They say the clothes make the man.
Whether or not that’s true, my favorite version of this maxim is Mark Twain’s: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” But don’t worry, this is not a post about nakedness. Nor about influence.
It’s about the suit.
There are a very few visual indicators that say “Santa”. The most prominent may be the beard. But in today’s laissez-the facial hair-faire world, that may no longer be the case. Now, if you want to see Santa, you gotta look for the red suit.
I bought my first Santa Suit almost two decades ago. At that time, my wife and I were the leaders of the activities committee at our church. One of the most important responsibilities of the Activities Committee Chairpersons was to select the perfect Santa for the Christmas Party. We soon found out that there were plenty of jolly fat men around, but none of them had the proper threads to qualify for the role. And it just so happened that my wife found a very nice Santa Suit at the Restoration Hardware Outlet Store for an incredible price. I was impressed that she was forward-thinking enough to pick it up so that we could cheaply dress whatever unlucky volunteer was roped into service for the gig every year. I was naive not to realize that she saw me as that unlucky volunteer.
So for years, I would break out the red suit every Christmas. And I started to love it… What began as donning it for an appearance at a party once a year, turned into fun little visits to work, to friends’ homes, and even to neighboring churches. And it was often borrowed by others to share the merriment.
One thing I remember about opening the box each year was that the smell of the previous year still lingered, and it wasn’t always pleasant. One year the beard and hair was packed away while still soaked in sweat. Another time I found extra clothing from one of the Santas–suffice it to say that I’m not sure how comfortable he was driving home without the article of clothing he had left behind!
And then there was the time that I ran the suit over with my car.
But every year, despite the smells, the additions, and the tire marks, the suit faithfully served its purpose in bringing joy to good little girls and boys!
When I decided to go pro, I intended to use the suit again. And I did. And it was great. Like I said, it was a very nice suit. And I spent a little money on new boots and a nice, thick, leather belt.
And then a dear friend asked me if I would like her late uncle’s old suit. It was in every way as beautiful and nice as my suit, and it was special. I was honored to wear it, and I did often. In fact, I switched suits back and forth to minimize wear and tear, as well as to keep them fresh.
Both of these suits followed the Coca-Cola Santa Suit pattern.
But I knew after a while that my first major investment (after the virtual setup) would be a really nice, custom-built suit that would be appropriate for special events and the like. So, on January 2021 I contacted a well-recommended Santa Suit Assembler named Heather Gabriel: The Singing Seamstress. She was booked through May. So I got in line.
When my turn came, the excitement was palpable. I was exactly like a kid at Christmas. We spoke and passed photos back and forth. We figured out what style robe, what shirt, what tunic, pants, boot toppers I wanted. We bantered about pockets, We had measurements taken, and we discussed all the different pieces–fur types, fabrics, buttons, lengths and widths of all the accessories and accoutrements. And I couldn’t wait.
Heather messaged me the day she started cutting the fabric. She sent me photos of some of the raw materials. She included me on all the decisions, kept me abreast of all the roadblocks, and excitedly communicated all the surprises, down to finding an extra set of buttons that would hold my suspenders. Periodically I would get progress photos and updates. And then, eventually, the final message, “All done!”
When it came in the mail I was like a kid in a candy (cane) store. Giddiness riddled my initial experience of trying it all on. It looked beautiful, it felt luxurious, it smelled like happiness, and it tasted—well, yes, I did taste it, but only because it presented so scrumptiously—and the taste wasn’t terrible. And it has since transformed my portrayal.
For as I don this new suit, I feel an extra weight on my shoulders. Yes, the new cape is heavy, but it’s more than that. Any time I’m in red, I feel the burden of being Santa: jolly, true, droll, industrious…
but in this suit, I feel a sobriety or a gravitas—a reverence almost…
… and it’s a big suit to fill.