Is bespoke worth it?

Wednesday, September 4th 2019
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A reader recently commented that, as a newcomer, he struggled to see why he would get into bespoke tailoring - given the number of negative experiences I often report. 

It made me realise that I rarely set out the case for bespoke (both for and against) assuming that after 11 years of writing about it, everyone knows already. 

So here’s my attempt to express it in a single post. 

First, I would like to get some smaller points out of the way. These are by no means unimportant, but they are not the major reasons I buy bespoke. 

Tradition. Many bespoke customers love the fact that suits have been made in that way for hundreds of years, and they’re tapping into history. Particularly English history, particularly Savile Row. This is the tailor Fred Astaire used, or Gary Cooper. 

I completely see this appeal, but it doesn’t hold much sway for me. Particularly after you’ve had one suit made by a traditional tailor. Too much of it is tourism. 

Craft. There is a phenomenal amount of work in a bespoke suit. Not just the cutting and the sewing, but the re-cutting, the re-sewing, the re-pressing. It makes for beautiful photography; it makes the garment feel human, as it was made by humans; it is an artistic creation, rather than a mechanical one. 

This has slightly more appeal, particularly as you get to know those people personally. But, the craft only works for me if it is functional. It might seem cold and clinical, but if the job could be done better by a machine, I don’t mind it being done by a machine.

Longevity. Again, greater appeal. Because of the way a bespoke suit is made, it can be more easily repaired and adjusted. This is something we’re covering in videos at the moment, and after years of bespoke you do realise its value.

This is especially true in an age when sustainability and vintage are becoming more important. You can have an old bespoke suit that has been well looked after, repaired and loved. You’re unlikely to do that with something from the high street. 

Environment and sustainability. On the subject of sustainability, there is definitely an argument to be made that a bespoke suit comes off well, given it’s usually all made locally, with more natural materials, and encourages re-use and repair. 

However, this is rarely straightforward. The carbon footprint is dependent on whether the wool came from Australia or Scotland, whether the tailor flew out to see you multiple times, and so on. Some customers buy in even greater volume than anyone does from the high street. In the end, buying less is the best policy, no matter how it was made. 

So what’s the fundamental benefit of bespoke? 

For me, it’s the fit achieved through the combination of hand cutting, multiple fittings and re-cutting, and the handwork that puts a swell in the chest, or a curve in the trouser leg. 

When you see a master tailor cut cloth for your body, loosely sew it together, and then drape it around you, you start to realise how different this is. 

How he unpicks the shoulder seam, to move the front and back panels closer (but at a diagonal). To run it more flatteringly down your back. 

And then, the other places that need adjustment to keep the bottom hem of the jacket straight, given the whole back has just been moved up, across, and twisted. It’s shaping material around your body.

Clothing you. 

Made-to-measure tailoring has improved hugely in recent decades. I’ve experienced very good MTM at Saman Amel, for instance, which deals with the angle of shoulders and whether one is lower than the other. 

But this is always going to be an approximation. How many options do you have available for shoulder angle? Three? Five? A tailor has an infinite number - not just in measurements by the fraction of an inch, but by re-positioning on the body exactly, pinning and then re-cutting. 

And it’s rarely efficient for MTM to include all the handwork of bespoke. Hand-attached collar? Great, but lining still by machine. Hand-padded chest? Great, but still a low armhole. 

The fit of bespoke, then, and the way it can be more comfortable, flatter you, and even add style though the control of a lapel roll, or the building of a sleevehead. 

Two more benefits come high on my list. 

Relationship. This is something it’s hard to appreciate except personally, over time.

It’s not about knowing the person who cuts your clothes. It’s the fact they will still be there next year, when you order again. That they will get to know what you like. They might even become a friend.

Brands try to do this kind of thing all the time. Have VIP rooms, give you special treatment. But it’s never the same - because the staff change, and they rarely knew anything in the first place. 

Choice. This is the one that gets most people into bespoke or MTM. The ability to pick your own cloth, cut, details. It means you can have something individual, and build your own personal wardrobe. 

However, I put it third on my list of important factors because MTM can have as many choices as bespoke, sometimes more. A brand like Ralph Lauren, for instance, will have cloths available for MTM that it has designed and are exclusive to it. 

