Steven Hitchcock bespoke jacket basted fitting

  
I return to the drape style with recognisable regularity. For those without a big chest – and not that bothered about big, wide shoulders – it is a very flattering shape. Many also forget how slim it is usually cut through the waist, enhancing the contrast with the chest.

But I wasn’t going to talk about drape. I was going to use this excuse of a fitting with Steven Hitchcock on a new jacket – in a beautiful grey from the W Bill Lamlana bunch, which mixes lambswool and angora – to talk about the customer’s interaction with his tailor. 
  

Steven Hitchcock bespoke jacket2

Steven Hitchcock bespoke jacket savile row

  
Men that are new to bespoke are often thrown by the number of options: width of trouser, length of sleeve, number of buttons. Unfortunately, some react by trying to learn about every single aspect of the suit, and then dictate to the tailor. 

This is rarely a good idea. Almost every man I know that has suits from multiple tailors ends up coming to the same conclusion: just let the tailor cut their style. 

Don’t get an English tailor to cut a Neapolitan jacket. Distrust any tailor that says they can cut in every style. And don’t start moving around buttoning points, lapel rolls and pockets. 

I’ve made all these mistakes in the past – the English/Neapolitan one, the tailor in any style one, removing structure from a structured jacket, removing drape from a draped jacket, perhaps worst of all trying to make a traditional jacket ‘younger’. 

Just because there are so many variables in bespoke, it doesn’t mean you should change them. You may get 8 out of 10 right, but not 10. The Florentine tailor, on the other hand, would have cut a perfect Florentine jacket. 
  

Steven Hitchcock bespoke jacket fittings

   
This same lesson goes for behaviour in a fitting room. For a start, leave the basted fitting to the tailor; it’s about balance, not style; just stand there and answer if asked. Then, at the forward fitting, only consider the options that are obviously questions of personal taste. The obvious ones are sleeve length, trouser length and perhaps trouser width. 

Some bespoke customers seem to be under the bizarre impression that tailors are trying to deceive them. That if they don’t come in armed with requirements for every aspect of the suit, the tailor will screw them over. 

They won’t. The tailor will simply cut to his style and taste. And if you don’t like his style and taste, you shouldn’t be using this tailor. 

Others seem to be under the impression that they know more than their tailor. You may know more about international styles, but you don’t know more about how to cut his style that he does. And again, if you know more than your tailor, you shouldn’t be using him.*

I mention all this, of course, because it occurred to me how few choices I made with this jacket from Steven. We have made a jacket before of course, so that helps. But all I really had to do was select cloth and buttons, the number of breasts and buttons, and confirm Steven’s assumptions about my sleeve length. 

Steven cuts a damn good jacket. I know his style and I came to him because I like his style. That’s it. 

It’s also nice to see Steven and Celia settling into the premises on George Street. As soon as you walk in you can see them working away at the back, with Steven often preparing his own bastes (as he usually prefers to do). There are other tailors in the building, of course, but the downstairs area feels like Steven’s pad, and it suits him to have one.
  

Steven Hitchcock bespoke jacket lamlana

Steven Hitchcock bespoke jacket fitting

Steven Hitchcock bespoke jacket

  
Steven is, by the way, in the US in a couple of weeks, and will be in Boston for the first time. Do give him a warm welcome. 

Details: 

  • New York: Sunday 4th to Tuesday 6th October (until noon), The Benjamin Hotel
  • Boston: Wednesday 7th to Thursday 8th October, The Eliot Hotel
  • Contact +0207 287 2492 and [email protected] 

 

*The only possible exception is a very limited access to tailors, which means you’re stuck with him. 

Photos: Jack Lawson

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Ulrich

Full agreement with this post! It should also be noted that usually tailors are not designers, and neither are customers. Whereas the house style / personal style of the tailor is the result of years of practice, learning and refinement. The thing is, probably, that in the beginning of a tailor/customer relationship there is a considerable amount of uncertainty (will it fit? will it look good? etc.), which the customer may try to control in the way described.

Another question, though, Simon. Once you have worked with a tailor for some time he should know you pretty well, right? And all the individual patterns should be quite fine tuned. Shouldn’t this reduce the numbers of fittings to one, or even none at all?

