Muhammad Ali

Tributes to Birmingham ‘tailor to the stars’ who created suit for Muhammad Ali

Ahmet Yusuf, 85, famously made the legendary boxer a pure wool, blue pinstripe suit during his 1983 visit to open the Muhammad Ali Centre

A tailor tasked with ensuring Muhammad Ali looked a knockout when The Greatest visited Birmingham has sadly died. Ahmet Yusuf passed away at his home in Edgbaston aged 85 on Saturday (March 12).

Mr Yusuf had still been running his tailor business in Chad Square until it was forced to close due to the pandemic two years ago. He had suffered with chronic lung condition COPD.

He was known as a ‘tailor to the stars’ and became famous for making the legendary boxer a suite blue pinstripe suit during his 1983 visit to open the Muhammad Ali Centre. In a previous interview with BirminghamLive Mr Yusuf had recalled his meeting with the champ and said: “Ali said, who is this cowboy who wants to make me a suit?

“Gary Newbon had to pull him to one side and explain: ‘That cowboy’s my tailor’.” He had seized the opportunity when the most famous person on the planet addressed his adoring public at The Dome nightspot, on Bristol Road, during the visit.

Years later, Mr Yusuf was thrilled to see him sporting the suit during a New York press conference. “It was a beautiful suit and an honour to make it for him,” Mr Yusuf had said. “The man was magic, what a guy!”

His daughter Deniz James worked with her father at the Chad Square shop for 30 years. She told BirminghamLive: “My dad was brilliant at spotting great opportunities.

Ahmet Yusuf's unique encounter with Muhammad Ali.
Ahmet Yusuf’s unique encounter with Muhammad Ali.

“He had great foresight and had decided to offer to make Ali a suit. He wanted to make him a suit so he would remember the people of Birmingham.

“People loved my dad. He treated everyone the same who walked into is shop. He wouldn’t hassle people he would just ask them if they would like a cup of tea and coffee.

“The shop became like a community hub. His Turkish friends would come round and play backgammon in the back. It wasn’t only a shop but a place where people would meet.”

Ahmet Yusuf with his Golden Scissors award - the first tailor outside Saville Row to be named Tailor Of The Year
Ahmet Yusuf with his Golden Scissors award – the first tailor outside Saville Row to be named Tailor Of The Year (Image: Birmingham Mail)

Mr Yusuf came over to England from northern Cyprus in 1954. His father wanted him to become a farmer in their homeland, but asthma put paid to that career. Instead, he joined his cousin’s menswear business in Nicosia.

Ahmet Yusuf with his daughter Deniz
Ahmet Yusuf with his daughter Deniz (Image: Birmingham Mail)

The teenager showed a real talent and arrived in England in 1954 with dreams of opening his own shop. That became a reality in 1957 as he made suits from the cellar of his brother’s Bath Row, Birmingham, coffee bar.

Mr Yusuf hit the ground running and soon moved to bigger premises on the Bristol Road. Soon, the great and good wanted to be seen in his suits.

His grandson Eren Yusuf, 28, added: “He was a wonderful grandfather – a real inspiration. He loved his job and said to me ‘if you find a job you love you never do a day’s work in your life.’

“In his case that was so true. We have had so many people contact since he passed away on Saturday. He was such a popular man and touched so many people’s lives.”

He leaves behind wife Muriel, children Metin, Sonay, Leyla and Deniz and eight grandchildren, Nicola, Metz, Eren, Ben, Dylan, Louis, Ella and Aidan. He also leaves behind great-grandchildren Vicky, Joshua, Harry, Oscar, Akaiji and Indra.

His funeral is tomorrow (Wednesday) at Birmingham Central Mosque, Belgrave Middleway at 12pm.

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