Men are not interested in the clothing of celebrities.

At the most, the endorsement of a film star, a magazine or a fashion brand is an endorsement, a shortcut. A man’s number one priority is not looking stupid, and popular culture is a safety blanket.

In my experience, knowledge is what really engages a man.

Tell him why his suit is better made than his friend’s. Tell him why dry cleaning is shortening the life of his shirts. Tell him why this particular leather jacket will look much better the worse it is treated (all it needs is some wax once a year).

But information can be hard to come by, or is covered in an off-putting sheen of fashion and femininity. 

In this series ‘How to buy quality…’ therefore, we will dissect different items of menswear, taking a small step towards correcting these problems.

We begin with suits.


The easiest way to identify a well-made suit is the canvas (pictured below).

This is the lining that runs down the front of the jacket and gives it structure. It’s why the front feels different to the back. The canvas can be sewn in, so it can move with you and your movements, or glued.

Glue is cheaper and easier, but means the jacket will remain stiff and impersonal. Canvas adopts the shape of your body. It gives a natural roll to the front of the jacket and its lapels.

You can always spot a glued or fused jacket because the lapels are flat and lifeless – over time the points will stand away from the jacket, such is their artificial stiffness. Cheap, high-street suits are fused.


Any good suit will have floating canvas in at least the top half of the jacket – from Austin Reed to Gieves & Hawkes to Canali. It is the minimum standard you should expect.

You can feel the canvas if you separate the cloth of the jacket – around the waist button is often easiest – by pinching the inside and the outside material and feeling for an extra, loose layer between the two.


Some suits have canvas all the way down the jacket, which creates greater structure but also weight, and is therefore not often preferred by Italian brands.

Not surprisingly, the ready-made suits offered by Savile Row tailors such as Richard Anderson and Huntsman are fully canvassed.

Bespoke suits, of course, always have a floating canvas and are fully canvassed. They also use more layers and structure of things like felt and horsehair that many ready-made suits will not use. (Hand-sewn chest canvas shown below.)


The other easy sign of a quality ready-made suit is hand stitching, which is most needed on the parts of the jacket that have to be flexible, such as the collar and armhole.

Canali and Ralph Lauren use handwork, for example. It’s easy to spot this: just turn up the collar and look at the stitches that attach it to the back of the jacket. If they are at all irregular, it is hand sewn.

However, be careful of extraneous details that mimic hand stitching.

Tiny stitches up the edge of a lapel, known as pick stitching, used to be a sign of quality. Now they are often reproduced by machine to try to give the impression of a handmade suit. (Bespoke example below.)


Not only does that kind of fakery undermine a suit’s style, but it gives you a pretty good idea of the company’s manufacturing priorities.

My other tips are fairly intuitive.

I recommend avoiding an extremely lightweight cloth: it won’t last that long. The same goes for a shiny cloth: it looks cheap and will only look cheaper. And if you’re going to wear the suit regularly, invest in two pairs of trousers. It seems expensive until you realise the alternative is a second suit.

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James Hoosier

Simon,

Top of the morning to you. My name is Benjamin Foley and I recently started working for a “modern bespoke” company by the name of Knot Standard. Prior to my beginning here, I worked in finance.

I am sure you are extremely busy, but I have been voraciously reading your blog for tips and advice on how to understand the world of bespoke menswear. Therefore, I wanted to reach out to see if you would be so kind as to give some advice on how to accelerate my learning of the industry (mills, textiles, measurement/fit, etc.). I understand you are very busy and probably get a lot of emails like this, so I understand if you are unable to reply, but I have listed a couple questions below that would be extremely helpful.

What book would you recommend to a man just beginning his journey in the bespoke world, but who wants to be immersed in the industry? (I have read Style and the Man by Alab Flusser – Looking to learn about the industry not just how to dress myself)

Are there any designers/tailors that were able to become masters of their craft later in life or at a faster pace than most?

