Cifonelli is one of the three best-known tailors in Paris – the others being Camps de Luca and Smalto. (Though Smalto’s influence has rather waned in recent years, as the others’ has waxed.)

It is best known for the style of its shoulder, and for the beauty of its finishing. The shoulder is a little wide, and ends in a thick, distinctive roll at the top of the sleevehead.

The hand-sewn finishing is extensive and intricate, with much finishing even hidden from view. And it was the house that did most to popularise the raised ‘Milanese’ buttonhole.

However, I would add that just as central to the Cifonelli style is the closeness of fit. In the body, in the sleeve, and in the hips, the jacket is fitted snugly – which can look very chic but is not always very forgiving.

 

 

House: Cifonelli

Address: 31 Rue Marbeuf, Paris

Site: www.cifonelli.com

Cutter: Lorenzo Cifonelli

Price of suit (at time of writing): €6500 (incl VAT)

 

This suit in a navy high-twist wool was the first Lorenzo Cifonelli cut for me, the only preceding piece being a green-tweed jacket.

It was intended as a business suit and has done good service in that regard. However, in retrospect the buttons were probably the wrong choice, being too chunky and too light a colour.

Cifonelli designs its own buttons – something no one else really does, and typical of Lorenzo’s approach to things (always the best, no matter the cost) – and I loved these matte-horn ones, with their angular profile.

But they would be more suited to a sports jacket really. Neither the colour nor the shape are great with black or even very dark-brown shoes, as is obvious here.

 

 

Let’s begin with the Cifonelli shoulder. Its distinctive ‘roll’ at the top of the sleeve is not unusual in its height – as is often said – but rather in its width.

Plenty of tailors have a sleevehead roll of this height, and several (eg Chittleborough & Morgan) have a higher one. However, none I’ve seen have a roll that is as wide.

Structurally, this is achieved through extending the shoulder pad into the top of the sleeve, and then adding extra wadding in the sleevehead.

Unlike 90% of tailors, the pad and the roll are also built by hand, with different layers sewn together (most use a pre-made pad, and then adjust it to their needs). It’s also unusual in construction, being made from two layers of canvas and two of felt.

Visually, the effect of this sleevehead is to widen the upper body, so even though the shoulder itself isn’t that big at 6½ inches, the total width is probably on a par with the biggest, such as Anderson & Sheppard.

 

 

I won’t go into detail on the other aspect Cifonelli is best known for – the finishing – because this series is focused on style rather than anything else.

It would be great to go into detail on the fit, service and finishing of the different tailors we’ve covered, but there is no room here: it would take at least the same coverage again to do it properly.

Suffice it to say that I once saw the lining being attached to a piece of mine at Cifonelli, and was amazed to see that it was sewn on initially with just as much precision as the top stitching that finished it off, once the lining had been folded over.

So there was another perfect line of handwork inside, hidden away, that was just as beautiful as the one on top.

 

 

I mentioned at the start that I think the closeness of the cut is a distinctive part of the Cifonelli style.

You can see that here in the chest of the jacket, which is cut close without any drape, and in the sleeve, which starts narrow at the top and tapers slightly on the way down.

The sleeve is also wrinkling rather as a result of me putting on a little bulk in the arms over time, and is tight across the top. 

I will have this adjusted, but I do think it illustrates the danger with a close cut, namely that it is less tolerant to changes in physique. 

I’ve found the same with other Cifonelli pieces, and it is those jackets together with the ones from the more modern Neapolitan tailors (such as Solito) that have most often needed adjustment.

I tend to prefer a slightly more comfortable fit now, partly for that reason. 

 

 

The back of the suit is also cut close, though again this isn’t necessarily reflective of the fit when it was first made – as again I’ve gained a little bit of bulk here.

It is interesting to compare this to Camps de Luca – the other well-known Parisian tailor.

For similar as the cut appears in the Camps suit we analysed (lack of drape, slim sleeve, strong sleevehead), it hasn’t needed such alterations. There was a little bit more there in the back and around the arms, making it more forgiving.

 

 

Elsewhere, Cifonelli cuts a broad-to-moderate lapel (3½ inches) with a fairly high gorge (also 3½ inches, from the shoulder seam) and a high vent (11 inches).

The quarters are quite closed, but with a touch more curve at the bottom than most English tailors.

