To be Waraire Boswell is to be misunderstood.
Boswell often hears himself described as a bespoke tailor, the 17th-century title for someone who makes clothes from scratch. It’s a compliment, but it’s not true. He’s known for his suits, but you won’t find him cutting and sewing.
Instead, he visits clients’ offices. He presents swatches, sketches and clippings. He talks colors, patterns and price; he measures, charms and suggests.
Four to six weeks later, Boswell returns. The shirts have darts in the back; the suits have inside pockets and cuff buttons that work.
And the fit? “I put on clothes in the morning that I almost feel I’ve designed myself,” says UTA agent Brett Hansen.
“The key,” Boswell says, “is knowing what someone should want.”
That knowledge is an element that can’t be quantified with pins and measuring tape, but it’s why Boswell is a favorite of both natty executives like UTA partner Peter Benedek and rapper-dandies like Andre 3000.
Sometimes Boswell’s knowledge translates as a nudge. Benedek loved pinstripes and Boswell suggested he lighten the look just a little. Benedek now owns a suit that contains hairsbreadth pinstripes in a vivid shade of electric blue.
“He got me into a patterned shirt last time,” Benedek says. “Waraire is incredibly persistent and charming.” Benedek can be, too; for his next suit, he’s already requested an inner pocket for his BlackBerry.
Other situations call for a full-fledged detour, as when Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller asked Boswell to make a “smooth criminal” suit, complete with balloon pleats.
“Would have been great in 1985, but not in 2005,” says Boswell.
Instead, Boswell guided the basketball player toward a linen-mohair three-piece and a shirt in blue windowpane poplin.
The 6’7″ Boswell is his own best advertisement. His black suit is made from wool gabardine. A pink checked shirt matches the silk pocket square; knotted cufflinks match the flowered tie.
Although Boswell makes his living knowing what other people want, what he wanted wasn’t always clear to him.
After graduating from Cal State Northridge with a degree in African history, he found himself in UTA’s mailroom, where he spent seven months getting yelled at for reading agents’ GQs. Finally, his sister urged him to do what would fulfill him: Design clothes.
Seven years later, his old job landed him one of his first industry clients with Hansen, who used to run Eddie Murphy lines with Boswell in the mailroom. At 6’9″, Hansen was a kindred spirit in more ways than one.
Hansen’s first request was a white cotton shirt for his wedding. He still wears it because Boswell’s shirt has the cut a tall person craves: higher collar stands, wider cuffs and tails cut long enough to ensure that once the shirt’s tucked, it stays that way.
Today, Hansen owns a dozen and a half of Boswell’s shirts, a corduroy jacket and four suits.
Like that first shirt, he doesn’t save them for special occasions.
“I just think agents should wear suits,” Hansen says. “I’m not my client’s buddy. I’m his representation.”
Dress shirts done right
“I feel momentum when I make a white shirt,” Boswell says. That’s just the kind of guy you want designing your button-downs.
Still, if you can’t swing custom, the next best thing is his ready-to-wear line of shirts, jackets and jeans, available at boutiques like Wolf, Lisa Klein and Fred Segal Street.
With prices ranging from $175 to $300, the clothes feature details such as exposed stitching and embroidered tailor markings like “Flip” on the cuff.
V Life Weekend put Boswell’s basic oxford next to Barneys’ button-down for a closer look at the details that make a shirt rise above the standard.
Collar stand: Boswell’s collars rise one inch higher than Barney’s, When not wearing a tie, a higher stand keeps the collar from sinking into the jacket.
Collar: “Contrasting patterns on the inside of your collar (and cuffs) is a personal joke between you and the designer,” says Boswell. To share the joke, go tieless.
Collar angle: Barney’s collars are separated by a 90-degree angle; Boswell’s open to about 110, which gives the tie knot space to show off.
Color: Professional doesn’t have to mean milquetoast. Boswell likes this pattern, but normally finds Barney’s color palette too stale.
Buttons: Buttons that have a contrasting color make a shirt pop. Boswell would have used Kelly green buttons to liven up Barney’s buttondown.
Darts (not shown in image above): A staple on women’s shirts, darts give shape to a man’s shirt, too. The shirt stays closer to the torso, so it doesn’t billow out the top of pants.
Bottom hem: Rounded edges make a shirt look like it belongs tucked in. A blunt edge can be worn casually with jeans or professionally with trousers.