Thank you so much for all of the work you do and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

Ben

Emanuel Lowi

Dear Simon,

Where is the best place to place the ubiquitous mobile phone inside a suit jacket?

I am about to have my third suit made by a Savile Row tailor.

I asked for a mobile phone pocket in the first two, my cutter even took a tracing of my phone to have the right dimension, but when the suits arrived — no phone pocket.

I would like to get this right the third time.

The jacket will be DB, and I wonder if it is better to have the somewhat heavy phone place high on the chest, midship, low, or whatever.

What have you found?

Philipp

Hi Simon

I know this is an old post, but I thought my comments might be best placed here…
I love bespoke garments and the process surrounding it and have had three suits made as well as a few made-to-measure items.

Obviously a few friends noticed this and were keen to have a bespoke suit made as well. The two friends who went to Savile Row tailors came back extremely dissapointed.

One of them is unhappy with the shape of the suit, the other one complained that the fit is too constricting . I know…obviously it is up to them to raise the issues with the tailor and and to explain on what they expect from a suit. Still, I sympathise with them as this mirrors my first experience as well.

I agree with your article above, that the quality of bespoke suits can be outstanding. However, I’d argue, that it ultimately comes down to fit and style. One cannot expect from new customers to be an expert in all the details of such house-styles, shoulder structures, drape, etc. I would expect the sales-person in the store to be able to identify the client’s Level of knowledge and to be able to properly guide the client and to point out what to expect from the finale product. I don’t feel the staff is properly trained to do so, which is a massive let-down for people who weren’t prepared to spend weeks on reading books/blogs, etc.

Hence, my question: Have you ever considered the idea of offering some sort of bespoke consultancy service? Basically to individually guide potential clients through the various house-styles, pros/cons depending on body shape, differences in terms of quality, etc. Basically everything PS offers but more tailored towards the individual? Maybe an idea for your next pop-store?

Saar Rajpuria

Hi Simon,
I had a question which most bespoke and quality oriented blogs like yourself do not address.
I live in india and 3 months is really hot and humid. If I am in the factory I like to wear cotton pants.
Keeping this in mind I saw ordered one cotton trouser each, with fabric from zegna and loro piana(SOLBIATI). Is there something I should keep in mind with regards to cotton trousers or is there a brand which you suggest.

Saar Rajpuria

I found that fabric from Zegna loses its sheen over wash and iron. Solbiati was a little thick for the summers but is really nice feel. So you are right cotton has been a hit and miss from luxury mills. I was thinking of picking up one cotton fabric from ariston but I might put that off.
Linen gets crumpled very easily. Is there something you would suggest.

Saar Rajpuria

on a seperate but related topic, you have to try Greenhills from VBC.
I got suit made from it two years ago and now I wear the trouser regularly(halflined). It is literally the most comfortable pant ive ever worn.

Hyunook

Dear Simon,

My name is Hyunook and I live and work in Seoul, Korea.

I was wondering if I could seek your wisdom and experience with purchasing men’s clothing, in particular suits and other articles of clothing?

I am an avid reader of permanent style and the articles and videos on the site are uniquely informative, brilliantly written and particularly useful. Your articles have changed my entire outlook on men’s clothing.

With that in mind, I was wondering if I could disturb you with a few questions to better help guide future purchasing decisions?

One thing I struggle with is making an informed decision about value for money in terms of quality. I was wondering if I could disturb you with a few questions?

1. What tailoring houses make the most durable suits in your opinion?
Weight of cloth, type of fiber, frequency of wear, weave and so on are all very important and I learned tremendously about these points through Permanent Style but the ‘quality of the make’ seems important as well, especially given the investment (Please correct me if I am wrong).

2. What clothing brands make some of the most durable clothes in your opinion?
What are some of the clothing brands you love that gave you the most wear over the years? Although purchasing new items of clothing is one of the great joys in life, maintaining a sensible, durable and reliable wardrobe is both desirable in terms of quality and good value for money.

