Note - this article was published in November 2011. The Measure of a Man: The Story of A Father, A Son and A Suit had only recently been released. Widely praised, the book was nominated for several awards. Since that time J.J. Lee has added the title of playwright to his resume. I looked high and low for some images from his childhood or from his time as a journalist/commentator at CBC, but so far no luck. In checking online sources, The Measure of a Man can be ordered from Chapters Indigo and Amazon. I would also check with your local bookstore.
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|Image by Peter Jensen Photography|
Although Lee was a typical teenager dressed in rugby pants and polo shirts, there was another side that loved to indulge in “...explosive moments of fashion. I had really interesting clothing from early on, but would get into it and out of it.” Wide pants legs were tapered and a pair of his sister's green jodhpurs appropriated. One Halloween he and his friends dressed as Miami Mice in white blazers, pastel shirts and mouse ears. He would peruse his sister's issues of ELLE magazine, especially those featuring Elle Macpherson, and even tailored his own grad suit.
|Bill and Jack Wong of Modernize Tailors|
This image from the site of
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward Photographer
Lee quickly discovered he felt at home in the shop and soon developed a strong relationship with one of the owners, Bill Wong. He became a loyal customer and enjoyed hanging around, socializing and occasionally helping out. “If you spend any time there, you realize how beautiful the feel of the shop is and how wonderful all the fabrics are. I felt really at home with Bill, the rhythm of the shop and the kind of life it had. I thought why can't this be me? Why can't clothing be my architecture?” After five years he was offered an apprenticeship, but it soon became obvious tailoring would not to be his future. It ended amicably and to this day he still pops in to soak in the atmosphere and have lunch with Bill.
Lee's stylish way of dressing, good journalistic skills and the time spent at Modernize Tailors took his journalism in a new direction. Already writing a style column for the Georgia Straight, the CBC offered him the position of fashion commentator. In a live studio format, he provides a survival guide for men and women. “I'm not really about what happens in Milan because there are lots of places you can find that. What I provide is a post-game analysis. How do you survive a hot trend in the context of the West Coast lifestyle? The experience of clothing is a desperate struggle to present yourself to the world. You're saying who am I today, how am I going to come across, what stand am I going to take and how do I manifest myself?”
|Photograph by Handouts|
The Measure of a Man: The Story of aFather, A Son and A Suit hit bookshelves in September 2011.
|Love this image from his website of his writing space.|
For the future, Lee looks forward to again immersing himself in writing, but that will need to wait until the media frenzy for his current memoir has settled down. For more information on J.J. Lee or The Measure of a Man, please visit his website at www.jj-lee.com.