And the trousers are slim, echoing the approach to the jacket. The opening of the trousers is only 15¼ inches in circumference, and 19 inches at the knee.

 

 

The tie is unusual for me: a rather US-politician red silk, though with at least a little woven spot to break it up. (I know politicians favour plain clothing as TV doesn’t pick up pattern well, but a little spot would help alleviate the repetition a little, surely?)

The shirt is a blue bengal-stripe from D’Avino and the white-linen handkerchief is from Anderson & Sheppard (as is the tie).

Shoes are simple business-like cap-toes from Edward Green (Berkeley model) with just a single line of broguing.

 

Style breakdown:

  • Shoulder width: 6½ inches
  • Shoulder padding: Standard pad
  • Sleevehead: Pronounced, thick roll
  • Sleeve: Slim all the way through
  • Lapel: 3½ inches
  • Gorge height: 3½ inches
  • Drape: None
  • Outbreast pocket height: 10¼ inches
  • Buttoning point: 18¾ inches
  • Waist suppression: Moderate
  • Quarters: Closed, slight curve
  • Length: 31¾ inches
  • Back seam: Suppressed
  • Vent height: 11 inches
  • Trouser circumference at knee: 19 inches
  • Trouser circumference at cuff: 15¼ inches

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

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Shoddy

Nice breakdown today Simon. A bit tricky though since you wanted to convey a point about fit which you often say should not be judged from the pictures.

I think the red tie looks good. I hope it presages a relaxation in your aversion to them. I quite understand wanting to avoid Trump red, but that seems to me to be more about brightness and tomatoeyness (and maybe satin) than red as such.

I’ve been trying to articulate the sense I have about (really) dark red (or purple maybe even brown) with dark suits, it’s a difference sort of tonal dressing than say blue blue blue or neutral neutral neutral, where the effect is caused by modulating colour but keeping the contrast under control by making everything dark so that there is an effect of restraint. This is of course enhanced by the fine striped shirt which reduces the (light dark) contrast and takes you further from Trumpity.

Sam Tucker

There are many things to dislike about the way Trump dresses, but he does have a nice colour scheme. Navy suit, red ties and white shirts go nicely together, and red white and blue are also the American national colours. Obama used to wear navy suits, white shirts and red ties too, though he more often wore a blue tie.

David

As you say strange behavior of the sleeves. They seem “turned” (“tournées” like we say in french). Dubious waist in the back. The curve of the left lapel is not clean, it breaks too shortly on the upper button seam. The cause is certainly a too tight fit as you underline. The rest is ok. Clearly not your best suit.

Gonzague

Good to see a tailor that makes trousers slim and good looking.
A typical Cifo style would have called for a slightly concave shoulder wouldn’t it? Did they not go for it because your sloping shoulders would have required too much padding?
Overall it looks to me more like your Camps suit than the usual Cifo suit.

Mathieu

Hi Simon, what colour buttons would you have chosen, if given the option?

Fatih

Nice suit. You’re right on the buttons. Something dark greyish would have made it more versatile. It seems Lorzenzo is quite fond of brown buttons on fabrics that don’t typically call for this color. I have commissoned a grey chalk stripe suit in June and he suggested a similar color. By the way the current price is € 6700 😉

David

Nice write up as always. I really enjoy this series.

I know you have done a bit of this in the past but I would be really interested in a post about how individual bespoke pieces have aged as a part of your overall wardrobe. Less about the aging of the pieces of clothing in a literal sense but more about how the “fits” have aged as your body has slightly changed over the years.

I’m pretty early in the process of building a bespoke wardrobe but I can already tell, particularly in trousers, that slight fluctuation in my weight cause big changes in how pieces fit. I wonder about getting older items adjusted vs just getting new items made to my current size. Said another way, I wonder if it might be a good idea to have a range of “fits” in my wardrobe to accommodate an ever changing waistline vs having to hassle with constant alterations. A bit more about your experience in the “maintenance of fit” in your wardrobe would be really helpful.

Anonymous

Surely David’s point is more to do with how a bespoke suit, jacket in particular, “moulds” itself to you the more you wear it? Woo stretches, canvas moulds, etc.

I didn’t understand his question as to ow much bulk change it will accommodate.

