Perfect gent well suited to role
Wives still have the final say, Tom Monaghan tells Joanna Kiernan while reflecting on 50 years of gents' retailing
'I'm a suit man, strictly speaking, but I love the casuals at the weekend," says Tom Monaghan, who has been a gents' retailer since 1960.
He is the type of older gentleman who commands attention. His knowing grin and no-nonsense attitude make him incredibly likeable. He is convinced that while many traditions have been abandoned, some old values still hold true.
"I think 90 per cent of our customers are led by their wives. We always say to the chap, 'Well, your wife has to look at it, so, you have to satisfy your wife!' and a happy wife is a happy life," he giggles. "My wife often said to me, really and truly you would never think you were a gents' outfitter. You'd want to pick up on your shoes and have your shoes polished!' Accessories are very important to them," Mr Monaghan says of modern Irish men.
"The shirts and the ties are very important and I think young men really put a lot of effort into dressing. They like fashion, more so than in my time. When I set up business first we just had a blue, a cream and a white shirt. Now they want sky blue and pink with spots."
The dapper eightysomething-year-old is the type of good old-fashioned retailer who exudes quality and an innate knowledge of his trade.
"There is nothing as nice as an elegant suit," he explains. "I don't like men appearing on television and elsewhere in open-neck shirts, because, like myself, there comes a certain age when you can't wear open-neck shirts. The shoes are very important too. If you have a nice suit and a casual pair of shoes it's no use. I was at a restaurant last week," he adds with exasperation, "and I think I was the only guy there wearing a tie. I have to make sure that I have a tie and be properly dressed. I think that's very proper."
The bulk of those who shop in Monaghans Cashmere at 6 Royal Hibernian Way, Dublin, are cashmere customers. He also sells suits and casual wear. Having started his business over 50 years ago, Mr Monaghan has experienced recession before, but this time, he believes, is different.
"This one is certainly the worst," he says, "In the Seventies and the Eighties, I didn't notice it in the retail business. Business was still booming. The local trade manufacturers, they were hit, but not me. This one is a different recession, because everybody has borrowed up to their necks. But they will come out of it. Money is not the be all and end all of everything."
Mr Monaghan is optimistic about seeing off the recession.
"People have to dance according to the music," he explains. "They have to buy what they can afford. But we like to stay with quality and hopefully we'll survive this. The competition is fierce. In the Sixties there were very few men's shops except Brown Thomas and Switzers, and a few small independent ones."
Mr Monaghan tells me that he does not sell on price, but rather "quality and service".
It helps that cashmere is not just Mr Monaghan's livelihood, it is also his favourite fabric. "It takes five goats to make a cashmere sweater and it is a luxury item. It is warm and pleasant to wear and will last for years if taken care of."
As a keen golfer and horse-racing enthusiast, Tom Monaghan has plenty of opportunities to showcase his style.
"People say to me, 'why are you doing this at your age?'" he says as I leave. "Well, you see I don't know anything else, and I love the business, and I keep active. I rise at 6.30 every morning and I don't pull the curtains."
Name: Tom Monaghan
Occupation: Owner of Monaghans Cashmere, Dublin
Marital status: Married to Teresa since 1960
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