MIDWAY NEWS AND VIEWS
Part 2: Interview with Crittenden Rawlings at Crittenden Fine Gentlemen’s Clothing Store in Midway. “When I started my Crittenden Clothing company, back when I had worked for Oxxford Clothes and we had gone to a Sotheby’s auction in New York. We bought clothing from the Duke of Windsor’s wardrobe and the idea was to take this back and produce it at Oxxford, so you would have something different modelled on the Duke’s original tailored suit. They had been made for Edward VIII by a custom tailor in Rome back in 1939. We bought these coats at this auction in New York and many of the best designers – Ralph Lauren, Brioni, Kiton – the most expensive garment makers in the world were buying components of the wardrobe to copy,” said Rawlings.
“So, when I started my store I wanted to make sport coats and suit jackets the same way; identical in construction and detail to the Duke of Windsor’s garments. I tell people that if its good enough for the Duke, then its good enough for me. Because he had brilliant taste. He had surgeon’s cuffs on the sleeves, so called because they were working button-holes. This came about in the 30s and 40s when doctors went door to door to see patients and had to unbutton their cuffs and roll up their sleeves to work on patients. It’s all in the details,” explained Rawlings.
“It’s a French-faced coat design. (French Facing is when the jacket is only partially lined, typically the arm and the shoulder area only, leaving the rest of the jacket “unfinished” or finished with the same material that the outer layer is made from, from the front to the side seams). The lining is in a “butterfly yoke” to allow movement in the shoulders and comfort, pipe seams, working surgeon’s cuffs. All the buttons are raised and well-made horn buttons. These are all features that are only found on the best clothing,” explained Rawlings proudly as he showed me one of his handmade sport coats.
Rawlings travels to mills in Scotland, Italy, England and Ireland for the fine fabrics he likes to use for his clothing. Crittenden Clothing is sold in over 100 stores across America.
“I am so proud – my coats fit every man that walks in the door. When a man comes in here, you need to sort of size him up. Most of the time when a man walks in, they don’t know what size they wear. I don’t even ask them, I just ask them to try a coat on for size, and then if I hit it they look at me and know that I know what they are doing. I rarely ask them their size – I’ve just done it for so long,” said Rawlings.
Now based in Kentucky instead of New York, Rawlings wanted to offer a custom product but at a price more in keeping with Kentucky budgets, so sports coats retail around $300-$600, pants cost $75-150 and shirts are around $75. All items can be adjusted to fit.
“People hear of the store, mainly word of mouth, but hardly a week goes by - because I spend time with the customers and personally help them - that I get thank you notes from people, saying what a pleasure it was to come in, to work with someone with such knowledge. It’s nice to still feel appreciated,” smiled Rawlings.
“Over the years I’ve met some of the most powerful businessmen in the world. When I was at Oxxford, I met a man who was a very good friend of George Bush senior, so he introduced me to President Bush and during my time at Oxxford I clothed him for quite a few years,” Rawlings said.
“I never will forget, he (President Bush) called me on Christmas Day one year, and said, ‘Critt, this is George Bush.’ He wanted me to clothe George W for the inauguration and he said, ‘Can you do it?’ So, I said, ‘Of course I can do it, but we are going to have to move pretty quickly.’ So, I flew to Austin to meet George W in the Governor’s Mansion and I had my tailor with me, and we measured him for the inauguration. Then I clothed him for several years. I also clothed many famous men, presidents and CEOs of corporations all over the world,” said Rawlings, as he showed me some photos on the wall of himself with his famous clientele. Rawlings said he’s also clothed UK basketball coaches Tubby Smith and John Calipari and has designed sport coats for Keeneland.
“One time I was in Houston, I was in a store fitting George Bush senior and he came close to me and put his hand in my pocket and he said ‘Critt, I put something in there for you.’ And he had put a Presidential Seal in there.’ He said I can’t give this to everybody, but I wanted you to have it,” said Rawlings, smiling.
“I got into the clothing business, right out of high school. I love it! And after 63 years I’m still here!” laughs Rawlings. “I still quote Mr. Brewer weekly and I am thankful for the lessons he taught me. And for the other people that have helped me in my career along the way. And I think about the many people that I meet in my life and they are not happy in their work. I say, ‘What the hell do you do it for, if you don’t like what you do, go do something you love.’”
And this is definitely a man who has found the career he loves. Go visit him and Judy at Crittenden Fine Gentlemen’s Clothing Store in Midway.
The Midway Renaissance Committee welcomed new members to the committee last week. Existing members are Peggy Angel, John Batts, Peter Fisher, Rob Mills, Julie Morgan, Leslie Penn, Christy Reaves, Deedee Roach, Susan Shelton, Debra Shockley, Kim Skeeter and Kenny Smith. Officers for 2019 are: President – Christy Reaves, Vice President – Peter Fisher, Treasurer - Bart Shockley. New board members for a three-year term are: Sally Kinnaird, Bart Shockley and Vanessa Seitz.