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Georges de Paris on How the Presidents Measure up by Danny Harris

Georges de Paris

Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. You can read his previous columns here.

“I come from France. I’ve been a tailor since I was 14 years old. My family wanted me to be a lawyer, my father was a supreme court justice, but I wanted to be a tailor. My sister is a lawyer, though.

“I’ve been in DC for 50 years and opened this shop in 1982. A lady brought me here to DC. She was French-American, but it didn’t work out. After that, things were difficult. You know, I became homeless. I lived on the street at 14th and K St, NW, for a number of months. But things turned around.

“In my time here, I’ve seen a lot of people, a lot of personalities, come through this door: presidents, senators, some poor people and some rich people. First president I worked with was Lyndon Johnson. I was recommended to him when he was vice-president and I made some alterations for him. When he became president, I still did his suits. Presidents I go to see, but senators and Cabinet secretaries, they come to me. But the president, you have to go to the White House! Now, I do suits for President Obama and Vice President Biden. They’re all very nice people.

“The presidents all come to me because of my style, the presidential or ambassador style as I like to call it. The thing that is distinctive about my suits is the perfection. The details. Remember when people thought that President Bush was wearing a radio receiver  when he debated John Kerry? That was my suit the president was wearing! He was not wearing a receiver, but a bulletproof vest that no one told me about before when I was making alterations. Instead of telling people the truth, the secret service tried to blame me, the tailor. But, I tell you, my work is perfect.

“In my sixty years in the business, I don’t believe that a gentleman should change his style. He should change suits, but not the style. Some people ask me why I don’t update my style and be more for today? To them I say, look, you can wear whatever you want, you can wear blue jeans, but I prefer classic and conservative. I’ve always been like this. Even when I do my laundry, I wear slacks.

“To me, working with the presidents doesn’t feel like a big deal, but when I walk around people say, ‘Hey, that’s Georges de Paris, the tailor for the presidents!’ One time, I was trying to get a drink from a bartender and someone pointed me out as being the tailor to the president. The bartender looked at me and said, “Come on, man, go back to your country. You’re a liar.’ I said, ‘Ok, I’ll go back to my country, but let me get a drink first.'”

Read more about Georges de Paris in The New York Times and NPR.

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