Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov’s son’s title, Kirill, is embroidered on every undercollar, and forward Evgeny Kuznetsov’s name labels basically read “Kuzy.” Oliver employed to operate in the Capitals’ video section, so the gamers got a firsthand appear at his father’s get the job done, which fostered further desire.

This distinct talent established — excellent individuals expertise — is something Oliver and Cloogie say they realized from their mother, Lisa.

“She does almost everything,” Oliver reported. “She’s the individual guiding the scenes and will get none of the public praise or recognition but can make sure everything’s a properly-oiled machine. We get so significantly of our partnership-making from her. She’s so favourable and caring, and very little specifics, I would say, will come from her.”

Capitals defenseman John Carlson is an additional player who is a supporter of the Barnetts. Carlson loves significant-finish good quality and describes his type as modern and common. He’s not a trendsetter, he stated, but in planning for the NHL’s Stadium Series, he made a decision to extend his fashion horizons. On March 3, 2018, the Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs performed at Navy-Maritime Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. Given that the groups were enjoying at the Naval Academy, Carlson and the Barnetts collaborated on a suit impressed by the army faculty.

What amazed Carlson the most is how substantially time and treatment the Barnetts took with producing his match. Any individual who noticed him in it could promptly explain to how much study was done to obtain the closing solution.

“It’s not one thing I’ll ever use yet again, but I think (it is) the notice to element, the lengths that they went via to obtain out historical past about the Naval Academy, nailing the colours and interviewing folks,” Carlson reported. “They truly went so significantly over and above what they necessary to make absolutely sure that it was not only just a special visual appearance but the appropriate factor to do that designed it how it was intended and honoring … the Naval Academy.”

Reported Tom: “These gamers and so many other people around the league occur to us for neat s—. We have been hand-crafting individual styles for just about every and each client although generating garments of benefit. We have the exceptional entry to the most effective clothes on the globe, and our proficient group brings visions to daily life. It is good to be considered of and fortuitous to have come to be a desired destination when opposing players arrive to town and the go-to resource for numerous of the Sabres listed here at residence.”


The ideal feeling for the Barnetts is when customers to start with lay eyes on their new apparel. Each and every new consumer has to see Tom or a member of his staff for measurements. Obtain to the retailer is by appointment only.

Tom designed every of his locations to exude relaxation, ease and comfort and the emotion of currently being pampered. It transpired to him some time ago that most gentlemen really don’t do issues to treat themselves, so he wished to produce a place that gave them that opportunity.

An appointment can acquire wherever from 90 minutes to two hours. To get the finer points of a bespoke match down, time and interest to depth are wanted. Discussions ensue about what introduced the adult men to the retailer, the over-all model, what they’re aiming for with their clothes and how they want to dress it up. Some customers are fine with accomplishing a measurement and leaving the Barnetts to sort out the particulars, but Tom, Oliver and Cloogie like the participation of the shopper.

If a buyer wishes, they can decide on out each one factor of what goes into an outfit — the layout, material and much more. Tom functions with global mills these types of as Loro Piana (Italy), Scabal (Belgium) and The House of Dormeuil (Paris) — which is “still family members operate and celebrating their 180th anniversary this 12 months,” Tom mentioned. Ermenegildo Zegna (Italy) also is well known and between the best of the Barnetts’ dozens of mill associates.

The Barnetts want purchasers to have whatever they want. The customer is the manager — especially the athletes, who are now starting to be far more competitive with their clothing, helping them stand out.

“For a long interval for our athlete shoppers, suits had been almost purely out of necessity, and though for some that even now rings true, the arrival of social media and players’ aggressive character have ushered in a new era of fashion,” Tom mentioned. “Bolder patterns, a lot more vivid hues and with signature details. Here is a quite appealing twist: A single of the coolest factors of the evolution of ‘the dress code’ is how it is cyclical and now coming total circle. As time has passed, a whole lot of the SHKIII aspects will come across on their own yet again on the fashion forefront.”


From remaining: Oliver, Tom and Cloogie Barnett. (Courtesy of Tom Barnett)

Lawrence Pilut hardly ever experienced a go well with created from scratch till he met Tom four a long time back. The Sabres defenseman explained his teammates ongoing to rave about Tom’s function, and Pilut noticed the good quality of the dresses just about every time they wore something of his. Pilut preferred a awesome grey accommodate, so this was the excellent opportunity to find out for himself.

