The Measure of a Man by J.J. Lee

The Measure of a Man

Taking as its starting point a son's decision to alter his late father's last remaining suit for himself, this is a deeply moving and brilliantly crafted story of fathers and sons, of fitting in and standing out -- and discovering what it means to be your own man.For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy suit that hung at the back of his closet -- his late father's last suit. When he decides to finally make the suit...

Details The Measure of a Man

TitleThe Measure of a Man
Release DateSep 27th, 2011
PublisherMcClelland & Stewart
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography, Cultural, Canada

Reviews The Measure of a Man

  • Magdelanye
    After years of hanging in the back of his closet, JJ Lee's fathers suit became part of a larger project. While carefully unpicking the jackets' stitches to tailor it to fit himself, he began to unravel the tangled history he shared with his glamorous, dangerous parent. Along the way he gives us history lessons from a less lofty perspective than an academic, but one somehow more reflective of of the reality that prevailed as fashion changed to acc...
  • Lydia
    This book surprised me. I didn't expect to like it. I picked it up because I gravitate towards immigrant stories, being an immigrant myself. There's something about the dual-identities that draw me in, and then a deeper realisation, that immigrants are not Chinese and Canadian, or, in my case, Australian Canadian, but Chinese Canadian, as its own separate entity that I adore and come to terms with on a daily basis.And then I started reading it, a...
  • Alexis
    Absolutely loved this book. The author decides to alter his father's suit and this brings him to an exploration of his relationship with his father, a troubled and violent alcoholic. Interspersed with this is an exploration of the social history of the suit and menswear, and the author's apprenticeship with old school tailors. I was amazed by the sheer amount of information in this book, and by how much I learned from reading it. The author is a ...
  • Mj
    The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit is the first full-length book written by J.J. Lee (the son in the story.) Nominated for a number of non-fiction literary awards, I was expecting to enjoy a well-written book in one of my favourite genres - memoirs of a personal nature.It turns out I should have taken the “complete” book title literally. It is not just about a Father and a Son; it is about a Suit as well. I was ant...
  • Patricia
    If you have a less than perfect relationship with your dad - and I don't know many who haven't - then this book is for you. Plus you get to learn a lot about sartorial history and men's fashion, like - something that's oft repeated throughout the book - never button the last button on your suit jacket. I do have to admit though, that the fashion history elements were a little head-spinning for me, even with the hand-drawn illustrations. I also ha...
  • Phoenix
    3.5 stars in truth, for me. This book was a fascinating mix of memoir and fashion history. I'm not entirely sure it pulled together as strongly as I was hoping, but the author's writing was very precise and sincere. This one is worth your time, especially if you're mens fashion enthusiast. Part of me wants to say that it was the author's intention to have the seemingly disparate elements of his story remain somewhat separate even when it reaches ...
  • Rick
    JJ Lee writes an autobiographical book about his relationship with his father. He frames the story around a suit of his father's which he decides he is going to modify. I like the parts of the book that tell the story about his relationship with his father. It is a real life account of the conflict between the love and hate that people experience when in a dysfunctional relationship with a family member. Lee does a masterful job of expressing the...
  • Lorraine
    The subtitle describes the book perfectly. As Lee works at remaking his only legacy from his father, a suit, he unravels his past. He comes to understand his father's demons in some aspects and also comes to understand himself. Lee takes the book to another level by including fascinating info about the origins of men's suits and their stylistic components. He ranges from medieval knights to the French Revolution, Beau Brummell to the Duke of Wind...
  • Joanne-in-Canada
    I'm tempted to say that you don't need to have sewing experience to enjoy this book, but realistically an interest in sewing, fashion or fabric will keep you more engaged. For sure, you'll never look at a suit the same way after reading this book!Nice blend of three stories: the relationship between Lee and his father, Lee's time "apprenticing" for a tailor, and the history of suits and men's fashion. I make my usual complaint of some unnecessary...
  • Linda
    For me, the best memoirs combine several storylines - several threads, if you will - into one cohesive story. This is the style of book I would like to one day write: a memoir, an unrelated topic that is nevertheless dear to me, smatterings of history, and a few unexpected asides, just to mix things up, all pulled together into one great story. JJ Lee's memories of parts of Canada brought me home again, and then, while I was there, he taught me p...
  • Srividya Rao
    This book is on the CBC Canada Reads 2018 long list and this is why I love Canada Reads. This is a book I would never have picked up on my own - I am not a fan of memoirs and have no interest in men's fashion. But I could not put this book down. I learnt a lot about a suit jacket and it's history. But it is the personal story which is compelling. It is a wonderful exploration of the complicated relationship of fathers and sons. I don't know how i...
  • Snorki
    Really enjoyed this examination of the relationship between a (now dead) father and his son through the lens of a suit that belonged to the father but was being altered by the son. The story weaves between the father-son relationship (which was difficult most of the time) and the examination of the structure of the suit and the son’s learning about tailoring. I understand that some reviewers felt that there was more suit history and sewing info...
  • Dvora
    This "story of a father, a son, and a suit" is that and more. It's also about men's clothing in general and suits in particular -- how they are made and how they are (or should be) worn, that is to say, a satorial and cultural history of men's suits. All of this is well sewn together with invisible stiches. It may seem trite, but it's a book of many layers.