Also, the longer you buy bespoke, the more you miss design. Because it will always be the most important thing about making your clothes look good, and because tailors are often not great at it. Choice is great, if you can choose well. 

That’s my attempt to put down the benefits, in around 1000 words. Any more than that, and I’ll overwhelm the newcomer. 

I’m sure I will have missed things out. And each of the points could of course be a post on its own. But this is a starting point, not an ending. 

The only final thing I’d say is that the problems I highlight in reviews are often due to two things. 

First, bespoke is an open, creative process. It is starting from scratch - opening wide the doors to possibility. It is the opposite of MTM, which attempts to narrow down and refine.

This means that sometimes things go wrong, but they get better over time. The hardest thing to tell first-time customers is: your second suit will be better. Because your cutter will learn how best to clothe your body, and because you’ll learn better what you want. 

Second, because bespoke is expensive (relative to RTW; it’s actually cheap for what it is), there will always be people trying to undercut on price. They’ll do this by cutting corners, or setting out on their own before they’re ready. 

This is a vast simplification of course - as is this whole article, necessarily - but it means you should always be a little sceptical about bespoke that is cheap. Because even tailors that charge a lot aren’t making much. 

So is bespoke worth it? It depends on your priorities. Consider the ones I’ve set out, and how much they matter to you. 

Don’t buy bespoke for tradition, for history, or for design. Don’t spend an irresponsible amount of money and think it will meet your wildest expectations.

But always buy the best you can afford, and if that’s bespoke, try a well-established tailor and see what you think about how the distinct way the fit makes you look. 

Other posts worth reading:

Photography: Fitting by Nicola Cornacchia. More on Cornacchia here. Shot by Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

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Gary Mitchell

Location is an influence on this; I moved from, mostly bespoke, to mostly off the peg only because I spend so much of my time so far away from tailors it becomes almost impossible. I did have one suit ‘on the go’ for near 2 years as I just could not get to fittings. I will return and do return to bespoke whenever I can but am definitely in the ‘for bespoke’ camp.

Fu Pei

Very great point. I prefer some tailor near me, because many fittings take time, and if the location is far away, it becomes more frustrating.

Chip

Are there pics comparing you in bespoke clothing vs. Rtw or MTM? Would be good to see how different they look side by side.

Rups

A couple of things, first is these questions of whether something is ‘worth’ it depend on the individuals wealth and income. For a wealthy fund manager, or plutocrat what’s a few thousand pounds? The incremental benefits make it ‘worth’ spending a few thousand rather than several hundred pounds on a suit as the difference in money is negligible to them. If you’re a regular joe earning say £30k a year in a big city like London is that incremental difference in quality going to be ‘worth’ spending 20% of your after tax income on a suit?

I think the alternatives to how you choose to spend your money have to be considered too. I can’t help but think many guys would be better off spending their money on a personal trainer and some good grooming if the objective is to simply look better. Theres a cap on what a bespoke suit can do for your figure and general appearance.

Just as an aside, you mention that tailors ‘..aren’t making much’. I know historically that might have been true and there is an image of the poor tailor hunched over a candle in the evening trying to pay the bills but these days it’s just not true. I know the owners of a smaller bespoke tailoring house in London and have seen the numbers. I think some of the readers would be shocked at how much a small but busy bespoke tailoring house makes. Profit which is shared between owners can reasonably run to between £500k-1m in a small but fairly busy London bespoke house. That’s after all costs are paid. That is significant to me although it may well be small change to Simon now LoL Numbers at some of the successful bigger houses on SR run into the low millions of pounds. Some of the Italian tailors who are far more popular than London tailors especially amongst the SE Asian cognoscenti are making more than even this with higher revenues and lower costs in rent and rates / staff costs. The resurgence of interest in bespoke tailoring and spending power of the customer means it can be a highly profitable business, although I concede there are some notable loss makers who I won’t name who lose money usually because of their own wacky business practises. Various newcomers realise there’s money and a lot of it going around and therefore you see them setting up shop all over the place. You’ve covered some of them.

E L

The numbers you cite might be accurate for a few small houses (I honestly don’t know), but I have troubles imagining this is the case for most houses.