Anonymous

Couldn’t you just let out the side-adjusters (assuming you have those) on bespoke trousers if you gained weight?

Winot

Having trousers cut for braces is a way of dealing with fluctuations in waist size (because the waist can be cut larger).

Dario

Is the jacket so close to the chest that its inner pockets are rendered useless?

Anonymous

Phones are so thin these days that if a pocket can’t be used for one it is a useless pocket!

DP Williams

The level of handwork and quality put on the suit is great, comparable to the best Savile Row tailors, but a poor fit in general. Of course is my personal opinion and you advise us not to judge by the photos. The jacket is tight in some areas and the front Balance is short. The sleeve issue as raised and the tightness creates a bump on the side vents level. In my view Simon is slightly dropped left as we can see by the excess created around the left back armhole, this is an issue only a few cutters addressed so far on this series. But as I say the making side of the jacket is perfect.

Jason

Way too trussed up for me.
A man should always look relaxed in a suit. That’s why I love A&S.
Cifonelli himself looks like he’s just about to explode .

Bob

Welcome to the Parisian sartorial scene. You should see the jet set at cocktail parties. Trussed-up peacocks is an understatement. It doesn’t help that they’re all loaded, with not much else to show than luxury items and trophy girlfriends/boyfriends.

Hugo Jacomet actually comes across as the most down-to-earth, and he is relaxed in his clothes, which says it all.

Craig

Buttons are always an issue for me. Do you make a feature of them on what could be a very sober piece or use them just to give a bit of pzazz? I had silver-grey mother of pearl ones on a navy herringbone suit, which looked nice at the time, but I’m now seriously considering having them replaced with black horn.

Sam Tucker

I love the contrast between the navy fabric and the light horn buttons, but they make it look too much like a navy blazer. Since metal buttons are currently unfashionable and people have started using any kind of contrasting button as a blazer button, almost any navy suit jacket with contrasting buttons ends up looking like a blazer (to me at least). I suppose you could also see that as an advantage though because it means the suit jacket could be worn as a blazer.

Sam Tucker

Simon, of all the suits and sports coats you have, and particularly of the ones you;’e shown here, do you have a favorite?

JW

I think that some of the comments are being slightly unfair to Cifonelli in criticising the fit of the suit. If one’s physique alters in the years after a suit has been made then it will not fit well if it has been cut close to the body – that is not the fault of the tailor. It does, however, highlight the relative flexibility that comes from a suit that is not cut so close. Liverano, for example, cuts in such a way as to allow for some changes in physique without ruining the line of the garment.

JW

Generally I think that is the case but Liverano is more flexible in the way that he cuts for body type than some other tailors. My suits from him are cut with a surprising amount of drape. Some flexibility in cutting for different body types (i.e. not always cutting in a rigid way for every customer) is also a great attribute in a tailor.

Michael Wang

Most Bespoke tailors leave generous amounts of inlay in the garments for any necessary alterations in the future. Ciffonelli is not the only tailor to cut a close fitted jacket, check Thom Sweeney for instance, one thing is a suit cut slim and close to the body other thing is tight.

Anonymous

Do tailors typically charge for alterations overtime, as weight and body shape change – or is this typically part of the service provided once you purchase? If they do charge what would a typical alteration fee be, to let out the jacket for example (directionally, as I assume would vary between tailor and also the exact work required)

A.

Hi Simon,
I’m not a fan of this kind of contents on Permanentstyle because I don’t see the purpose. I explain better: you tell readers that they should not judge the suits you describe by some pictures, so they should just base the comments and the thoughts on your words. I agree that often people could be biased from a moving-posture picture towards a good or negative judgment without any reason. Yet you upload pictures.
The pictures you attach to the style breakdown series include you in a standing posture, the posture you should look perfect when wearing a bespoke suit. Many of the flows and issues should stay hidden when standing like you and popping up only when you move (this is also the reason why we all should move a lot while having fitting at our tailors) but a lot of the suits you put in the series, according to my view, provide you with a poor fitting. (But I should not comment in this way according to your usual advice, thus you expect from me or just a “woooooooow” comment – if i like the fit and the suit – or – viceversa – no comment at all)
For example let’s take this suit: I do not comment on your weight fluctuations, and on the wicked idea of making such tight body, but the sleeves look terribly off and Cifonelli should have re-made them.
There was also a similar problem with the Liverano purple sport coat.
And I remember also a strange A-shaped front darts in an Anderson&Sheppard sport coat which would involve the remaking of the jacket from the beginning.

