“It’s a mindset and it’s a feeling like you’re totally comfortable standing out and totally comfortable being different from everybody else. Not in an arrogant way, but you’re kind of proud of yourself. “
I’m chatting with Jeff Alpaugh via video chat from his hotel room in Vietnam. Wearing an intense patterned black and yellow sleeveless dress shirt, he explains what it means to be dangerous. Not the sinister, or Evel Knievel dangerous, but a much more stylish dangerous.
“The whole point is that it’s all about a mindset. If you ever get a dangerous dress shirt, it will blow your mind,” Alpaugh says, “I have people who come over to our house, they try on their shirt for the first time and they’ve never worn something like this before. They’ll look in the mirror and be like ‘I’ve never felt like this putting on a shirt before.'”
Alpaugh is the founder and owner of Jeff Alpaugh Custom, maker of the “the world’s most dangerous dress shirts.” The business offers custom dress shirts made from patterns and fabrics you won’t find at your local Moore’s. The shirts are bold, not tacky Hawaiian shirt bold, but there is no doubt you need to have a certain degree of confidence and swag to properly execute.
The idea for the company came after a prior trip he and his partner Emily Boychuk took to Vietnam, a country known for its custom clothing industry.
“So we’re in Vietnam and I was going to get some custom stuff made and we’re at this bus stop and it was complete chaos, which most things are there. There was this guy and he was wearing this shirt and I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the original ‘dangerous dress shirt,'” Alpaugh says.
“There must have been 200 people there, but it would be impossible not to notice him. He just has so much more swag than everybody else.”
So they decided to talk to him.
“I said ‘dude, this is the most dangerous shirt I have ever seen my life. Where did you get that?'”
The man told him that he got it at this specific shop in Hội An, a town which specializes in garment production. Alpaugh went there and picked up some shirts and a three-piece light blue suit, which has shorts instead of pants.
“It’s crazy, nobody in Fredericton is ready for it,” he says of the suit. “It’s nuts.”
Alpaugh says he noticed the wide variety and textures and fabrics that were available there that weren’t offered anywhere else. After he came home and got an abundance of compliments on his dress shirts, he realized there was some potential to bring that same custom experience to the North America.
“I just called [the manufacturer] up and said ‘hey, look you guys have an amazing product, you’re quality and construction is incredible, plus you have designs and fabrics nobody else has ever seen before. . . you shouldn’t limit yourself to tourists who come to Vietnam. There should be a global brand.”
They agreed to partner with him and that’s how Jeff Alpaugh Custom was created. The company officially launched in February. Alpaugh says he’s now working with his brother James, who now lives in Vietnam and works as a liaison between him and the suppliers. The company offers a wild variety of options for men, women and babies. Customers can submit their measurements online, or they can go to Alpaugh’s home in Fredericton to be measured by him. Orders are then sent to the manufacturer, with Alpaugh’s brother ensuring everything is done correctly.
Alpaugh is a military man who settled in Fredericton after being stationed there a few years back. Prior to that he says he worked in men’s clothing stores such as Moore’s and Harry Rosen’s. He says what makes Jeff Alpaugh Custom unique is that it pushes beyond the traditional standards and trends of men’s wear (though, they do offer tamer options as well).
“I think a bit of it is all the other shops, they’re like ‘people are buying white shirts, they’re buying check pattern shirts, they’re buying stripped shirts, so that’s what we’ll make,’ Alpaugh says.
“I’m like ‘Ok, I see what you want and what you’re doing, but I can take you to a whole new level.”
Jeff Alpaugh Custom obviously isn’t the only company to offer custom clothing on the internet . But Alpaugh says a lot of what other custom clothing companies offer isn’t really custom, but more “made-to-measure.”
“The difference with made-to-measure is they take your neck and your sleeve length and they have a standard stock body,” he says. “But I take 19 measurements for a guy, 23 for a woman just for a shirt.
Also, having his brother on the other side making sure orders are being handled correctly also gives the company an edge.
“If I just sent [the measurements] to some guy across the world on an email, it would not really be custom. The fact that my brother is there insuring it is the difference,” Alpaugh says. “There are others doing the online custom thing, but you’ll notice that they don’t have anyone on the other side.”
Alpaugh’s customers rage from army men, entrepreneurs, business people, or just anyone who has a fancy event to go to. Most of his customers have been in Canada, but has shipped orders to Poland, U.S., Pakistan, Germany, Australia and several African countries. In the future, Alpaugh says they plan to expand into suits, blazers, and dresses and hopefully hire some staff.
“That will allow me to go sell more, but also to train others to do the selling,” he says.
The company also plans to experiment with 3D body scanners, which are currently being used in Vietnam. It’s a device were you literally walk in, it scans you, then produces a computer rendering of your body and measurements from which a styrofoam replica can be created.
“Which is really cool for when they do suits. That way, instead of taking 19 measurements, it’s a scanner that’s very fast and then they make this right on the spot. They can put a shirt on you to see if it fits or doesn’t fit,” Alpaugh says.
“That’s something we’re probably introducing in the New Year, because one of our suppliers is actually going to give us one. So we’ll actually be able to set that up right at out home in our spare room. ”
Though he strives to be different from the big-box tailors, there’s one thing about working for them back in the day Alpaugh wants to continue: The desire to provide great customer service.
“My favourite part of working in those places was people would come in and they would be scared . . . people were very intimidated by dress clothes because they haven’t done [a fitting] before. You would bring them in, shake their hand, talk to them a bit . . . and by the end of it, people would be so pumped and have such a good time,” he says.
“It was a very rewarding experience to help people with this area of their life. So I thought when I get out of the military I’m going to have a company where I have that same kind of feeling where people are very positive and grateful with the assistance and the help and the information they got.”