Frank

Does soft tailoring per se mean more comfort for you as a wearer compared to the more structured British jackets you have, Simon? If so, what’s the advantage of a more structured jacket? And, from a technical point of view, does soft tailoring mean fewer working hours involved in the making? E.g. the stitches on the canvas seem rather big perhaps because it’s all about drape rather than structure?

Mac

Wise words, Simon. In my experience a structured coat will also soften up after a few years’ wear much like a top-end pair of formal shoes. That structure is the essence of quality tailoring or the best shoes.

I certainly understand the attraction of soft/ drape-cut tailoring. All shoulder types will soften and droop a little over time. A soft shoulder is going to droop and sag much more visibly due to its thinness and softness. That’s one of the main disadvantages I think.

Jack

How do you go about selecting your fabrics?

Having only had 6 items made so far – 2 were very standard fabrics and are fine, 2 were ones you’d used and were good and 2 were my own choice and didnt turn out as I’d hoped.

When I go to a tailors the number of books of bunches are overwhelming, often not well ordered and as per the comments above, most tailors arent designers and some of their recommendations have been questionable at the minimum and poor at worst. Even when viewing a 4″x 4″ sample I struggle to really know how it’ll look when a jacket hence my hopsack is far too formal when I’d wanted a light weight informal jacket.

Mark

All very true: some people seem to enter the tailor’s with the notion that, because there is the possibility of infinite choice, they should indulge it. That way disaster potentially lies.

On the flip side, however, timidity can get you in just as much trouble. I recall paying for my younger bother to get a suit made up by a well known tailor. When I asked him what he thought of the finished article he replied that it looked good, but that he hardly wore it because the sleeves were too tight. I asked him why he hadn’t mentioned that during the fittings, to which he thought that “the tailor knew best”!

When I took my son along to the tailor, I gave him strict instructions to deliver honest feedback throughout the process, having learnt an expensive lesson via his uncle.

Mark

All very true: some people seem to enter the tailor’s with the notion that, because there is the possibility of infinite choice, they should indulge it. That way disaster potentially lies.

On the flip side, however, timidity can get you in just as much trouble. I recall paying for my younger brother to get a suit made up by a well known tailor. When I asked him what he thought of the finished article he replied that it looked good, but that he hardly wore it because the sleeves were too tight. I asked him why he hadn’t mentioned that during the fittings, to which he replied that he thought that “the tailor knew best”!

When I took my son along to the tailor, I gave him strict instructions to deliver honest feedback throughout the process, having learnt an expensive lesson via his uncle.

Bags

Nowadays is hard to find proper tailor – you got lucky, man 🙂

Winot

Agree with the broad thrust of the post. I would say however that very occasionally I spot something that the tailor doesn’t, e.g. an issue with balance, sleeve pitch, and it is worth pointing that out. It helps if you have a long term relationship and do it sensitively of course.

nick inkster

I broadly agree, but before you choose a tailor, you need to have a goodish idea about what you want the finished article to look like. In particular, I think the trouser needs a bit of thought; slim or full in the leg, width at the hem; dart/pleat etc. All need consideration so that you can at least have a discussion about it.
The coat is about style; single/double/vents/fastenings etc, and then the tailor can go to work. But you do need to give him a clue as to preferred fit.
A well chosen photo or two in this respect can be a good pointer.

Matt S

Whilst you can tell your tailor if you want pleats or no pleats in the trousers, is the dart something you can request of your tailor? Isn’t the tailor going to put a dart in the front of the trousers if he thinks it is necessary? A dart in the trousers isn’t a style choice, it’s all about fit.

Nick Inkster

Matt
Darts in the front of a trouser are not about fit (although they are around the back sometimes). They are all about adding a subtle extra feature.

Matt S

Darts (like pleats) certainly do change the fit of the trousers, both in the front and the back! Men’s clothing never has extra darts or seams just for looks. Just as darts in the back give fullness to the seat and hips, darts in front also curve the trousers over the hips. Some tailors put them aligned with the crease for visual effect, though others say putting them off to the side by the pockets better directs the fullness to the hips even though it might not look as nice.

Mac

Oh dear, I have deja vu! Nick, topside trousers pleats are…..oh what’s the use?

