There I was, on the second day of my trip, plodding along Magazine street in knee-high brown rain boots, a sweater, a seersucker jacket, a scarf, and clutching (as elegantly as possible) a golf-sized, fancy, drug store umbrella.
Of course there wasn’t any rain.
The locals told me storm warnings were frequent and nothing to worry about in New Orleans, apparently they noticed my uneasy, upward glances. The pale grey sheet of weather that blanketed the city since I’d arrived had been pulled taut and stifling. The humidity was getting to me and I was running out of time.
But before I left, there was one man I had to find, Mr. George Bass.
Routinely named one of the best men’s stores in America, George Bass was the only “can’t miss” menswear shop in the French Quarter, and quite frankly, all of New Orleans.
Nestled in an unassuming gallery of stores on St. Charles Avenue sits George Bass. It’s just south of the more generic menswear shops on Canal Street, where George will kindly send you if you ask for a black suit or something of low quality. Since 1985 he’s been selling only the best.
I walked over to the 30 year old legendary haberdashery determined to find the best menswear in New Orleans, what I got was a full education. As soon as I arrived I was greeted by a friendly staff and after a brief survey of the store they ushered me in to see George. He’s a tall Southern gentleman, you can tell he’s tall even when he sits. He wore a navy sport coat, a beautiful woven silk brown and blue tie, a gingham shirt, an inch of a blue tipped white linen pocket square, brown suede shoes, serious socks, and the rumpled khaki trousers of a man who works.
After a hearty handshake:
Me: “I heard you were the man to speak to about menswear in New Orleans”
GB: “Well what do you want to know?” He said excitedly in his distinctive southern drawl.
Me: “Tell me about George Bass”
GB: “Here. Read this, and tell me when you’re done.” he said briskly as grabbed the latest edition of his own magazine and pointed me toward the ‘Our Point of View’ section.
After I’d finished we discussed his point of view for over an hour as we toured his store. He spoke with the excitement of someone who you knew was meant to do exactly what they were doing.
He described the George Bass style, it comes from a modified classic ‘Ivy Look’. The extremely important traditional elements are the soft shoulder, vibrant colors, and casual formality, but his take has “much more waist suppression than you’d find at Brooks Brothers” he said assuredly. He hated his parochial school uniform so much as a boy that he spoke out through his clothing; George has been the voice of classically elegant modern menswear in New Orleans ever since.
“No trends, no luxury, I only sell quality” he professed, and it doesn’t matter where the quality comes from. During the three decades George Bass has been in business, many of the original Ivy league suppliers either closed or were bought out. Years ago on a buying trip he traveled to Naples and realized what they were doing for the warm climate of Southern Italy he was selling for the warm climate in the Southern United States. Even the vivid colors felt right, problem solved. Bass began importing some of the finest Neapolitan tailoring in the world before most people in the U.S. could pronounce them. Incotex, Isaia, Kiton, Loro Piana, Luciano Barbera, and Rubinacci are just a few of the exclusive Italian labels he stocks. There is also an impressive collection of other artisans, Hamilton Shirts, Alden (and their European collection which he may be the only person in America to import), Samuelsohn, Filson, and Edward Green just to name a few.
By the end of my tour I was convinced George Bass had probably forgotten more about men’s clothing than most people would ever know. His shop can only really be described as menswear treasure.
Take a look at the first installment of New Orleans, in 72 Hours here!