For starters, if tailors who run a small tailoring house made this much money on average, I think you would see a much larger exodus of tailors who work for the bigger houses trying to make it on their own. Of course, they would have to build a clientele, but if the amount of money they could make as an owner is really that much greater than the amount they would make at a tailor at a large tailoring house, I think more tailors would give it a shot.

You would also have to look at the number of tailoring houses closing down. I don’t know what these numbers are, but I get the impression that at least 10-15 years ago, more tailoring houses were closing than opening. If tailoring houses were as profitable as you say, you should see the reverse: more opening than closing.

Additionally, if tailoring were so lucrative, I think you would see more people trying to learn to become tailors. Other jobs where people are pulling in the profits you describe are seen as desirable. (To the best of my knowledge) you don’t have people lining up at the door wanting to learn how to become a tailor.

Tailoring is also a luxury. So, while profits may be good now, during a recession tailoring houses get hit hard. I am sure this is something they have to account for in any long term business model.

I am sure that some minority of houses are as successful as you say, but–again–I think this would really have to be a minority. In most businesses, to make a lot of money you have to work at a pretty large scale. I don’t think bespoke tailoring is overall conducive to such scale.

Also, Simon: you often discuss the prices of bespoke and higher end rtw products and say that margins aren’t so ludicrous. Yet, people continue to doubt you. Maybe it would be worthwhile and of interest to see where the consumer’s money goes with the type of products you cover on PS. Maybe an article where you interview a tailor or two (perhaps anonymously) on the costs of labor, rent, materials, etc. I think people would find something like that interesting.

Rups

@ EL … you raise some interesting points.

Most employees don’t go and start up their own tailoring houses much as the typical barista doesn’t go and set up their own little coffee shop. Reason is I believe because owning and running a business requires a range of different skills to merely doing a narrow set of tasks, carries a different risk reward profile (ie an employee gets a fixed wage vs. being exposed to profits and losses) with a upfront large investment needed in a shop, staff, marketing and so on. This goes to the question of whether you want to work as an employee or become an businessman. Ive done the latter fairy recently so I understand the difficulty of such a decision.

On the point about why you don’t get an influx of new tailors going into the profession due to potential high profitability you could ask the same about why there isn’t a queue of students lining up to do a plumbing course at their local college. After all a self employed plumber earns more than the average office professional in London and probably many other cities around the world. The reason I imagine is because money isn’t the only factor on deciding a profession. Status is probably just as important and there is a stigma around becoming a tailor which is considered a manual working class / blue collar job. It also requires a long apprenticeship equal to that of becoming a medical professional but at a low rates of pay. Many just can’t do the job to the standard required and it has a high drop out rate. This is because tailoring is like a mix of being an engineer and artist who is trying to make a man look better than he probably ought to using just a piece of cloth. Seeing it like that he has to be something of a magician.

On the point about scale, if you take the model they use it can scale enough to make those kind of profits. Yes there comes a point you cant get any bigger as the cutters can only draft a certain amount of patterns, and the pool of outworkers who are like a shared factory between the firms will be backlogged with work.

E L

1. I don’t think tailoring is quite comparable to the barista case for several reasons. I think the skills match up much more closely. You probably have to be a decent business person to run a tailoring house, but you don’t have to be a great one. It’s probably more like running a small medical or dental practice: you have to know somewhat what you are doing financially, but the main thing is whether you are competent at what you do. Opthalmologists go to medical school, not business school. Many tailors don’t even seem like good businessmen. Even the best tailoring houses tend to have poor websites and poor social media accounts. They could attract more business with better websites and social media accounts, yet they don’t. I think this says something about their business acumen.

Returning to the previous example, of course, not all opthalmologists have their own practices, but a large percent do, especially the more senior ones. One reason more probably don’t is that you still make very good money as an opthalmologist (at least here in the US) even if you don’t have your own practice. The same cannot be said for tailors.

2. According to the piece Simon linked to, the top cutters are paid 60,000 pounds. If tailors who run small houses routinely make 500-1000k as you claim, I think you would have more tailors testing the waters. Maybe tailors are just really risk averse, but my sense is that if they could make 10-20 times what they make, they would give it a shot.

3. If you are running a coffee shop, you have to determine where you are getting your beans, equipment, etc. Tailors already know where they get their cloth and equipment, and it is not too difficult for a new tailor to set things up in this regard. The practicalities aren’t too hard to sort out.

