October 28, 2020

Custom Suits to “Make the Man,” a Vision and a Reality at Jeffrey Scott

“CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN:” Jeffrey Scott Appelson, founder and sole proprietor of Jeffrey Scott, takes a stroll around Princeton dressed in one of his custom-made suits. He took over the business two years ago and looks forward to helping more gentlemen realize the rewards of dressing in style. (Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Appelson)

By Donald Gilpin

“Where it began,” Jeffrey Scott Appelson, founder and sole proprietor of Jeffrey Scott custom suit maker, mused, “I remember seeing pictures of myself, one in particular. My mother had dressed me in a pink T-shirt, black jeans, and high-top Nikes. I was 2-3 years old. Nice, thanks, Ma. Had me lookin’ good! To this day I still enjoy that type of streetwear style.”

JeffreyScott.com, with an office at 252 Nassau Street, caters to a rather exclusive clientele, with custom-made suits starting at $895 (tuxedos at $995) and “bespoke” suits at $1,495 (tuxedos at $1,595). Business has picked up since a drop in the early months of the pandemic, and Appelson, 34, sees many potential customers on the horizon.

“Princeton is a classy town,” he said. “Strolling through the streets is a good reason to dress up, look nice, and feel good, and I think a lot of gentlemen want to do that.  They just don’t know where to start or are afraid or don’t think a certain outfit will work for them.”

That’s where Jeffrey Scott comes in. “I partner with them and a personal stylist, and we team up to show them the possibilities,” Appelson added. “The feedback in confidence after we go through the process is extremely rewarding. That’s one of the biggest things I love about the job, when my clients feel good and want to wear their suits and feel confident and grateful. That’s amazing.”

Emphasizing that “clothing makes the man,” Appelson went on, “As Tom Ford says, ‘Dressing well is a form of good manners.’ You only get one chance to make a first impression. People are going to look regardless, so give them something worthwhile, something good to look at. You feel better when you dress well, and in return you become more successful.”

Appelson’s father, as well as his mother, influenced his interest in style and clothing from an early age, when the family lived on Long Island. “I remember seeing my dad traveling to the city,” Appelson said. “He was always suited up, very well dressed, an accountant. He worked at a big firm in the city. That’s where the inspiration comes from. I’ve always been into clothing.”

His affinity for stylish clothing was evident through high school and on into college. “In high school I would wear skinny jeans before it was really a thing, and obviously my friends made fun of me for it,” he said. “Even in college I would always go to class, not in a suit, but in a nice button-down shirt and jeans. I wasn’t the sweat pants-and-hoodie guy in college. I enjoy dressing up and having the feeling of looking good and mixing and matching, putting various things together and experimenting with clothing and inventing my style. I always try to find an excuse for dressing up.”

When Appelson, who now lives in Ewing with his wife and daughter, was in sixth grade his family moved to the Princeton area and he attended West Windsor-Plainsboro (WW-P) schools, graduating from WW-P High School North in 2004.

“Not the best student in high school,” Appelson went on to vocational school rather than college, then worked as an electrician for a couple of years before deciding that his future was in the world of business, and particularly the clothing industry.

He started taking classes at Mercer County Community College and eventually was able to transfer to The College of New Jersey, where he graduated in 2013 with a degree in business. During that time he was also working part-time at a men’s clothing store in Cherry Hill.

“There was a small section of that store where we focused on custom clothing,” he recalled. “That’s where I started to develop a passion for luxury menswear and suiting.” Appelson eventually helped the owner to move the store to Philadelphia where they downsized and created a shop focused on custom suits and luxury wear. “After working there for a while and learning a lot, I started to develop a passion for luxury menswear and suiting,” said Appelson. 

Over the past six years, he has made a living and stayed connected to the worlds of both  business, with a full-time career in sales first for Paychex Inc. and then for Heartland Payment Systems, and fashionable menswear, helping a friend who owned a clothing business.

Three years ago Appelson persuaded his friend to take him on board as a 50 percent partner. After a year Appelson bought him out, re-branded the business, and it’s been Jeffrey Scott “with just me going forward ever since.”

Appelson described the process of acquiring a Jeffrey Scott suit — a six week turnaround time for custom suits, eight to ten weeks for bespoke suits. The first fitting, which takes place in the client’s home or office or in Appelson’s office at 252 Nassau Street, involves detailed measurements and designing the suit from scratch, choosing the fabric, buttons, pocket style, lapel style, buttons on the sleeve, lining on the inside, and much more.

The fabrics come from Italy or England, with the garment sewed and tailored in Asia in the case of custom suits or in London for bespoke suits.  The second fitting takes place four or five weeks later, with final changes noted before the final fitting when the garment is delivered, with “complimentary alterations, for life, to ensure that you’re continually happy with your custom-made suit.”

Social distancing, sanitizing, and mask-wearing haven’t slowed down the business, Appelson reports, but he does express concern with the number of businesses meeting with their clients virtually, leaving employees with no reason to dress up. 

“The wedding industry is picking up, and the grooms are starting to focus more on what they wear and steering away from the typical rental options,” he said. “The corporate guys are still in their shorts and T-shirts, but the gentlemen who are interested in improving their wardrobe and style are definitely apparent.” Appelson has recently found success in targeting well-known athletes and other celebrities.

Looking forward to building his brand and eventually opening a showroom of his own, while still keeping the option of traveling to accommodate his clients, Appelson described his vision for the future of Jeffrey Scott. “I would love a small showroom with an experience around it, not like your typical shop where you shop and then you leave and that’s it,” he said.  “I want my clients to come there and hang out and have good conversation over some espresso or whiskey, and maybe get a hot shave while they’re there and maybe listen to live jazz music on a Thursday or Friday evening, more of a social club.”