A.

Thank you Simon for your reply.
I understand your point on style but how could someone understand and feel some tailor house style if the garment (jacket or trousers or waistcoat) doesn’t fit properly? Minor issues are not a problem in this task, but major ones are.

About the “wooooow” I don’t even use it on instagram. As have you seen my messages are quite discursive.

Michael Wang

I believe that there is much more into the fit of a jacket than what can be seen on a picture. Each post of the series I see several comments pointing fitting issues and the reasons behind it, like we are all experienced cutters and tailors. Of course some issues really should be addressed but I believe only an experienced tailor can comment on it with such certainty. I see nowadays many clients trying to do the cutter job during fittings, the first thing you must have on a bespoke commission is respect and trust for the tailor, he trained several years to master his craft, while most clients read some articles.

Simon it would be nice if on each style break down you gave the cutter a space to share his view of the process and of the final result.

Franck P

Very nice post – it’s not a big surprise on PS..
I’ve personally tried several tailors and I must say that Cifonelli is definitely the Formula 1 to me !
It’s true that they work closely on the body, it’s helping me to stay in good shape 🙂
I assume it’s much better than having some drape, I also did one more fitting than what I usually do with British tailors I assume it’s perfection’s price!
Didn’t go for a navy but for a charcoal flannel with tone on tone buttons – I really like the contrast of the horn on yours and I will probably ask Massimo to switch.

alex

What should I tell my tailor in order to achieve all the ripples that are present in your jacket sleeves? To what degree should the pitch be rotated to create this effect? Or is that just something only an exclusive, master tailor can produce? But seriously, to say added bulk to your arms is the reason the sleeve pitch is so off feels like a betrayal of the most persistent wisdom offered on permanent style – namely, that fit is the most important aspect of attractive tailored clothing. Who cares about the style of the sleeve head if the sleeve has been attached incorrectly? That’s the first thing my eye sees when look at these photos. I know photos can be misleading, but you’re a pro, so I’m guessing these photos are a true representation of how the suit fits.

Tom Higgins

That looks like a great suit to me, Simon, though I agree about the colour of the buttons. Is there quite a pronounced central seam down the back, and is that part of the Cifonelli style? It may just be an effect of the photo as it appears on my screen. I love red in ties – a very rich colour, but prefer a bit of pattern (Drakes have some beautiful ones in large and small paisley). The issues about Trump’s tie is not its colour (slightly too bright), but its ludicrous length. Where does he manage to buy ties that are that long?

Another Alex

Admit it, Simon – the real purpose of this post is to show off how hench you’ve become since you commissioned this suit.

Anonymous

As with most of your style posts, this one shows off the challenge a tailor has with your shape.

Dropped shoulders, (very) forward sleeve pitch, prominent BTM, long arms………..makes for a very difficult pattern.

Absolutely not intended to be unkind, but you are a far from simple subject to fit.

Do they comment on this, or are they subtle in their approach to you?

Bespoke tailoring is, after all, supposed to go a long way to disguising anatomical quirks.

Tom Higgins

Well, that’s a relief. But sometimes the French want to add details which are inappropriate – the buttons, for example. The cut of that suit is pure Parisian: they love to have their clothes cut closely. And yet, a great tailor manages those expectations well. Walk down the street in Paris and see the number of men in suits that are too small, too tight to everything. Even with the French sense of chic, they don’t always get away with it. And I’ve lived in France for 35 years, so I’ve had the time to check it out. They are wonderful sometimes though, and now I know that the seam is flat on the back of that Cifonelli suit, I repeat – it’s a great look by a master cutter, and it suits the tall and slender (not Hench) Simon very well. I think that we should just pass on those comments about “gained a bit of bulk”, which smack of too much time spent at the gym. Now, about my reflection on the legnth of Trump’s ties…