“I felt like, ‘Yeah, that would be a exciting thing to sort of try out out,’” Pilut explained. “I wasn’t truly a significant suit dude in advance of or nearly anything like that, but I felt like everybody wears extremely good satisfies above listed here.”

A fellow Swedish crew member related Pilut with Tom, and the pair spoke on the mobile phone ahead of the appointment to broadly go more than suggestions. Pilut then arrived at his meeting, and he said the buyer assistance was unlike nearly anything he’d experienced just before. The Barnetts took incredible treatment of him, displaying him the total inventory, answering all of his inquiries and heading around each depth of what he needed.

This is why Pilut continues to have a close partnership with the Barnett household. Each experience he’s experienced with them has been accurately like the to start with just one. Tom and his team identified a way to outdo by themselves when Pilut desired his wedding day match built and delivered to Sweden. He termed the Barnetts a yr back and requested if they could make one thing take place.

The 4 adult males poured around the particulars. Pilut requested for a black three-piece go well with with a special lining inside of with the date of his wedding and his and his wife’s initials. Any time he appears to be at the suit, he reported he would like to be reminded of his wedding day. Even although Pilut was not in the United States at the time, the Barnetts experienced his measurements and only necessary to know what coloration, lining, alignment and other technical specs he required for the massive day. The loved ones delivered it with plenty of time to be despatched back, in scenario alterations were being essential, and the Barnetts sent.

“When it confirmed up, it fit properly, so we didn’t have to do everything,” Pilut mentioned. “It was wonderful. It was a great experience that it confirmed up to my apartment and it was all ready to go and everything in good shape completely. … They seriously assisted me out with all the lining inside of and building my particular day even additional special by making a unique fit.”


Prior to setting up his organization, Tom was a associate at The Squire Shop, a men’s retail outlet in Snyder, N.Y. When it burned down in 1989, the patriarch of the family went out on a limb and traveled to London to immerse himself in the art of bespoke vogue. He did so, starting to be an understudy at the popular Savile Row tailor retailers, exactly where the British royal family has had its outfits produced for extra than four centuries.

To tailor for Tom, one has to review for 5 several years right before cutting the fabric is way too expensive, and even the smallest error implies it cannot be made use of.

For extra than 30 decades, Tom has taken this sacred style method and turned it into a booming organization with four suppliers: Snyder, New York Town, Washington, D.C., and Beverly Hills, Calif.

But manner is consistently modifying. Existing traits fade, and new types are invented. Previous developments then make their way back into fashion, so with people’s appetites consistently transforming, how do the Barnetts plan to adapt? What is the strategy to keep on being pertinent and have individuals carry on to invest in from them?

“What stood out to me to begin with was anything that is so significant to business, to sporting activities, for people, for athletes … ‘consistency,’” Tom claimed. “It is, in truth, vital, and it is hard to be that, but on reflection, it is our regularity in high quality, in point of view, in direction, in our values that has defined us and quantifies us. It enables our shoppers to be self-assured and comfortable. In actuality, of course, of training course we have transformed with the periods, from not only a manner dimension (but also) to some organization methods.

“If you do not evolve, you die. But our sense of type, our relationships with shoppers and the way they are cared for has hardly ever modified. So, consistency is our quality, the real hand workmanship and our creativeness and our special means to innovate. Importantly, we never bought into this business enterprise to chase the glow of a red-carpet image, but what we do is all about interactions, and it so comes about that several of these revolve around hockey.”

Tom grew up with the recreation of hockey. By proxy, so have his sons, whom he is fortunate to operate with. Since of that, specifically in the hockey planet, he stated it feels as if he’s “really only one particular diploma of separation from any given person.”

“I didn’t retire on my initial day of organization. There was a lot of times when you ended up kind of asking yourself, ‘What are we accomplishing? Why are we undertaking this once more?’” he said. “I consider it is the perseverance of becoming an athlete and likely to exercise each working day and maintain capturing at the net, that form of thing. … They get the job done with each other perfectly simply because I like to do both of those of them. I never know if they even make perception together — hockey and the outfits business that we do — but I get up in the morning and do those matters ’cause they are vital, and I adore the work.”

(Illustration: Rachel Orr / The Athletic photos courtesy of Tom Barnett)

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