  • Judith
    Quite a touching story about a father, his son and the memories the son relives while altering his father's suit. Definitely a worthy read.
  • Jack Beaton
    I'll never look at a suit the same way again. Really thoughtful.
  • Sharon
    Funny, thoughtful, and moving, with tons of fascinating factoids about men's fashion, history, and culture.
  • Mark Coté
    While it seems to have become de rigueur to thrash one’s father in memoirs lately, I still search for ones in which there is some recognition that all our ills cannot be laid at their feet – that we are independent but also the product of all our forebears, plus environment. Unfortunately, JJ Lee does not waver far from that tired script in this sometimes-tedious tapestry of fashion, father, and failure.Lee starts off promisingly enough with ...
  • Bibi
    I picked up this book from the counter with book suggestions for Father's Day. Right from the beginning, the reader is made aware that the author's father has died; the trajectory of the narration is not in strict chronological manner. In fact, there are significant chunks of text which refers to the origins of menswear and the evolution of style and onward to the social mores of what in today's term is the business suit. At times, I wondered if ...
  • Ian
    This is a phenomenal book which spans the topics of sociology, personal attire and its historical evolution, and personal development in relationships with the self and others. Reading this will teach you about tailoring, political and class history, art and the artist, and about men as fathers and men as sons. Read this for pleasure, give a copy to a new father, or your own father, or your grandfather; women in the same stages of their lives wil...
  • Erica
    The Measure of a Man is as beautifully crafted as the handmade suits that J.J. Lee describes making in a tailor's shop in Vancouver. After his father's death, J.J. begins to deconstruct one of his suits, hoping that by transforming the suit to fit himself he might also find a better understanding of his father. As he works, the suit brings out past memories of J.J.'s troubled childhood relationship with his father. In the present, J.J. begins a l...
  • George Ilsley
    Took me a long time to get through this. There were a couple of reasons for that. For one the narrative is not pull-you-along; it's more meandering. The balance between discourses on the history of fashion and the family story was not always achieved. At points we would get back to the family story, and I was Oh right! The family! Um, what was happening with them when they were last seen?At times, the lectures on fashion history was longer than m...
  • Tinika
    JJ Lee’s book, The Measure of a Man, is not particularly long but it is packed with many different story lines. As he makes alterations to his father’s last surviving suit, the author tries to come to terms with his relationship to his alcoholic father. The discussion of lapels, button holes and seams leads to an examination of the course of their lives together. Heart-breaking and honest. Interwoven through this is an upbeat, entertaining hi...
  • Myrtle Siebert
    I had read good newspaper reviews of this book when it was first released. Then I had the opportunity to meet the author and hear his presentation at the Surrey Writer's Conference in October, 2011.What really drew me in was my own life experience with sewing, first at school and then at university where I learned pattern creation, tailoring and fashion design. I've created my own garments from 'scratch,' including ball gowns, my wedding dress, s...
  • Wendy
    I think this book deserved all the buzz and every nomination and prize it received. Brave and witty, honest and revelatory, it's a fascinating blend of personal memoir, third-person biography, and fashion history. Starting with the author's decision to retailor his father's last suit - a thing of frankly inferior style, fabric, and construction - to fit himself, the book takes the reader from Montreal's restaurant kitchens to the author's family'...
  • Marlene
    I really enjoyed this book. Packed into few pages are stories about a father/son relationship, about living in Montreal and Vancouver, and about being Chinese, and threaded (pardon the pun) through it all is a history of the male fashion, the suit. For me, all themes were interesting, but particularly the latter. In my current sociology class we have considered how fashion and style establish identity. Clearly such is the case with a man's suit, ...
  • Simon Böhm
    An interesting, yet somewhat uncoordinated approach of telling a father's life through fashion and suits. Good language but all over the place.
  • Kate
    I loved this book. I was equally drawn to the father-son story and the sartorial tips for men.JJ Lee’s search for a father through a craft could also have been called “The Measure of Compassion.” Coping with the loss of a parent while they are still very much alive is a trial I wouldn’t wish on anyone at any age, but Mr. Lee provides a strong roadmap for finding worth in himself and his father despite a difficult life together. This is th...
  • Gloria
    It is amazing that this book, so average looking in size, can encompass to much. The relationship of a son to his father, the evolution of men's fashion, the coming of age of the author, and the art of tailoring are all presented in this mashup in a most engaging way. I have listened to JJ Lee on CBC Radio and thoroughly enjoyed his take on the fashion world and was primed to like his book. I loved it. The flow carried me along through the differ...
  • Lois
    This is the type of book that evokes feelings. An excellent example of melding together fact-finding and historical investigation with personal memoir. JJ Lee really cares and wants to know more about his two main subjects in this book - suits and his father. And learning about suits is important enough to him that he takes on an unpaid apprenticeship. JJ Lee's story of how he loved his terribly flawed father, how he suffered as a child and teena...
  • Diane
    Great title for this autobiography by Chinese-Canadian journalist JJ Lee. Lee writes a fashion column for a Canadian daily and what he doesn't know about men's suits isn't worth knowing. He learned how to tailor to alter his deceased father's suit for himself. The metaphor of coming to grips with his life in a dysfunctional family and an alcoholic abusive father and remaking the suit wears a bit thin at times and the adjective "sartorial" is a ta...