“Clothing makes the man,” or so the old saying goes, even if that man stands 7-foot-2 with a 29-inch waist and sports thighs as large and thick as blocks of steel.
The name of Clarence Jones, the nattily-attired proprietor of CJ Custom Clothiers, is known worldwide, from the salons and fashion houses of Italy and wool mills of England to fine clothiers in his native Chicago.
But it’s the NBA and NFL stars that wear his hand-tailored custom suits who have brought this Hernando resident the most attention.
Jones was recently featured in Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report among other publications.
While not many men can sew or even know how to thread a needle, much less sport a sense of fashion, this father of two grown sons learned at an early age that a well-fitted suit and a winning smile can open doors in America’s corporate boardrooms and NFL offices alike.
“I’ve always been into fashion,” said Jones, who credits his parents for having a special style and certain savoir faire.
His late parents used to take him to Marshall Fields in Chicago and Saks 5th Avenue.
“As time went on, I was known as one of the better-dressed guys when I was in college,” Jones said.
When he spotted a custom monogrammed shirt worn by the president of Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis, he asked where the college president had gotten it.
“The President sent me to Nico Perkins,” Jones said of a master tailor who would later apprentice young Jones. Perkins crafted some shirts for Jones, who began to take interest in the tailor trade.
An acquaintance contacted Tim Hardaway, who was an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons.
Jones said he handcrafted some shirts for Hardaway for free and the word began to spread that Jones had an eclectic, cool style that many NBA players sought.
“A lot of people wanted me to get into making custom suits,” Jones said.
Soon, Jones began crafting and tailoring clothes for comedian and television host Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, and D.L. Hughley among others.
NFL star Walt Harris, the number 13 draft pick to the Chicago Bears from Mississippi State, soon began wearing his clothes and singing his praises.
Jones also credits Alan Flusser of New York, who tailored suits for Wall Street financiers and stock traders as a major influence.
“Fashion was at an all-time high in the 20s and then it began to fade out in the 60s and came back in the 70s,” Jones said. “A lot of the gangsters, if you recall, dressed really well.”
While Jones might not have outfitted the likes of Al Capone and John Gotti, his clients include high-powered athletes pulling down six and seven-figure salaries.
Jarran Reed, the defensive tackle who was drafted out of the University of Alabama to the Seattle Seahawks, was named as the NFL’s “Best Dressed” this year.
Other clients include Randy Gregory with the Dallas Cowboys and P.J. Hairston with the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I don’t care if you are a banker or a bookkeeper, everybody wants fashion,” Jones said. “I have doctors, lawyers and everyday business people as clients. My athletes are great guys but it’s a lot of the business types that keep me in business.”
Jones said he can make a suit as affordable as $850 but most of his custom suits retail for $1,200 or more.
Fine fabrics such as light-weight wool, preferably from London and other suppliers, are his stock and trade.
“I buy fabric from London, England and Italy,” Jones said.
Beyond the cost of doing business, it’s the relationships that matter, according to Jones.
“I do business in 27 states,” Jones said. “I had a client in Spain and I would fly there to fit him.”
Jones, who has been living in Hernando, the DeSoto County seat, for the past 10 years, said the small-town atmosphere helps him to decompress and enjoy life.
“I looked all over the place,” Jones said. “When we stopped here, we looked for homes and found one that we really liked. This is home base now.”
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.