4. Sure, there is some overhead to being a tailor, but if you start out on your own, the overhead need not be huge. You need a small workspace and a place to meet with clients, at least occasionally. I don’t think you would need much more space to be a tailor than an artist needs for a studio.

5. Tailors outsource much of their labor. This also makes it much easier too set up shop.

6. Sure, prestige matters. But, among jobs that don’t require a college degree, I think being a tailor doesn’t rank so badly on the prestige scale. In the UK, roughly 70% of adults don’t have college degrees. If tailoring were so lucrative, I think more people in that category would give it a shot.

7. I do admit that there are some drawbacks. It does take a lot of time to become a good tailor, and there are some risks associated with starting a new house. But if running a small house were on average as lucrative as you claim, I think more tailors would give it a shot.

8. Back to the barista example, very few people are baristas for life. For most people it is a pretty temporary position. There is also a lot less training involve. Tailors invest a lot of time into becoming good tailors. Most tailors want to be tailors for their whole lives. I don’t think something similar could be said for baristas. Tailors also make more money than baristas. This would make it easier for them to start their own businesses.

Rups

I think there is more to running a tailoring house. Besides knowing how to produce a good bespoke garment you need good organisational and management skills as you are essentially running a small factory. Imagine having dozens of garments on the go at the same time and knowing what needs to be done with each one. Customers expectations are very high in bespoke tailoring as they believe it should make them look better and the clothes will last a lifetime etc)

The profits (and losses) are a range but the tailoring house I mentioned makes between £500-1m profit. That’s split between a couple of partners. It’s a firm which probably sits somewhere in the middle of London bespoke in terms of popularity and isn’t one of the big names on SR. The biggest and perhaps most famous tailoring house in London makes around £3-5m profit. There are a couple of notable houses which I’ve heard are running losses at the moment like you’d expect in any industry. However a well run, reasonably popular bespoke tailoring business in London makes very good profits. Remember there has been a huge resurgence of interest in bespoke suits over the last 10 years or so as this blog testifies to.

There are some younger tailors who have gone out on their own over last couple of years, Micheal Browne, Antonia Ede (Motague Ede) and Kimberley Lawton all come to mind in London. All came out of big houses in London, therefore some have gone and set up shop on their own. However as I said not everyone can be a good tailor, its a long difficult training period, and setting up any business is not easy, especially a shop based one in London where rent and rates are very expensive. You also have younger guys from abroad who have set up businesses like Anthology, Prologue, Saman Amel, Stoffa etc using a travelling tailor model. Therefore young tailors and entrepreneurs are going into the business!

Tim Correll

Actually, numerous bespoke tailors (as well as numerous bespoke dress makers, shirt makers and shoe makers) told me that less than 20% of their sewing is outsourced with all of their work other than sewing being done on the premises. The ones that travel told me they even have outworkers working exclusively for them next door, down the block or across the street.

This was all through personal exchanges of emails.

Tim Correll

Yes, in England, there are few houses where all tailors are employees. One of those houses is Maurice Sedwell, where 2/3 of the tailors work in house and 1/3 work from home.

Houses that freelance tailoring do so to save money. Maurice Sedwell is the most expensive bespoke dress maker, bespoke shirt maker and bespoke tailor in England as their current starting prices are the following: £900 for a shirt, £1,200 for a single breasted waistcoat without lapels and a skirt, £1,500 for a double breasted waistcoat without lapels, a pair of trousers and a single breasted waistcoat with lapels, £1,800 for a double breasted waistcoat with lapels and a dress, £4,500 for a coat and £6,000 for a suit. They’re far from even remotely caring about saving money.

Plus, Andrew Ramroop boasts Maurice Sedwell being one of the very few houses in England to design, cut, fit and tailor all of the garments that they make in house and from home.

Also, other than Maurice Sedwell, there’s not a single bespoke clothing or shoe maker of any kind that has anything even remotely similar to the Savile Row Bespoke Tailoring Academy (which they started on Monday 2-4-2008). Only they have that.

