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From Burrow to Kelce, meet the man who keeps the stars suited

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After the Cincinnati Bengals clinched a spot in Super Bowl LVI, Tom Marchitelli had one thing on his mind.

“I spent the first 24 hours after he clinched the AFC title, reaching out to everyone I could. How can I get in contact with Joe Burrow?” Marchitelli told ESPN.

In 2014, Marchitelli left his job as a hedge fund accountant to become a custom menswear designer for athletes. By Super Bowl LVI, he had worked with top players such as Travis Kelce, Dak Prescott and Rob Gronkowski, tailoring his way to becoming one of the most sought-after designers in the business.

Dressing is a sport to Marchitelli, one that he’s competitive about. As he sat in the home office in his penthouse apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey, he became determined to work with Burrow.

He knew his usual strategy of direct messaging athletes wouldn’t work. He soon found out Burrow shared the same agent as Prescott, a client who owns about 150 suits designed by Marchitelli.

Marchitelli hoped that previous relationship would increase his chances of getting Burrow, and it did. His contact asked Marchitelli how soon he could get to a snowy Cincinnati.

The answer? Tomorrow.

“When I make the connection, my goal is to get in front of them as soon as possible, like the next day. Because I want to show them how seriously I take their business and the relationship,” Marchitelli said. “Some people may wait a week or whatever. No, I strike while the iron’s hot every time.”

Burrow asked if Marchitelli, who had brought a dozen different fabrics to the meeting, could make two suits instead of one. Eager to work, Marchitelli thought, “I’ll make you 10.”

Burrow wanted a black and silver striped suit along with one styled with a purple velvet. He told Marchitelli to ship both to Los Angeles where he’d be five days later. But Marchitelli wanted to ensure perfection. He returned to Burrow’s doorstep three days later for a personal fitting.

On the morning of the Super Bowl, he anxiously sat at home with no idea if Burrow would wear one of his suits. Burrow chose the now-viral black-and-silver striped suit.

“When we saw the first video of him getting on the bus, my wife and son were jumping up and down. I was relieved, to be honest,” Marchitelli said.

Marchitelli’s current client total is approximately 404, spread across the NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA. Chase Daniel was the first athlete he styled. In the time since, he has worked with ESPN’s Shannon Sharpe and made 30 suits for Ric Flair.

Prescott has a dedicated room to keep Marchitelli’s suits. “The gents room he calls [it],” Marchitelli said. Josh Allen, Justin Jefferson, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jimmy Garoppolo have all been suited up by Marchitelli.

There’s no brick-and-mortar store. Instead, he works out of a home office in his penthouse apartment — he calls it the house that suits built. His suits are tailored outside of Los Angeles and his major suit mills are produced in Italy and England. The standard turnaround for a client is three weeks, but Marchitelli emphasized he can do it as quickly as two weeks, a week — or even in one day.

“I’m kind of like a store on wheels because I bring the store to you,” Marchitelli said.

BEING A CUSTOM suit designer wasn’t always in Marchitelli’s cards. Growing up as an Italian-American kid, he recalled watching films such as “Goodfellas” and “Casino,” which fostered his passion for wearing suits.

After graduating college, Marchitelli always opted to wear suits at events, wanting to be the best-dressed guy in the room. Struggling to find someone who could make his suits fit to his specifications, he found a local New York tailor who got his measurements right.

“I am the pickiest person on planet Earth when it comes to fit,” Marchitelli said. “Which is why when I couldn’t find anything to fit me right, my wife had the idea that I should be doing it because I can probably do it better than anyone else since I am so meticulous, to say the least.”

At the recommendation of his wife, Marchitelli then started an Instagram page @GentsPlaybook, which served as a blog to showcase his tailored outfits.

“Fast forward a year, year and a half, I have over 100,000 followers,” he said. “Then athletes start sliding into my DMs, and that’s when I realized, hey, I have a business here.”

As his side business grew, Marchitelli decided to quit his job and bet on himself, learning how to tailor on the fly. People in his family told him he was “nuts.” His parents and in-laws wondered why he’d leave what they described as a “cushy finance job.”

Marchitelli initially had his doubts too, but his wife’s confidence in him changed his tune.

