We’re considered “young professionals.” Some young professionals wear suits, and some don’t. We’ve been noticing a trend, however, that we’ve mentioned before. Men in our generation are stepping up their game and dressing better just because they want to. Part of this process involves a suit and tie and whether you wear one everyday doesn’t matter. Every man should have at least one suit (and probably more) that he feels comfortable and powerful in.
When considering a suit purchase, very few of us think about getting a suit made for our body. People refer to this process as “Custom,” “Made-to-Measure,” or “Bespoke.” Some common characteristics of suits in this category are Functional buttonholes (surgeon cuffs), colorful suit linings, accent stitching (lapel and sleeves), ticket pocket (small pocket above main jacket pocket), etc. Not to mention the entire garment is made for you, not just tailored to you.
Before we go into any detail about “bespoke” suiting, we do need to define the three terms people use to talk about a suit that is made for you. Believe it or not, they aren’t interchangeable even though many people think they are.
What’s the difference between “custom”, “made-to-measure” and “bespoke”?
“Custom” can mean anything. Choosing something like a colored lining or different buttons gives a suit maker the right to call it “custom.” Bottom line, “custom” means you’ve had some say in the suit (even something as small as a lining or button color), but the suit it isn’t necessarily made for you.
“Made-to-Measure” means there are a limited number of symmetrical adjustments to an already pre-existing pattern. Because the adjustments are limited, and they’re working from a pre-existing pattern, “made-to-measure” shops/clothiers can’t do everything. They will typically not make any adjustment for your shoulder slope, posture, or any other differences between your body, and a mannequin.
“Bespoke” refers to the process of creating an original pattern specific to your body. It’s “bespoken” for you. It’s mathematical. Today, there are very few shops with one master tailor measuring, cutting and fitting the garment, however you can still find clothiers who are true “bespoke” clothiers. In the “bespoke” process, the client is king. He gets to choose everything- buttons, double-breasted?, accent stitching, lapel style/width, ticket pocket?, slanted pockets?, single or side vent?, lining color, etc.
From here on, we will be referring to this process as bespoke.
It’s our feeling that, when considering a custom clothing purchase, one might as well dish out a little more money and get a garment that is created uniquely for him. No one else will have it, and it will be the best fitting suit in the closet — not to mention the durability of a custom garment cannot be matched.
Here are some important things to remember before buying “bespoke”:
-Find the right Clothier.
Like we previously mentioned, certain clothiers don’t want you to know the difference between custom, made-to-measure, and bespoke because they want you to think you’re getting bespoke clothing when they’re cutting corners. Find one who not only knows the differences in these definitions but will also explain them to you. In your search, find a clothier that carries recent swatch books from established mills like Dormeuil, Holland & Sherry, Zegna, etc. These books are very expensive to produce and vendors carefully distribute them to the clothiers that do the most business and with whom they have good working relationships. In other words, if your clothier doesn’t have many (or recent) swatch books, you might want to look elsewhere.
A true bespoke clothier will take a number of different measurements. It’s not awesome if your clothier/tailor is done with your (initial) measuring in 2 minutes. That means they’re likely cutting corners in the process. If you’re getting suit #2, #3… the measuring process will likely not be as extensive (unless it’s a fabric that requires completely different measurements) as the initial fitting, especially if you haven’t lost or gained weight. If you’re getting fitted initially for a suit, plan on it taking about 60 measurements and 20-30 minutes. Make time for this, you won’t regret it.
-Be at a stable weight before going bespoke.
Certain people fluctuate weight often. If this is you, make sure you’re at a weight that you can and will maintain before committing to a bespoke suit. Five to ten pounds will be workable with your tailor (depending on what parts of your body you lose/gain weight), and the inlay of a true bespoke suit allows for some weight fluctuation…but don’t think that your new bespoke suit is magic. It’s not going to fit you the same way as it did pre-body transformation. Have your clothier measure you when you are at a maintainable body weight/shape.
-Listen to your clothier.
You’re not a clothier (probably) so listen to yours. They know how to make you look your best, and they know how to fit you for it (in pattern and measurement). There are different cuts, patterns, and fabrics that look good on different body types. Your clothier will know what is best for you, and a good clothier will also listen to what you like and help you create something that is representative of who you are, and looks fantastic. That’s why you want to be at a stable body weight before making this jump to bespoke.
-Focus on the Basics
Our clothier warned us before we got our first bespoke suit that we’d never be happy with ‘off-the-rack’ ever again. He was right. For this reason, it’s important that you start basic with your bespoke garments. In a way, you’re starting your wardrobe from scratch so buy what you wear and what can be versatile. A basic black, blue, and grey suit all in a medium shade is a good place to start because of the versatility of seasons and what you can wear them with. With this in mind, don’t be bullied into getting something you won’t/don’t wear. You’re the one spending more money than you’ve ever spent on a suit and you’re the one who has to wear it. If you wear black, start there. If you’re a blue pinstripes kind of guy, go for it. Just don’t start your bespoke wardrobe with a wild colored/patterned fabric unless you plan on buying other ‘basic’ pieces in the near future. Once you go bespoke, you’ll never go back to the rack.
-Don’t get caught up in fleeting fashion. Focus on timeless style.
We talked about this in the “fit” post we did, but it’s so important for “bespoke” suiting that we need to say it again. Does this mean you shouldn’t have a suit made to be slim fitting? No. It does mean, however, that you’ll want to get your suit made to fit your body (not your dream one—your actual body). A slim fitting suit tailored to your body will look different than a slim-fit suit on Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Today’s fashion—slim suits. Timeless style—a suit “bespoken” for you.
-Do your Homework
For your suit, and for your body. For example, if you have a muscular build, you naturally wear suits “harder” than a tall, skinny man. You naturally put more strain on certain parts of your suit. Get a more durable fabric. Do you have big, muscular shoulders? You probably need minimal-to-no shoulder pads and rope in your coat’s shoulders. You may also want to consider a lapel width that balances out your frame…Things like that. Your clothier can walk you through this process as well, but it helps to know a little bit about what you’re talking about.
Bespoke suits are an investment
So treat your them this way. Don’t skimp on little things when you’re purchasing your suits. Feel free to spend a little extra on details that make the suit your own (pockets, accent stitching, etc). After all, it’s the little details that will set your suit apart from others wearing the same fabric. If your suit doesn’t come with a large enough hanger to fit the shoulders of your suit properly, buy some that do. Take care of them in the way you wear, pack, and store them.
If you’re buying a bespoke suit, you clearly understand the importance of looking your best, and are willing to pay for it. As soon as you put your “bespoke” suit on, you will see and feel how your investment is starting to pay off.
Enjoy your bespoke suit, and the process that goes with it.
You know who you are, and the image you want to project. The process will allow for your bespoke wardrobe to literally fit you (and your image) perfectly.
Looking for a true bespoke clothier in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area?
Look no further than Kingford Bavender of Bavender Custom Clothiers. www.bavender.com