3. What do you think of Church’s Crown Collection?
Would you say it is on the same level as Edward Green, John Lobb or Gaziano and Girling?
I haven’t found much on Church’s Crown Collection and was wondering what you thought of them.

I am very grateful for your incredible generosity in sharing your knowledge and sartorial journey.

Hyunook

Thank you so much for the prompt response. Your insights are priceless!

Ștefan Zotescu

Hello, Simon! Ștefan here, bringing (and expanding upon) a question from Instagram about suit linings. In short: Are all fused linings created equal? The long question contains a story. I recently had my first bespoke jacket made at a local tailor (with great experience – around 70 years old) in Bucharest. At the first fitting, I noticed the lack of hand sewn canvas I had seen on all bespoke basted fitting pictures over the web, and the presence of a gray fused interlining. The second fitting, I addressed this – the reason the tailor gave for using that kind of construction was weight. Now, the jacket I did receive has the following characteristics: lapel roll, smooth chest (no disadvantageous break in the lapel), heavy feel (heavier than any jacket I have, certainly, despite using a 224 g/sqm fabric). What other disadvantages could I encounter in the years to come, as I wear the jacket? I heard of bubbling around the edges of the coat, but could a good quality glue not have the same effect?

I hope my question is not too convoluted to answer, Simon. I have followed menswear sources for some time and I never quite understood exactly why full-canvas is better than fused – but I thought you would be best equipped to answer. Cheers!

Ștefan Zotescu

Thank you for your reply, Simon! The distinction you made between the *amount* of canvassing and the *method* of attaching the interlining to the fabric makes things much, much clearer – thank you! Upon closer inspection, I think what I have is a half, floating canvas. Towards the bottom of the jacket, I can’t feel a third layer in between the exterior and interior of the jacket. I feel the exterior layer as being a bit thicker, but that may be just me. Near the lapel and chest pocket, I can definitely feel three layers, and the middle one seems to be ‘floating’.
As I did not see hand stitching at the first fitting and I also did not pay a fortune for the jacket, I suppose that must be it – floating, but not hand sewn. Thank you for clearing things up!

Ștefan Zotescu

In terms of quality, it is very very likely that things are as you said . In terms of process, I would say it is closer to bespoke. The tailor does not make a separate pattern for me – not because he modifies an already existing one, but because he doesn’t work with patterns at all (I have seen him working). Also, I had three fittings and I was in full control (well, you know, in the margins of his skill and possibilities) of the garment being created. In this specific sense I think it’s closer to bespoke. For what I am paying, though, I cannot expect all the Savile Row bells and whistles.

Ștefan Zotescu

Thank you too! I am in the clear about what i am getting now. It feels good to be an informed customer :).

P.A.

Hi Simon,

This certainly is an old topic, but I feel it is the right place to ask you my question.

What are your thoughts about half-canvas construction ?
Is it merely a marketing trick to sell a “sartorial” garment while saving costs ?
Is it a way to make a lighter jacket (say for summer) ?
The real question being : is it worth investing in half-canvassed suits and jackets or is it better to go directly towards a full-canvas construction ?

As I am strating my sartorial journey and education, but also limited by my finances as I fairly recentrly started working, I wonder if my acquisitions (mostly SuitSupply) will last, and how to keep adding new pieces.

Maybe you’ve gone into more details on another article, in which case I’m sorry, but I haven’t found it.

Thanks in advance

P.A.

P.A.

Thanks Simon for your quick answer !

I actually managed to get a discontinued jacket from Suitsupply, 3 roll 2, full-canvas, silk-linen-cashmere and pearl buttons. The canvas is fairly light, 2 layers I reckon.

I am considering on getting a Custom made suit from them, and was wondering if it was worth it to get the full canvas for an extra 100€.
Given your answer, I think I will go with that option.

By the way, I know that this is not really Permanent Style’s bracket, but do you have by any chance any recommendations on affordable and (relatively) good quality MTM/RTW brand in the Suitsupply budget ?
I live in Paris by the way, so I have access to both physical and online stores.

Cheers
P.A.