Anonymous

Interesting suit. Some great aspects (C’s shoulders) and some issues. I don’t think it unreasonable for readers to question fit. Style and fit go together: without good fit the suit becomes something else; perhaps fashionable, perhaps dated but probably not stylish…irrespective of origin. I think it would help if we considered line, silhouette and construction (you detail C’s finishing) alongside ‘style’ for that is where the real differences are between the different houses. The suit looks a shade too small (I don’t mean short or too modern in cut) therefore not the best fit, therefore not, at least currently, as stylish as it might be. Readers also make useful observations. For example the left shoulder drop, should have been accommodated. I’m also surprised that you haven’t had the buttons changed. The trousers are slim and fit well but do not merge well with the full seat. It therefore creates a discord with the vents and rear of the jacket as the silhouette seems interrupted – it doesn’t flow from one to the other (the jacket ‘sits’ on the trousers). The front seems a 1/2 inch too short. Scye seems OK though arm ruffling due to lack of width throws the eye. The tie is a good match. I think it one of the better suits but time (and increasing musculature?) render it less flattering than it once was. Separately thanks for describing C’s shoulder line – very clear.

Anonymous

Just a question on ties: as you know a less common item, even within the UK parliament (particularly in summer) as MP’s now appear increasingly without ties. It seems, from discussions, that this is becoming more widely accepted across the modern office (softening of dress codes etc.). Selfishly wondering how we might get reverse the trend without turning the clock back or returning to outdated attitudes or overly formal codes of behaviour?

Tom Higgins

On the question of ties (not Trump’s tie this time, though including it in a way), and following on from Anonymous’ comments and your replies above, Simon, I think it is important to remember that the way we dress is not simply a projection of our selves, but an expression of respect towards other people. The formality of a tie certainly falls into the category of respect for others in certain circumstances. Brightly polished shoes would also fall into that category. But I was a diplomat, and diplomats are very picky about their shoes (cf WH Auden’s poem here: https://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/w-h-auden-a-land-laid-waste-its-towns-in-terror-and-all-its-young-men-slain/

RM

Hi Simon
In your opinion how often would you need invitations to black tie events to warrant a bespoke tux, and if you don’t attend so many is MTM or RTW then altered the best option?

Ters

Thanks for the instructive review, Simon. I recall that you had some hesitancy towards the signature Cifo 4×1 DB cut – has that hesitancy prevailed or did you go ahead and order one of those as well?

Anonymous

A reflection on ties….when considering a single blue suit and say, four various shirts and four differing but complimentary ties, an outcome of sixteen varieties of look can be achieved. Four suits, eight shirts, eight ties, two hundred and fifty six etc. It’s hard to think of another item that provides such central variation; without it its the uniformity of a blue suit and shirt….

Greg

I am interested in a variation of what David mentioned in long term fit of bespoke clothing.
My challenge is I have 30+ MTM suits and about half that many sports coats with a couple trousers per coat to match that have been made for me over the last 25 years.
I can still wear them but although they are a classic cut they are not the current style: trouser legs are too full with pleats and are too long.
Suit lapels a little too wide. Some without vents in the back but most English style.
So my question is: I am semi retired and don’t where suits and ties daily but when I do, I want to look up to date.
Should I pick out a couple of recent suits and jackets/trousers and have them altered or just go out and have a couple of new suits and jackets made?
I hate to do that given the expense of these MTM clothing I have in the closet.
Thanks
Greg

Pierrot le fou

Lorenzo had a trunk show in these parts back in July 2017 where I got measured for a sport coat. After two fittings spread over the course of 1+years, it got shipped to me this past May only to find that the front button didn’t align with the button hole and part of a hidden seam was unstitched. It was shipped back to Paris for repairs and I got it back two days ago. The seam was sewn, but the button issue was overlooked; however, rather than endure another 3 month wait a local tailor took care of the issue. All told, it took 2 years and one month from start to finish. Was it worth the long wait and USD5k? In a word, no. The fit is not flattering and can use more tweaking. Maybe the outcome would be different if I were living in Paris, but c’est la vie.

Greg

Thanks Simon.
That re-enforces my first thought on altering an existing garment to test drive the concept!

Rups

Simon is there a difference in the way that a structured tailors trousers are made vs. an unstructured tailor? So for instance to take two extremes let’s say Chittleborough and Morgan and a Neapolitan like Solito? I guess Cifonelli is somewhere in-between. In terms of proportion do Italians cut a bit lower and narrower? Also that curve around the hollow of the back around the bum and down toward the leg is the same?

