This month’s GQ features an unfortunate example of how not to have a suit made in Hong Kong.

The column in the Talk section features a description of a flying visit to the (in)famous Sam’s Tailor. Sam is famous for having walls decorated with famous people posing in his shop, including Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. Sam is infamous for being more of a tourist destination than a tailor.

Although one of the best known tailors in Kowloon, I have heard almost no positive reports about Sam’s work. A friend of mine went to him when he first moved to Hong Kong, two years ago now. Sam took long one look at my friend, dismissed him with a hand and refused to measure him. That was left to a lackey, and Sam disappeared. The process and the result were a little disappointing, both from a fit and a quality point of view.

A quick search of the style forums reveals similar stories. One member reports: “Sam’s is most definitely a tourist destination more than anything. I am quite impressed that Sam has managed to get pictures with so many famous individuals, but I’d bet money that was their one and only visit to Sam’s. I do speak from experience as I had a tuxedo made at WW Chan at the same time a friend had one made at Sam’s. There really is no comparison. Chan is a true tailor while Sam is only a notch above all the guys plying Western tourists with offers for $200 suits as soon as they step off the Star Ferry in Kowloon.”

The other tailor mentioned here, WW Chan, has a very strong reputation but is considerably more expensive. But for the same price as Sam, ($300-$400) one can get a handmade suit from my own Hong Kong tailor, Edward Tam (contact details upon request).

There are, unfortunately, a lot of tailors in Hong Kong playing off the fact that many people go there to have suits made and the majority know nothing about suits – material, construction or fit. But there are two obvious points that should immediately have told GQ that Sam’s was a poor-quality establishment.

Firstly, Sam offered the GQ reporter a cold beer as soon as he entered. A regular tactic of tailors in Asia and one which, residents tell me, the tailors are always surprised to find has a remarkably positive effect on tourists (how cheap we are!).

Secondly, and less jokingly, the GQ reporter had his whole suit made in 24 hours. No fitting, no opportunity for adjustments. Just measurements and then the final suit. No self-respecting tailor would offer this as standard.

They know the client doesn’t know many of the things he should specify. Do you know the width of trousers you want? Do you know how long you want the jacket? If you don’t ask, the first will be too wide and the second too long in Asia. And they know that no tailor makes a perfect suit straight off, without seeing it on the body. It needs to be tweaked and tucked. Perhaps if the client were a repeat customer. But for a first-timer? Never.

So ignore GQ. This isn’t the first time it has recommended Sam the Tailor.

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world of sekimachihato

i am living and working in hong kong and unfortunately had a run-in with a tayor who didn’t do a good job on a jacket i had made. because of this i’ve been to scared to jump into getting a suit made.
as i have a slim build i find it very hard to find well-fitted/slim cut suits off the rack here in hong kong.
after reading through your posts i might just take the plunge and visit mr tam!

Russell C

last year i had 2 suits made at Sams – for much the same reason everyone goes there – it’s famous. they are completely terrible, poorly fitted, poorly stitched, heavily lined (poly) and just generally a crap retail experience. i had to have both fixed twice after picking up the first time. i don’t wear them as they are about 9 months old. the place is packed, no individual attention and really no comparison to other tailors offering much the same cost.

my advice…don’t go there

rnssnc

honestly, how people can believe that this guy supposedly churns out quality suits in 24 hours is beyond me.

quality takes time and skill, time and skill is money, there are no two ways about it.

don’t get confused though, i’m not saying to go out and splash your money on the most expensive thing there is. to put it simply, i strongly believe that all fine things are expensive, but not all expensive things are fine…

Horatio

Any establishment that needs to get its clientele drunk in order to do business with them is questionable at best and dishonest at worst.

AFJ

@Simon Crompton

Which other tailors in HK can you recommend besides Edward Tam?

Brgds

terry smith

edward’s contact info please

Oscar C

Could you please give me Tam’s contact? Is he an English speaker?

Philip Xiao

Could I get Edward’s contact info when you get a chance? Thanks

Eric m

Can you send me contact info for Edward Tam? I’m heading there Dec 16-23

Eric m

Sorry, was looking on my phone and should have scrolled down before posting.

twitter_bobby_wales

Hi! I know that this is an old post . . . what is the price range for Mr. Tam’s suits? I am looking for something in the 400-500 USD range, recognizing that that will not be top of the line. I have been referred by several people to Sam’s, but I am hesitant now after reading your other post.

Owen Turnbull

Current prices are US$600-700 for a jacket and two pairs of trousers in VBC wool.

I’ve sent many friends to Edward after poor experiences elsewhere and they are all very happy!

John

Let me just say at outset that this comment is not meant to be offensive. I’m in the business of facts and honest truth.

I visited Hong Kong on a longish business trip a few months ago. The sartorial experience there is just terrible.

I know a thing or two about suits (though I’m still a long way from Mr Crompton’s level), so I wasn’t exactly your average tourist just off the Star Ferry. I’d read about the famous 24-hour-suit Hong Kong tailors, so I decided to pay a visit.

It started off badly even before I stepped inside. The vendors (mostly of tat and svouvenirs) on the Nathan Road will spot a Westerner a mile away, and surrounded me like a pack of velociraptors, handing out business cards. One was from Punjab Tailors, aka Apsley.

I know they mean to be friendly (I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt), and that business is business, but I found their twenty-questions manner quite rude. I’m not about to tell a complete stranger where I’m from, so the fellow from Punjab kept guessing. I’m not fair-haired, and short (the bane of my life), so he was ticking off all the Southern European countries.

If Punjab House had offered me a free bespoke suit, I’d have refused it. If they wish to be taken seriously as tailors, they need to drop the whole street hawker approach, and stop harassing foreigners in Hong Kong. We’re not all idiots with massive credit cards.

I ran the gauntlet of the rest of them, and found Sam’s shop. It’s a disaster. Forget about the wares, it’s all about the celebrities the proprietor’s managed to take a picture with. The shop is shabby, and the suits on display don’t help at all, because the workmanship is terrible.

And worst of all are the people at the shop. I know they’re busy, but the essence of personalised tailoring (let’s not call it bespoke), or any personalised service for that matter, is that the shopkeeper should slow down for a minute and give you their full attention.

At the start of my trip, I had half a mind to commission a bespoke shirt. When I had a look at the prices, and the quality, I ran a mile. They don’t come cheap. For thirty or forty pounds more, you can get a bespoke shirt from a good London shirtmaker, or from one of the better ones in the European capitals.

I can compromise on quality if the price is right, but in the end it was the attitude that turned me off.

I just don’t know how some reviews can be so dishonest. Or the reviewers so star-struck.

So thank you, Mr Crompton. Some things just need to be said.

Rich

Simon…I just came across your blog and am enjoying it. I am heading to Bangkok and was thinking of getting some suits made. It would be my first time as I have been buying off the rack suits all my life. After reading your blog on not listening to GQ I’d like to know how to find a good tailor. I am only going to be there 5 days so I wanted to book an appointment ahead of time. Any advice or do you have someone that you would go to in Bangkok to have a suit made? Thanks in advance for your reply.

Regards,
Rich