The Art of Tailoring
by Kimberly Rene’ Vanecek
Stlyed by Brenda Eytcheson,
Kiwi Martinez & Gorje Hinojos
Photographed by Roger Spencer-Jones
A hipster sauntering down the street while his tighty whities peak out from the jeans that are falling off his derriere, a woman walks the other direction in a skirt so short you think it should have been a shirt, and men of all sizes waiting in line at the ballpark in skinny jeans and tight jackets bursting at the seams. The visuals themselves can make you shudder and question whether we have lost our sense of style or are we cowering to a new trend.
Traditional style stays close to home for one man who is tucked away in the back room of a Downtown clothing store. Crisp khaki pants held up by suspenders, pressed button-up shirt and a shine on his shoes with round spectacle glasses that barely rest on the edge of his nose–this is how I find 77-year-old Roman Torres–quietly huddled over his vintage sewing machine altering the sleeve of a sports coat.
Torres, originally from Parral, Chihuahua, has been altering clothes for 53 years and says, with a strong Spanish accent, that he sees styles come and go. He enjoys tailoring clothes that fit the human body. “They have wide pant legs, cuffs on the shirts, flannel material or a unique style, it doesn’t matter–I can alter it and make their clothes fit. It’s what I do best,” Torres says with a smile on his face.
Torres is the only tailor for The Bargain Shop on 204 E. San Antonio St. owned by Tony Dayoub and at their newest store, the Gentlemens Union on 2717 N. Stanton St. owned by son Michael Dayoub. Tony Dayoub claims Torres maintains a steady flow of clients and hasn’t missed a day of work. “He’s always waiting for me at the door in the morning with his bicycle. He’s there to open the store with me,” says Dayoub. “He’s been with me for over ten years and he is a very special man–he is like family.”
Torres takes his foot off the pedal of the sewing machine, leaving the needle in mid-air and repositioning the navy blue jacket he is working on and says he didn’t follow his own family members that were working the fields in Chihuahua. “I didn’t want to work the land–I wanted to sew. My grandfather was a Tailor. He was a very good tailor in Spain and that is what I wanted to do too.”
Torres found himself in El Paso in his early 20s where he learned to sew from a young Polish man named Yseof who moved here after his release from Auschwitz and says that all tailors are really the same. “We do the same work, there is no real difference in what we do but who we work for, our bosses make the difference.”
Torres places his foot back on the pedal, starting the purr of the sewing machine, readjusts the jacket and admits he stays true to the classics. “What’s this style nowadays–boys in these skinny jeans and tight jackets…what do you mean by this?” asks Torres.
Torres prefers classics but he is always open to a challenge. He is meticulous while he cuts and sews the cloth, adjusting the measurements of the garment to perfectly fit the client.
“Our experience with Roman has been one of the most professional and fulfilling business relationships. He was working across the street in a small tailor shop and as our workload got larger, he brought his equipment and began working out of the back of the Bargain Shop. He’s a very humble and hardworking man,” stated Michael Dayoub.
When asked if Torres would change anything about his career, he respectfully yet happily replies, “This is the best job for me, this is my profession and I am very happy.” There is one thing his children would like to change. “My kids tell me, ‘Hey Dad, come home you work too much–we want you home.’”
The father of five girls and one boy admits he doesn’t tailor any of his family’s clothing. “No, they don’t want me to do it. They don’t ask. One of my daughters does the alterations for her brother and sisters. I don’t know why they don’t ask me,” says Torres with a big laugh.
Don’t forget to check out The Tailor of El Paso a short film by Roger Spencer-Jones http://theartave.com/?p=4505