Matt S

I found the previous discussion on darts: http://www.permanentstyle.com/2015/04/permanent-style-dinner-the-gathering.html

I must have missed that one. I can’t see a way that darts can be added without affecting the fit compared to a flat front. Perhaps two darts in front and two darts in back will have a similar fit to four darts in back and no darts in front. That’s all I can come up with.

Dominic

Firstly, I don’t mean to sound like a stalker Simon, but Steven was showing me your jacket in his shop a few weeks back and it looked the business in real life! Lovely cloth. Congratulations.

Having just had a suit made with him myself, I absolutely echo the statements you’ve made here. Whilst I did have some rather specific requests regarding certain details – lapel shape, size, pocket flaps, lapel flower hole etc. – we made sure we chatted through these in great detail before getting started, and he nailed it first time. But when it came to the fit, I just let Steven and Celia do their thing. The results were superb and exactly what I went to him for in the first place.

It’s just like getting your hair cut. By all means, tell the barber what style you’re after, but don’t go dictating to him exactly how he should cut it. It’s not worth interfering – everyone works in their own way.

nick inkster

I like the barber analogy; there was a TV commercial about the guy going into the barbers, unsure of what he wanted. The barber says…”why not have a Lionel Blair cut, like me?” The customer answers, somewhat anxiously, that Lionel Blair’s hair is not like that. The barber replies “It would be if he came here”.

BespokeNYC

Couldn’t agree more Simon! I’ve always had the best results when I let the tailor stick to the house style as much as possible, although I’ve certainly made some of the mistakes you mentioned too.

I think there’s a misconception you have to know a lot about clothes in order to have them commissioned, which may explain why so many men don’t do it. I was watching the Emmys last night (wife used to work in the industry so we pretty much have to watch all the award shows) and it couldn’t help noticing how terrible most of the men’s outfits were. And I don’t just mean that they were overly fashionable, or the fact nobody wore a cummerbund, but outright badly made and badly fitting. Celebrities probably attend more black tie functions than anybody, and they clearly have the funds, so why do so few of them go bespoke? Perhaps they just don’t know how easy it can be…?

Anonymous

Inkster points to something important, how to get to the stage of knowing not just what you want but what matches your personal style and physique. I suggest, it is only really through experimentation, (economically perhaps through RTW cut, colour, cloth etc.), that this might be found. The other point to be made is on the tailor’s style; obvious perhaps when comparing Huntsman/A&S/Neoplitan but more generally I believe this to be harder than it might seem. Off Savile Row how might this be more defined for the less experienced buyer? As traditional bespoke faces challenges from RTW/MTM sources should it take a better lead in defining the shape and house style (always something a bit nebulous) that they produce (as Tommy Nutter did)? Without this it is hard to discern whether one should be using the tailor or not.

Simon, if doing something on cloth would it be possible to include buttons/trimmings (I found your tip on the Button Queen v. helpful). Also, separately, can a spotlight be shone on the Row apprentices/up and-commers that may star in the future.

TC

Don’t get a gauntlet cuff this time – you will grow tired of it and wear it less.

Mac

One of the problems for tailors is that you often have to re-educate new clients who’ve been buying gimmicky, poorly-fitting RTW their whole lives. The fashion designers have a lot to answer for.

If a man’s always had 6 inches of crumpled trouser break at his ankles it’s normal for him! Likewise with sleeve or coat length. Overly-tight coat waists. There are some fundamental laws in tailoring that no no craftsman should be asked to break.

There’s so little exposure to bespoke culturally that (apart from the diehards here) the average man who’s lucky enough to afford bespoke may not know anyone else who wears it. If we rewind to the 1930s, back then it was all around you. Ignore Style Forum know-it-alls. Ignore GQ. A little knowlege is dangerous.

Trust the craftsmen who’ve spent years learning their craft and who know, as Simon says, more than yourself. It’s not about one perfect suit. Just fine tune as you go over the longterm. ‘Perfection’ is fool’s gold. Aim to be well-dressed and you’ll be much happier!

Lonsdale

Dear Simon,

This article is a masterpiece. Thank you for these advices that are essential for the bespoke lovers.

Yours

Lonsdale

BespokeNYC

Very good point Mac! There probably is a re-learning process one has to go through, which often requires a very patient tailor (this blog helps too!)