Rups

Simon is the S shape around the upper leg and seat done by the Italian tailors or do they prefer a more relaxed straight fall of the trouser? Im just wondering as that S shape gives quite a formal look to a suit.

Anonymous

Hi Simon,

If I recall, you have had a couple of different shoulder styles cut by Cifonelli (the suede jacket for instance). Do you plan to cover all of them as part of this series, or are you just stick with the garment which is most representative of their house style?

Graham

That’s an unacceptable fit for a tailored suit. You could take your pick of sub $2K RTW suits for a better result.

John

Hi Simon,

I’ve got a question about the Cifonelli’s structure. Elsewhere you described the standard structure of Savile Row as “three layers of canvas, horsehair and demette.” How could be the Cifonelli’s standard described (mainly in chest, I mean) in these terms? Do they use any canvas or rather horsehair only?
And concerning the shoulder pad: is it as soft as on your A&S linen jacket (able of “bending” easily like in the picture of you sitting in that suit), or is the pad stiffer?

Thank you!

J.

Noel

Hi Simon,

A question about quarters: Is the opening more or less a question of style or can closed quarters be said to be more formal? Given the variety in your jackets, do you have a particular preference?

My bespoke jackets from a local tailor have quite closed quarters like this Cifonelli jacket, but I confess that I hadn’t express an opinion about them. Going through this style series made me think about it.

Patrick Donovan

Dear Simon
I promised my 25 year old son an MTM suit for his wedding in April next year. He wants a navy blue wool or worsted, light to medium weight, classic English style ( not like my Solito suits!). He’s 6’ 4’’ and probably a 42 long chest, so he might be at the far end end of an MTM block but hopefully with enough to make sleeves longer etc.
Can you recommend a couple of people?
Looking to keep this sub 2 grand.
Best
Patrick

Jeremy

Hi Simon,
I have a “semi bespoke” tailor that made a really clean suit for me. It is my best fitting suit but the only issue is that his house style consists of a roped shoulder, which in hindsight, do not fit me personally.

As everything else is as close to perfect as one can get, should I get him to reduce the roping on my next suit or should I go for another tailor. I understand that you are an advocate of sticking to house styles and I do not wish to insult him in any way.

Thanks!

Chancellor

Not sure if your semi-bespoke suit has fittings, but perhaps you could see less roping at the fitting stage and use that as the guide? In having a full bespoke suit made, this was something I was able to see and have adjusted (asked for more roping).

Noor

Ah, beautiful breakdown sir.
A pleasure to read as always, that having been said I do have a couple of questions for you both in regards to Cifonelli in particular and for general suiting as well.
1. What lining have they used here(the fabric that is)?
2. What all interior pockets would you recommend for a bespoke suit?

SC

Now that there’s a cifonelli shop in London, how does their bespoke work there? Do you still have to wait until Lorenzo or Massimo drop by quarterly or so, or is one of them stationed permanently in London? Or is there a front of house man who takes measurements and pictures and send them over to Paris for cutting? Do they have a tailor shop in house or just for alterations and send bespoke bundles to Paris?

zo

Simon, im trying to find some more detail on the ‘Cifonelli shoulder’ through the literature on your blog. In your experience, how does it differ from a traditional English shoulder in functionality? I came across a write up elsewhere which suggests Cifonelli jackets allow incredible freedom of movement. Your review above implies the jackets are quite restricting.

Phong Moua

What is the name of the fabric used for this specific suit? It seems to be slightly darker in shade than Holland and Sherry’s Crispaire fabric but I could be wrong. Thank you in advance.

Peter

I’m struggling to find something positive to say about this ensemble – it’s too easy to make depricating remarks about someone elses work but given your experience and the reputation of the house I am surprised that you accepted the work – it is not a 6500 Euro suit.

Richard

Morning Simon,

I am in the process of thinking over a bespoke 2-piece suit for my 50th. I rarely buy bespoke and even rarer I hit 50.

That said, I want to wear and enjoy particularly in the spring and autumn remembering the process and the effort that went into it.

My attention is focused on mills and fabrics.

I am thinking a plain 10-11oz navy worsted wool. If you had free choice – is there a fabric or even at a broader level choice of mill sic erat scriptum quality, that you would say “hell yeah” that’s the one I want for a special piece that would get you excited and make you feel like a million dollars?