At the Savile Row Bespoke Tailoring Academy, Maurice Sedwell teaches students (all of whom are aspiring cutters and tailors) the designing, cutting, fitting and tailoring (tailoring meaning sewing) of coats, trousers and waistcoats and, starting on Monday 9-6-2021, teaching students the designing, cutting, fitting and tailoring of dresses, shirts and skirts. Freelance tailors don’t have anywhere near enough money nor time to teach all of the aforementioned skills.

The only way Maurice Sedwell can possibly have and run The Savile Row Bespoke Tailoring Academy and teach students all of the aforementioned skills is if they have all of those skills themselves and extensively use all of them in house and from home. Of course, all of those skills are only taught in house.

Tim Correll

If houses don’t freelance tailoring to save money, then why would they even bother? The only other reasons I can think of is they don’t have enough space for in house tailors and not knowing how to sew themselves.

Chris Tinkler

Well, yes and no.
In my early twenties through to my thirties, I exercised a lot and was lucky enough to have a close to standard body that met the criteria for decent off the peg suits to fit nicely, so bespoke wouldn’t have been worth it (also on an “average joe” salary meant I didn’t even think about bespoke).
Later on, I started earning more, but a combination of marriage, children and constant flying around meant that even though I earned a hell of a lot more, I had less personal disposable income and – due to the combination of very frequent flights and exceedingly long working days – I neither had the inclination to dress expensively nor had a figure I was proud of (difficult scheduling time with a personal trainer when you don’t know where you’re going to be, or when you’ll be there….).
Anyway, I quit the “rat race” and moved into the country and now have a lot less money coming in, but less outgoings. In addition, I’ve lost a lot of the weight I put on, but am now at the age where further weight reductions are very difficult to attain.
I’ve always been interested in clothes and bespoke now attracts me for a lot of the reasons Simon lists as well as the other important fact that – being now outside the usual standard measurements that standard suits are designed to meet – a decent fit is difficult to achieve without either going down the good alterations tailor / MTM / bespoke route.
Buying bespoke means I can’t afford to buy in volume, but does mean that I have to think about what I really want to wear (in my twenties and thirties, I usually thought about what I should wear on the following day, so this is a sort-of return to the past) and therefore buy selectively, rather than on the spur of the moment, and I hope that that ends up in being a better dressed – and more comfortable – person.
Personally, I’m not bothered about how much “my tailor” makes as long as I stay within my budget and get the clothes I want (even if sometimes the tailor has a better idea of what is suitable for me and my “lifestyle” (ugh) than I do) as they choose to do this work, as I chose to change direction at 50, even though I earn less.
Ultimately, you vote with your money, and for personal integrity, the relationship (as Simon says) needs to be far more important than the label.

Burt

Are those figures right? If their profit is somewhere between 500.000 to 1 million GBP and knowing there are about 250 working days a year, that will mean a profit of 2000 GBP per day after costs. Either they’re selling really many suits a day then, or earning a lot per suit. Perhaps because of options like “off shore bespoke” or a model like e.g. Cad & Dandy ? But then I cannot see how they can be a rather little house.
What I’ve found is that very good craftsmen not only in tailoring also in e.g. bespoke shoemaking constantly focus on their craft, strive to become better, they’re not always 100% happy with the result, therefore they do not focus on profit as their main concern is the best possible product.

Rups

I can’t give their name but its a full bespoke house with no MTM, or RTW. It uses outworkers in London like most of the firms do on SR but doesn’t outsource to Asia.

On the financials of how you can make circa £1m profit we can do a back of an envelope calculation. Simon did a piece on profit per suit, I just checked it and its 5 years old but we can still sort of use it as a guide since overall price and costs have sort of all kept pace with one another. He estimated the average profit per suit as £1565. I think its higher for various reasons but let’s use it anyway. To generate £1.3m you need to sell 831 suits a year using that av. profit. Take out £300k for rent & rates / staff drawing a wage. That means selling around 3 suits per working day to make a £1m a year profit. What kind of customer base do you need to sell 831 suits a year? See each customer orders 2 suits a year. That requires a regular customer base of 415 customers.

Jason

A good summation of why bespoke is worth it.
Personally I think longevity is inextricably linked to workmanship and fit.
My bespoke suits have outlasted expensive MTM and the reason is if something is made to fit you and only you de facto it will wear better.
You will be putting less strain on seams etc..
I sometimes surprise myself on how long I’ve had some of my favourites.

