For years, no part of a downtown stroll up Broadway was complete without a viewing of the doormen at the Heathman Hotel, full beefeater costumes on display. But now, thanks to a dramatic and stylish update, viewers can say goodbye to the outdated British guard getups and hello to custom tailored slick ensembles.
“We just completed a $13 million renovation, and it was important that we brought our uniforms across the board up to a new standard and a higher level of quality," says hotel general manager Daryn White. "The doormen specifically are the first and last impression of the hotel, and it was important to me that we had a uniform that stood out and really separated them from the rest of the city.”
After searching for the perfect partner, they called in fellow downtown business Wildwood & Company, known for making high-end custom suits. Owner Joe Mueller spent nearly four months creating slacks, turtleneck sweaters, and beautiful double-breasted overcoats that celebrated the looks of 1920s- and '30s-era doormen. The process included partnering with other Portland designers, such as jeweler Beth Wagner of Overcast PDX, who cast custom solid bronze buttons emblazoned with geometric patterns based on Heathman branding. For the knitwear, local line Brooklyn Tweed used hand-dyed yarn grown and spun in the US. Once the design and the yarn were ready, a team of local knitters hand-knit matching hats and sweaters over several weeks.
“They had probably seven or eight colors that kind of worked in in various ways, and I just immediately said, 'If we're going to do this, let's have a little fun with it and go big. We found that rich teal and goldenrod were our two favorite colors, so we had to go about a pretty lengthy process with the fabric, finding trim, having a custom bias made, and getting the yarn,” Mueller says of the process of selecting the colors that have made the uniforms such a standout. “And obviously the hotel was our client, but we really looked at the guys as the client, too. And, at the end of the day, I just care that they're happy.”
Indeed they are: White says the crew of three long-time doormen, who’ve all been at the hotel more than a decade, love their new look. And they’re more historically accurate for a hotel founded in 1927.
“Really, the Beefeater was just a costume put on a doorman at some point," White says. "There was no tie back to the hotel or reason for those uniforms. So it was more important to me that we spoke to the history of the hotel while also reflecting current style.”