In the era when a man was expected to wear a suit practically every day, men’s clothing stores played an indispensable role in the life of a community. Even the smallest town in the US had at least one men’s specialty shop and in New York City, there were hundreds, mostly independently owned and operated.
And, within these shops there were several specialty positions, from presser to bushelman, needed to service their suit-wearing clients. One of the most skillful roles was that of mannequin rigger. The rigger’s job had less to do with creating inventive window displays (what we know today as a "window trimmer") as it was to make the garments look their best. And, in that era, looking their best meant garments that sat immaculately without creases or puckering on the mannequins.
Using padding, nails, cardboard and specialized prosthesis’s for the cuffs and sleeves, the rigger created an aspirational fantasy of how a man would want to look in a suit or sport coat. He knew he did his job well when a client said while pointing at a mannequin, “I want to look like that guy!”
Some riggers were freelance, going from shop to shop, while the major men’s stores like an F.R. Tripler in New York would have 2 or 3 on staff. The craft of rigging fell out a favor when clothing styles became more casual and stores wanted to appeal to younger clients with more informal, less precise garment displays.
Saint Laurie Merchant Tailors in New York City is fortunate to have the services of one of the last formally trained riggers—Adrian Whittaker, who was born in Liverpool, England 44 years ago. Trained in Dublin by the "old guard" of Irish riggers, Adrian immigrated to America 24 years ago.
Arriving in New York City, Adrian continued to practice the art of rigging at menswear trade shows and men’s specialty shops. Then in the late 90’s the “casual Friday” revolution led to less and less demand for his services. Yet Adrian stayed true to his training and continued to service the few remaining shops who appreciate fine traditional rigging.
If you would like to appreciate Adrian’s craftsmanship, please visit the Saint Laurie showroom at 22 west 32nd Street in New York City. Without Adrian’s work, our clients would have difficulty visualizing fabrics and custom suit designs. And, they'd have nothing to aspire to!
That's the Saint Laurie Way.