If you live in downtown Jersey City you have likely crossed paths with the dapper gent, DeCarlos Morse, the owner of DeCarlos Bespoke. On any given day, you will see an impeccably dressed DeCarlos peddling about town, driving his vintage Alfa Romeo, or puffing his favorite Ferio Tego cigar in the front window of Sky Tobacco. There is no doubt that he would be the front runner if Jersey City had a “Best Dressed Man” competition. Affable, knowledgeable, and generous are a few other words I would use to describe DeCarlos. Thankfully, I have had the pleasure of knowing him for over a decade and recently met up with him to ask him some questions for a “Friends of Billykirk” Journal post. Accompanying the interview are photos from a recent day-in-the-life photoshoot with DeCarlos.
Q: You're from Virginia and have great passion for your birth place, so what made you head North and how did you land in Jersey City?
I came up from Virginia in ‘98 after rounds of interviews with the prestigious Alfred Dunhill of London. I joined that team of amazing clothiers and tailors, staying there over six years. I landed in Jersey City honestly by accident. I knew I wanted to be south of NYC. I had no interest in living in the city. I knew I’d be back and forth to Virginia, and never wanted to contend with traffic getting out to head South. So Jersey City it was. It ended up being the best place for me and my business to grow, and I’ve been here ever since.
Q: I remember you once saying your father would make some of his clothes. Is that who set you on this tailoring path?
Yes, facts! My dad made suits and jackets for himself. He worked at a bank in those days, ’70s and early ‘80s, and decided he would teach himself how to make clothes — he is a talented maker of many things, so it’s in our code, for sure. And my mom has always had a passion for style. It was natural for me. I just loved clothes and wanted to figure out how to make a career out of it.
Q: Tell us about DeCarlos Bespoke, who’s your customer, what do you specialize in?
We are custom suit makers and designers. We specialize in custom suits, jackets, vests and trousers. But the brand has taken on more of a lifestyle — not just suits, but all of the finer things in life.
Q: What designers and brands inspire you?
I hope this doesn’t sound like arrogance, but I do not follow any designers of clothes or fashion. I’ve always stayed in my lane and pulled from what’s within. However, I do have a deep appreciation of designers like Ralph Lauren and Dapper Dan. It’s more about their journeys. From where and how they got started, with so much passion, to what they’ve achieved and who they are today. I see myself in both of these guys. What really inspires me is traveling, my family, nature or Virginia’s beautiful countryside and classic cars.
Q: You have some vintage Alfa Romeos in your stable. What is the fascination with these Italian steeds?
I have owned my share of these Italian beauties over the years. I’m fascinated with the design, especially the elongated sporty body. And they are a lot of fun to drive.
Q: I have known you long enough to know you’ve gone through some challenges and yet you always seem to have a cheery, upbeat disposition. Just so the readers know….Your original ground floor location on Monmouth St. was destroyed by an out-of-control car, you then relocated to a temporary space on the 9th floor of our building, and then, a little over a year later, had to pivot your business yet again in the age of Covid. This would have seriously demoralized many businesses. With all of these trials and tribulations and everyone’s work life forever altered, how have you stayed grounded and positive?
Yes, it’s true. I’ve had a few unfortunate things happen, but also so many great things during those times. What helped me get through the weeds was lots of praying, lots of support, my love and passion for what I do, cigars and meditation. It wasn’t easy at the time. I’m very grateful to still be here and going stronger than ever. It’s a real true blessing.
Q: We did a recent photoshoot at your bright and airy corner shop on Grove Street and you let slip some information I was not aware of. You and your twin brother were tapped to be Ford Models in the 90’s. How did I not know about this?! Can you expand on that?
That’s funny. Yes it’s true, but maybe we can skip this part. We hated that job, but obviously were blessed with the opportunity. I wouldn’t say anything positive about that industry. So I’ll keep my thoughts to myself. Let’s just say we both moved on to what we really loved to do as soon as we could. Sorry man!
Q: Any new product or special announcements you would like to share?
New spring collection is here! Vibrant colors and textures, as always. Sports jackets, seersucker and linen trousers, band and camp collar shirts. Imagine yourself in Florence, Italy enjoying a Negroni or in a Southern Baptist Church on Easter Sunday. That’s the best way I can paint the picture.
I hope you’re intrigued to pay DeCarlos a visit at his shop at 255 Grove St. in DT Jersey City. Have him construct a Bespoke suit with vintage fabrics or take a peek at his growing collection of nicely curated ready-to-wear items. You may also get a nice pour of bourbon and catch Darondo, Miles or Coltrane on the turntable.
Photography by Joe Velez