We visit The Coop Ink, where Don Cherry gets his suits.
When Don Cherry pops up on Hockey Night in Canada a few weeks from now looking like he skinned a sofa, you may wonder how you, too, can achieve the just-upholstered look. There’s seemingly no satin too shiny, no flower too Hawaiian, no plaid too Nardwuar for the coach’s closet. And his Wall Street-meets-Amadeus aesthetic isn’t just pulled off the rack. As Cherry recently advertised in a series of tweets, each of his suits is custom made through a North Toronto a store called The Coop, where he’s been shopping for years.
Cherry’s jackets may be the one thing louder than his mouth, but John Corallo, owner of The Coop, has a no-big-deal attitude about their sartorial collaboration. While tidying up a pile of not-very-Cherry grey suit pieces, he explains that he met the sportscaster several years ago through a client who works for Quiznos, back in the days when Cherry was plugging their subs.
“Don was looking for a tailor at the same time because his tailor passed away,” Corallo explains, “So we made him a suit, and we got to know him, and he’s been shopping with us ever since. It’s been fun.”
Corallo estimates The Coop has made between 80 and 85 suits for Cherry so far. The process doesn’t exactly evoke GQ steeliness: Cherry selects his own material from Fabricland and brings it to The Coop, where they discuss it, style it, and send it to a bespoke factory for tailoring. Corallo was pretty secretive about the insider tricks they use to get the look and shape just right, but emphasized that making a Don Cherry suit requires more thought than just stitching together some stripes.
“A normal guy would take two-and-a-quarter, two-and-a-half yards. Don’s up to four-and-a-half to five yards. Just so we can line up all the lightning bolts with lightnings, the flowers with the flowers. So it looks like it’s something.”
The “normal guy” in this equation probably wears outfits that are a little more subdued. While there’s the odd paisley shirt poking out from the racks of cobalt jackets, The Coop’s look is more about discreet checks and dark denims than splish-splash florals. (Corallo has owned the business, which is entering its 30th year, since 2001, and moved it to its current three-storey location in 2011.) Inventory runs the gamut of menswear, from jeans to ready-to-wear suits to custom fare—though the bespoke process, at prices starting over two thousand dollars, is for a special type of shopper. While The Coop gets a lot of calls about bespoke, Corallo says 99 per cent of their customers can be fitted off the rack.
“There are so many garments out there. That one per cent of the marketplace I believe strongly wants the feel and the allure of a custom-made garment. They want to pick their fabric, they want to style it, they wan to get involved and be the guy wearing a suit expressly tailored for them.”
In Cherry’s case, this allure isn’t so much about conveying luxury as projecting a distinctive kind of loudmouth accessibility. When discussing his favourite Cherry originals, Corallo brings up a recent promotional suit they made for Budweiser Red Lights beer. For the first time, The Coop not only made the suit, but also the fabric: they silk-screened the Red Lights logo onto a bolt of white material, and used it to create a beer-themed jacket that Cherry wore during the NHL playoffs last May. It’s a look that’s meant to speak to the average Bud drinker—via high-end tailoring.
Other favourites include what Corallo calls the “Austin Powers suit,” though he still loves most of the looks they’ve created throughout their professional relationship. “They’re equally as crazy as one another,” he says, “They’re definitely unique.”
Cherry may be one of our most aggressive national icons—both visually and aurally—but Corallo only has warm words for his most fluorescent client. “Everybody’s normal when they walk through the door,” he says, “Unless you’re a movie star, I guess. I might be in awe, because I don’t have any movie stars. And I’ve been told I look like Brad Pitt.”