Ben

This is true to a very limited extent. Strictly on the basis of time of wear/$, durability is not a good reason to buy bespoke, and this applies to all apparel, including footwear.

If one doesn’t want to strain the seams on something off the rack, he can simply buy a size up. Conversely, lots of guys go bespoke precisely because they can be made to fit very close to the body. A busted seam, in addition, is an easy fix. Given the same fabric, good bespoke is on average at least 2× the price of good rtw; there’s no way the former lasts on average twice as long as the latter.

For me, bespoke is all about the superior fit, and it’s well justified on that basis alone.

Jason

Mon Dieu – “ buy something a size up off the rack” – who on earth would want to do that ?
The whole essence of bespoke is that it uniquely fits the individual and when you are my vintage you will know, providing you buy well and look after things, that it certainly is cost effective.
There is no “off the peg” or “MTM” suit on this planet that will fit every nook and cranny of an individual’s anatomy the way a good bespoke suit does. Choose the right cloth and the house style that is correct for you and you will have made an investment.
Buying a size up is a trait of overweight New Yorkers. A few burgers more and it will fit !

Ben

Who would want to do that? The majority of consumers of mens suits, Dieu nos pardonne, purchase off the rack. Given your repugnance by the genre, I doubt that you’ve ever compared its longevity vs. that of bespoke, a comparison that yields a clear time-worn-per-dollar-spent advantage to the ready to wear. Any argument for bespoke on the basis of durability alone fails, vintage notwithstanding.

Feurich

I think you could give more prominence to comfort as this is to many a key factor that justifies bespoke. The bespoke suit is made for your body type, your sleeve length, your chest proportions, your waist size and therefore is geared to your movement. The human body is after all almost always in some form of motion. Since the suit is largely hand sewn it allows for more malleable seams and can conform to the body better than machine sewing. If you feel comfortable you will project it to those around you.

Rogey

For me, bespoke is worth it, but not necessarily because it is objectively better than MTM. I got my first bespoke jacket in 1997, working with a London tailor, and that began a relationship that continues to this day. They have made many jackets and suits since. That first jacket, a beautiful green tweed, seemed fabulously expensive, but I still wear it and enjoy it, showing that sometimes the most expensive thing is not really the most expensive after all. By contrast, I experimented with MTM along the way–ordered two jackets, picked the cloth, chose the details–and was initially happy that they were far less expensive. But the jackets hung in the closet, unloved and unworn. I would always grab one of my bespoke jackets. Eventually, I gave the MTM jackets away. They turned out to be among the most expensive purchases I’ve ever made. Here in the States, we had a charismatic sports figure who said, “Don’t mess with happy.” I find everything about the bespoke process makes me happy: going to the shop, designing the jacket, waiting for it, and then receiving it. After all these years the jackets that they make for me now are perfect, and there is no describing the pleasure when I take them out of the box and try them on for the first time. That delight continues as they age. They mold to you, soften. The bespoke process is a grand experiment. It is not foolproof, and sometimes there are disappointments. But sometimes the result is as you’d hoped, even beyond what you’d imagined, and you wear the thing over and over, and it is a pleasure to wear. There is nothing objective about measuring that.

Dan

Bespoke seems nice. But, for me, I would have to travel to NYC or some other city to get it. This just adds costs and time which I do not have. For example, just traveling to NYC would add an additional $1000.00 to the experience just for two days. And that is just for a first fitting. Then, add in the costs for flying out again for a second fitting. It just is not worth it from a practical standpoint for me. And that is why I prefer MTM. Of course, if you live in a city where tailors visit regularly, that is a different matter.

Sam Tucker

Simon, I’m wondering what you think the future of bespoke will be. For decades now bespoke has been fairly exclusive, but I understand it was the norm once. My grandmother even says their used to bespoke tailors here in the city in Newfoundland once where men would go to get their clothes, nearly half-a-century ago, despite there not being a lot of money around.

I notice many cheaper bespoke tailors now seem to be orienting themselves towards a less well-healed clientele. C&D is for example offering bespoke from £1000, and you’ve written about younger tailors trying to revive bespoke in America. With so much information on the internet I think more and more people are starting the understand the huge advantages bespoke offers over RtW and to a lesser extent MtM.