“Even I had reservations at first because I had heard some doubters, but the smartest person I’ve ever met, my wife, she had all the confidence in the world,” he said. “And she’s like, I’m telling you, you’re going to kill it.”

Early into the business, Marchitelli spent hours daily messaging players on Instagram. One of whom was fellow Boston College alum Justin Simmons, who was just a year into his NFL career.

Marchitelli reached out to Simmons, telling him he’d love to meet and show the former All-Pro Denver Broncos safety his catalog. Simmons agreed and Marchitelli showed up at his Denver home two days later.

According to Simmons, Marchitelli’s attention to detail immediately stood out.

“He’s so detail-oriented that he cares about if it’s tight around the wrist for his shirts … too tight around the ankles, around the thighs,” Simmons told ESPN.

That’s part of what Marchitelli considers his superpower and what has given him an edge over his competitors.

THOUGH NOTHING compared to the majority of NFL athletes, Marchitelli considers himself to have an athletic physique. Therefore, he said he knows how a suit is supposed to be tailored for someone with that body type and adjusts it for larger players.

“All these athletes in the world know when they look at a suit on my Instagram, whether it’s one of my clients or myself, they know that’s the end result,” Marchitelli said. “So it makes more guys want to join the club, so to speak.”

While Marchitelli realized his business was growing when athletes started messaging him with requests, he pinpointed two specific moments that changed everything.

First, in 2016, after seeing then-Kansas City Royals All-Star Eric Hosmer wear one of Marchitelli’s suits to the White House, Travis Kelce messaged Marchitelli and asked when he could suit him up. The two met in New York the next day and Kelce had a new fit ahead of the 2016 season.

The other happened at the 2016 season’s NFL Honors ceremony in Houston. Marchitelli, who was at the event to dress someone on the New York Giants, ran into Prescott in the hotel lobby.

The Dallas Cowboys quarterback asked Marchitelli who made the suit he was wearing. Marchitelli said he did. Prescott then shook Marchitelli’s hand and told him: “I’m ready to buy.”

“This was his rookie year, and since that day, he hasn’t worn a suit by anyone else for seven years straight,” Marchitelli said.

 

Prescott opened the doors wider for Marchitelli. At one point, he had 10 to 15 clients on the Cowboys, including Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott’s suits represent a form of innovative thinking that’s made Marchitelli a favorite among athletes.

MARCHITELLI IS adamant that he won’t recreate Burrow’s Super Bowl LVI suit for anyone else. Doing so would go against what he’s about.

He tries to never make the same suit twice because to him, each client deserves their own collection. Marchitelli arrives at each appointment with at least 200 to 300 different fabrics in his bag, often carefully curated for the person he’s meeting. He’s not putting all of them in front, however: “You don’t want to overwhelm, but I know they’re in categories there,” he said.

Marchitelli’s creations are specific to each athlete.

“Every year he’s innovative and coming up with new things that, again, it’s not like all his clients are rocking the same thing,” Simmons said. “But he’s innovative in terms of what fits your personality and what he thinks flows with your body type as well.”

What drives Marchitelli’s process is simply what he wants to wear personally.

He’s always wanted to be in unique clothes that other people aren’t wearing. Marchitelli will try out a new look on himself and if athletes like the fit, he’ll make the same for them, he said. It’s all about exclusivity and depends on who he’s seeing.

When Marchitelli meets with NFL players in June, he’ll arrive with their schedules printed to map out looks week by week.

Marchitelli not only arrives with outfit ideas during those meetings, but unveils what the new trend will be for the upcoming season. Simmons said last year was “bomber suit season,” though climate plays a major factor in the decision for each outfit of the week.

“If you’re going to Miami in week one, we’re going light color and lightweight fabric because I don’t want you to sweat,” Marchitelli said. “It’s all dependent on where they’re going to be, who they are also.”

One of Marchitelli’s favorite parts of his job is the relationships he’s built and that whenever someone pulls a suit out of their closet, they’ll know it will fit perfectly and look different than what others are wearing.

What’s aided Marchitelli the most in his design career is his passion.

“It’s cool when you see somebody in their field, the best in their field, operate at a high level,” Simmons said. “That’s what I always say with Tom. He does it at such a high, high level.”

Burrow’s famed Super Bowl suit proves it.

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