Funnily enough, Steven cut my first ever bespoke jacket and I still remember how he very kindly and gently steered me away from the RTW features I thought I wanted. As a result I have a beautiful, perfectly proportioned jacket, which I still love and will continue to look good for many more years.

T

Hi Simon, thanks for the post, a pleasure to read as always. Quick question: I am having a jacket made with an unlined front. My tailor said that the jacket wouldn’t have a chest piece if it’s not lined in the front. Do you think this is true? I believe the very soft and unlined Neopolitan jackets still, to a degree, have some structure.

Andy

Hi Simon,
What is your opinion on the optimal position for the shoulder seam? Where the acromion bone ends? Beyond the acromion bone to the outer edge of the deltoid, so the sleave drapes straight from shoulder to wrist? Does this differ with different style of shoulder, considering a roped shoulder extends the width?

7igermilk

Hi Simon, am dying for a post on how this jacket turned out as I been thinking of having a jacket made in the same cloth but couldn’t make up my mind. Thanks in advance.

Albannach

Dear Simon,

Was this cloth Phoenix WB140803? I was recently having a look at this fabric and thought it might work well with navy and mid-grey or charcoal trousers, but that fawn and mid-brown might not offer enough contrast (I was hoping it might go with khaki chinos if made up in a soft construction). Any thoughts? With what have you been wearing the jacket?

With thanks and congratulations on the look of the new blog.

Ian

I totally agree with this. I went to see a tailor in Torquay about 10 years ago to have a sport’s coat made. In the initial discussions we chatted and I discovered he had done his apprenticeship at Huntsman in the 60s. That settled it for me, and thus I went for single button and variations on his old house cut. 2 suits, 2 sport’s coats and a blazer later and I am so glad I stumbled upon this jewell – and found a cut I had never really considered but now adore.

Stephen Dolman

Hi Simon,
Have you any experience of
Charlie Allen of Islington?
I am told he is very good and comparatively reasonably priced
Regards
Stephen

Alex N.

Dear Simon,
Would requesting a two-button jacket with straight pockets from (let’s say) Richard Anderson fall in the category of changing the house style? I dislike slanted pockets as they are too distinctive. Also, I prefer a two button rather than a single button as it is more understated (less distinctive). As long as I do not change lapel, shoulders, chest/drape, overall silhouette of a house style, do you think it is fine to change buttoning and pockets? I purposefully choose R.A. as I really like the rest of the silhouette and style details (and also the guy himself is very pleasant). I would love your view on this.
Regards,
Alex

MotorProtein

I gave no instructions to my tailors except that I wanted high armholes and I got this 🙁

https://www.styleforum.net/threads/feedback-on-my-first-suit.655323/#lg=attachment1305471&slide=0

Peter

Dear Simon,
Would you consider length to be a part of house style? I have seen examples from Steven which are traditional length (half the length from the collar) and some which are very short (barely touching the start of the wrists). Would you say it’s acceptable to request a given length of jacket? I have experienced that when some tailors see that I am a younger client they automatically think I want a tighter, shorter jacket and I have to explain to them I want quite a traditional one. Would be interested in your thoughts on that.
Peter

Florian

Hi Simon,

I really like the cut of the corduroy suit you got made from Pirozzi except for the formal looking shoulder. Could I ask them to cut the jacket without roping or is this to much of a change of the house style?

Hjerl Henrik

This is excellent!

Alex N.

Dear Simon,
I have been going back and forth on this point of asking a tailor to change something
on his suit and I came to the following conclusion:
(By”you” read tailor)
“Your style, my proportions”
This is to mean, I am not going to interfere in how you construct your jacket, sleeve head, etc.
But I will ask for my preferred proportions. I like my quarters relatively closed, and I will have them that way. I like my notch lower and lapel moderately wide (3.5in) and will ask for it. I like my vents to start high, I find it more comfortable and less wrinkly and will ask for it.
However, this comes with experience and with conversations, reading and learning your preferences. My first suits weren’t perfect but they had good style, I learned from them about proportions, fit, cloth and dealing with imperfections. So they helped me refine my taste and preferences. Also, I learned that the range of correct is quite wide meaning – a collar height’s correctness varies, it can be 1in higher or lower and still be correct; the jacket can be one inch shorter or longer and be correct, so you must learn your preferences or not care.
Kindly,
Alex N.