On the Clock: Tuxedo shop proprietor helps men, teens look best at weddings (with photo gallery) and proms
ROTTERDAM Sam Vavala likes a sharply dressed man.
Spring proms and summer weddings are lining up, so guys are lining up to see Vavala for tuxedos at Samuel’s Formal Wear in the Rotterdam Square shopping mall.
Vavala knows about coats and colors from Oleg Cassini, Perry Ellis and Calvin Michaels that are now in fashion. He landed his first job in the tux and tie business in 1972, still in Mont Pleasant High School when he began working at the old Marlou tuxedo shop on Brandywine Avenue.
Since then, he has worked at other local menswear stores — including Spector’s and the former Christopher’s — and with his wife, Kelly, opened Samuel’s on Hamburg Street in Rotterdam in 1989. The business moved to Rotterdam Square in 2011.
At 2:05 p.m. on a recent Saturday, Mike McGuire of Halfmoon was at Sam’s place in a navy blue T-shirt, blue jeans and sandals. On June 2, the 25-year-old McGuire will look a bit more gallant in a gray tux for his friend Tim Welch’s wedding.
Ready to measure
Vavala, a tailor’s measuring tape over his shoulders, wrote down the McGuire numbers — 161⁄2, 42, 34 and 371⁄2 for neck, chest, waist and leg length, respectively. A jacket was next.
“How does this fit on you?” Vavala asked. “It’s a 42, next size up is a 44.”
The 42 felt fine. A minute of paperwork followed, and McGuire walked out of the store and back to his Saturday afternoon.
By 2:15, Dimitri Koutsopoulos, 18, of Rotterdam was in Samuel’s. He was looking at tuxedos for the Scotia-Glenville Junior-Senior Prom on May 18 and the Mohonasen Senior Ball on June 1. Koutsopoulos is a popular guy at Samuel’s and a popular guy with young women; the
Mohonasen dance will be his 10th prom.
Vavala has done thousands. He said May 18 is an especially busy date, as high-school kids from Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Duanesburg, Sharon Springs, Fonda-Fultonville, Cobleskill-Richmondville and Middleburgh will also be stepping out that Friday night. At Samuel’s, tuxedos rent for between $125 and $130. A budget plan, for $60, is also available.
Guys pick up their suits the Thursday before their events. Coat, pants, vest, shirt and shoes are provided. “Everything but socks and underwear,” Vavala said. “They’re on their own there.”
All about color
With Koutsopoulos, Vavala had to think about color coordination for the Scotia event. Vests are in for prom outfits, and girls want their dates’ colors to match their gowns. “It’s all about the color today,” Vavala said. “If you don’t have the color, you don’t get the order. We’ve got plum, yellow, blue, sunflower, key lime, teal.”
“Do you have the color for the gown?” Vavala asked.
Koutsopoulos didn’t have the color on him. But it was on his cellphone.
“We’re looking at the color on the phone,” Vavala said. “Back in the Marlou days, we were sending them back for swatches.”
The violet color representation wasn’t ideal, so Vavala took his customer back to the ’70s — Koutsopoulos phoned his friend Morgan Fonda and asked her to stop by the shop. He was happy to wait, and look around the store.
“I think I look nice when I’m dressed up — professional,” said the clothing fan, who graduated from Mohonasen last June and is now studying business management at the University at Albany.
It was 2:30, and Koutsopoulos prepared to spend a little more time with Vavala.
“It depends on the kid,” Vavala said. “Some will come in and pick out a red vest, red bow tie, he’s going to be out of here in eight to 12 minutes. For others, it could be 45 minutes.”
Trying things on
During the afternoon, Vavala’s daughter Becky and son Mike also waited on customers. In one corner of the store, a high-school kid tried on different ties and vests as his parents watched. That’s OK, Vavala said, especially when parents are picking up the tab for the tux.
Koutsopoulos received his numbers.
“Length of pants, outside seam, that’s a 39, going from the top of the pants right to the top of the heel,” Vavala said. “Now we’re doing the neck. . . . We’re going with a 15 neck so you’ll be able to breath. Chest size equals coat size, 391⁄2, so I’m going to grab a 40 regular jacket. Shoes are 101⁄2.”
Teens aren’t worried too much about top hats these days; Vavala said the look works with tails, and tails are not big for 2012. The hats are also an extra expense — they must be purchased, not rented. “We’ll sell some derbies, maybe” Vavala said.
A few minutes later, Morgan Fonda, 17, of Glenville, entered the store with a violet color sample. She’s a senior. “This is my first prom,” she said.
Vavala said tuxedos that go to weddings sometimes show more wear and tear when they come back home. “Probably because there are alcoholic beverages to increase some of the rips and tears,” he said. “But the kids are good.”
Vavala found the right shade of violet for Koutsopoulos’ vest. That problem was solved.
The teen then decided to plan for his Mohonasen prom and was impressed with a gray morning outfit with long tails. Vavala said the coat and pants were really better suited for wedding attire. “I like to stand out,” Koutsopoulos said. “Everybody blends in with all those other tuxes.”
Vavala hesitated, but just for a second.
“You’ve got to get approval from somebody else,” he said. “You might be jumping the gun. . . . Let’s surprise her.”