The clothes may make the man, but what about the man behind the clothes? Martin Greenfield, the Brooklyn, New York-based tailor to the rich and famous, has been altering suits for decades, and has a host of celebrity clients from the music, sports and political arenas. But life has not always been easy for Mr Greenfield, who had his world turned upside down when he was sent to the Auschwitz prison camp by the Nazis during the Holocaust in 1943.
In fact, the first shirt he ever touched with a needle and thread belonged to an SS guard who had given it to him to wash. Mr Greenfield, 84, told the Washington Post: ‘I didn’t know how to wash shirts – we had a maid. And I ripped his collar… First, he whipped me, then he gave me the shirt.’ Honing his sewing skills and fixing the attire to fit him properly, Mr Greenfield used the shirt as a status symbol, wearing it in place of his prison garb.
He had been moved to the Buchenwald camp before he was freed by Allied forces. When freed, he was alongside another young prisoner, writer Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.
Mr Greenfield was 19 years old when he arrived in the U.S. in 1947. Today, he is showing few signs that he is ready to retire.
Mr Greenfield’s prowess as a tailor has been sought out by some of America’s biggest names, including Paul Newman and Michael Jackson. But perhaps no name is bigger than the president of the United States.
As a young tailor in the 50s, his bosses gave him the privilege to measure Dwight D. Eisenhower, the same man who shook his hand as a general outside the liberated Buchenwald camp years earlier.
Eisenhower may have been Mr Greenfield’s first president, but he wouldn’t be the last, as Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton also bought suits from him, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He had an appointment with President George W. Bush at the White House on September 11, 2001 – a meeting that had to be rescheduled after the terror attacks.
President Obama is likely among Mr Greenfield’s clientele as well, but the humble tailor will not say so, citing a personal policy not to speak about a client unless that client has first spoken of him. Such clients include other key political figures as Gen Colin Powell, Sen Bob Dole and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.