Is the future of bespoke exclusively with expensive and expert Savile Row tailors or do you think the bargain bespoke share will continue to grow, perhaps even eventually dominating the mid-range market? Already brands like C&D offer bespoke jackets for as much as $CAD1000 less than a full-canvas RtW jacket from a brand like Brooks Brothers.

Bob

The quality was better than what? Than current ready-to-wear? Or current high-end bespoke?

I don’t know exactly what you have in mind when you think of people in the past, Mr Crompton, but most of them were poor, and the workmanship on their bespoke clothes, made by the local tailor, was poor. I know because I’ve seen those clothes. That’s the class I belong to.

The rich of course could afford better tailors so the quality of their bespoke clothes was a lot better in every way: materials, fit, workmanship, design. That’s still true today.

There was also a lot of recycling and handing down of clothes, perhaps altered, often repaired, and often ill-fitting.

Let’s not repeat the iGent nonsense fantasy that the past was some golden age of tailoring for everyone.

Sam Tucker

I don’t disagree with you at all, but largely what I’m asking is do see attitudes changing in this regard? I see most menswear blogs extolling the value of buying quality over brand names and quality over quantity. I think a lot of people also want clothes that will last, especially when things are economically uncertain, even if it means having less clothes. Better to have one suit you can count on for years to come, than three you can’t. The trend towards retro looking styles also could be a reflection of this.

I mention C&D because their success so far would seem to indicate that things are moving back towards quality and longevity over quantity and brand names.

It could just be the blogs I read and this online menswear community are a bubble, and I might be entirely wrong. You’re an expert on menswear and bespoke, so it would be interesting and informative to know where you think things are going.

Lewis

I would like to just highlight that you aren’t the typical bespoke customer as you have such a large variety of tailors and garments that they never really get used as much a regular customer and that’s fine I love this platform.
But the biggest factor being a tailor is that the fit, comfort and longevity far far outweigh the cost.
If you buy 2 suits a year that last 6 months to a year at £599 in two years you have already spent enough for a decent bespoke tailor with two trousers that would last even longer.
If something is wrong it can be tweaked if you need a repair you can drop it off, if it needs re forking the list goes on.
Obviously my point relies on customers being close or central to the tailor and personally living in London I am lucky.
I just felt the need to express that it’s an overwhelming factor especially if people think it’s expensive
I have always viewed it as an investment in myself
Such as good shoes or a proper haircut.

Patrick Bateman

Hi Simon,

Another interesting read and the article answers some of the questions I’ve been thinking about asking for sometime.

In a lot of your reviews you mention details that aren’t quite right with the commission. I’m always left wondering how these issues compare to issues presented with an off the peg suit. I often finish the article thinking that if you can find an of the peg brand that fits well consistantly and the suit comes in at reasonable price why bother with bespoke or mtm?

Should I take the plunge and spend upwards of £4k or stick to what I know and save myself over £3k!

ezequiel

it also happens that you do not realize how “bad” all your RTW suits are until you try your first “good” bespoke one (depending of course on the level of RTW you have)

Richard P

Bear in mind too that RTW brands are ever evolving and, in my experience, a brand that fits okay today won’t after a few years, as they change styles, patterns and suppliers – requiring a depressing cycle of lament, followed by a search for yet a new brand that fits both your body and tastes. RTW patterns have never fit me well, so perhaps it is exacerbated in my case.

Kevin

How did the Cornacchia suit turn out? Will you do a full review? Thanks!

Nick

Thanks Simon, very interesting reading. As a long time bespoke customer I think my “benefits hierarchy” has changed over time to relationship first, followed by fit, then choice. It’s at the point I don’t really need any new clothes – but I so enjoy the experience I actually travel to see my tailor, and always have something on the go.

I look forward to reading the comments to follow, particularly (hopefully) from “regular” guys. As a menswear nerd who treats this as much as a hobby as anything else, I’m always going to be biased toward bespoke – but I’m curious to hear what men who aren’t obsessed like me have to say about the value (or not of bespoke) versus MTM and RTW – men, I imagine, similar to the gentleman you profiled a couple of weeks ago; who care about what they wear but aren’t obsessed like some of us.
N.

Nicolas Stromback

Interesting view. May I ask which tailor you use and how that relationship developed over time?

