If you've gone from scrubbing the guards' uniforms at Auschwitz to making suits for the President of the United States of America, nobody would argue with the fact that you win at life. That's exactly the arc of the Martin Greenfield's biography. The New York-based tailor has had a hell of a ride since spending primary school years in the Czech Republic and high school years in concentration camps. Now, Greenfield makes suits for everyone from famous athletes to U.S. Presidents.
The Washington Post just published a creatively written profile of Greenfield and his factory of fine menswear. The long list of powerful Americans for whom Greenfield has made suits is impressive enough, but the path that the immigrant took from stepping off a boat in New York City to selling suits to the president is the most fascinating part. It really starts when Greenfield was in the concentration camps. Greenfield survived both Auschwitz, where he washed the guards' clothes, and Buchenwald, where he met General Dwight D. Eisenhower. "One boy, two years younger than Greenfield, watched alongside him and seemed 'the skinniest kid that ever survived," he recalled; he was Elie Wiesel," writes Ned Martel from The Post. "When Eisenhower walked toward them, 'he looked like he was 10 feet tall,' Greenfield recalled. The freed prisoner shook the general's hand."
In less than ten years, Greenfield went from standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Elie Wiesel and shaking Eisenhower's hand, to working at one of New York's premier tailors and sewing and actually making Eisenhower's suits. Quite boldly, Greenfield used to sew notes into the pockets of Eisenhower's suits when he was president, including on one occasion when Greenfield told Eisenhower to "send dollars" to help out in the 1956 conflict over the Suez Canal. Nearly half a century later, Greenfield was making suits for everyone from Bill Clinton to Michael Jackson. Colin Powell called him one of his "mentors." Greenfield even had an appointment with President George W. Bush on September 11 -- it was rescheduled.
What everybody wants to know now is who Greenfield's making suits for these days. Last year, his name started showing up on the White House guest register, though neither Greenfield nor Obama will confirm that he's making the president's clothes. If not, the president might want to give the idea some thought. Suit fittings can be boring. Martin Greenfield is not a boring man.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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