Best

Tung

Assuming money is no object (it’s always easier when at least one factor is a constant), I would say whether going bespoke is worth it or not depends mostly on your body and how abnormal it is.

If you are blessed with a standard body type (average height, no beer gut, etc.), I struggle to see the point of going bespoke. RTW tailoring is going to fit you perfectly, and buying something off the peg from shops that curate a tasteful selection will be almost fail-safe (I still remember the days when StyleForum is full of fits from people who shop exclusively from No Man Walks Alone, and they look awesome). I think the breadth of possibilities available through bespoke is a major pitfall rather than a luxury. Maybe if you are set on a specific cloth or a cloth that is exclusive to a store, it’s worth going MTO or MTM.

On the other hand, if you have any abnormalities that are just impossible for RTW offerings to accommodate, bespoke is worth every penny. For example, my torso is fairly normal – nothing a forgiving RTW Neapolitan cut or standard MTM options can’t deal with. My hips are wider than average, which affects the overall silhouette, but still something MTM trousers can address. My feet, however, are another story. They are extremely flat, and any shoe style, laceless or laced, just look grotesquely disproportionate. That’s why I have stopped buying shoes and decided to save up for a bespoke pair instead. In this case, bespoke is a thousand times worth it for me, even though many consider bespoke shoes to be an obscene indulgence.

I would also say that (this is purely subjective) it is worth going bespoke for lightweight fabrics. Heavier cloths drape so well that you can approach a bespoke fit with lesser levels of customization.

J.

This is not an easy article to write, but I believe that you have done a good job Simon by summarising the key points for buying a bespoke suit. So, is bespoke worth it? Yes, in my view. But when you determine the value of what something is worth to you, you have to think of your personal circumstances – as rightly many of the comments point out. I sympathise with many of the comments re the opportunity cost, but I also strongly disagree with any points made about profits of the industry vis-a-vis buying bespoke or not. Although fair points, they are completely irrelevant with the choice of buying or not bespoke. I personally buy bespoke suits/jackets/trousers for two reasons: i) the fit and ii) individuality.

AJ

Does the Anthology offer full bespoke? – I didn’t think that it did.

JB

It’s a slippery slope, the pricing. Looking at some of the famous tailors around, sporting more than a few luxury watches in the $30-60000 range I’d feel I’m sponsoring their luxury purchases rather than getting value for money. But on the other hand, nobody’s holding a gun to my head ordering their clothes. But I’d say it also depends a lot of what kind of garment we’re talking about.

For instance, I struggle to see how a pair of Ambrosi trousers would be worth 2-3 x the premium compared to high end mtm like Saman Amel or Stoffa. I guess it’s not a 100% fair comparison since the former is fully hand made and the latter two aren’t, so I guess it comes down to working hours.

JB

Ha! That’s a lovely story indeed, good for him.

Anonymous

Ever heard of knock offs? You can get some amazing accurate creations of the real thing for fractions of their real price.

Have a think.

JB

Of course, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. I actually find it hard to believe artisans who make everything by hand will buy knockoff watches. Plus the people I talk about cater to some of the richest people in the world, so it’s hardly unthinkable they’ve been gifted some watches.

Burt

I know a cutter who got his golden watch because he made a beautiful suit for a watch dealer in return.

Felix vL

Longevity is definitely a factor. I knew one Englishman who had had a tailor-made suit lasting -forty- years. Good thing he didn’t put on much weight over that time…

For me, the three things holding me back from getting a tailored suit are:
-> The cost
-> These days, I hardly wear a suit in my job
-> I am -incredibly- worried that I’ll do something stupid with it (spill something on it and the stain won’t go, tear it in an irreparable way) so that it will all have been a waste!

Peter R

The considerations are going to be different for everyone but I came to bespoke because i’m not an easy fit (6’3 prop forward build now running fat!) but want to look good.
Off the peg was always very hit and miss as clothese weren’t made for someone like me.

I took the opportunity of getting married to get a bespoke suit made and beyond having something that fits me well but also flatters my look where it can, I also loved the process and relationship.

So I started at the cheaper end of Saville Row (Cad and the Dandy) had two 3 peice suits made (one navy woosted, one navy flannel), then black tie and an overcoat and had a very good experience overall.

The whole process has opened a new world to me (supported by reading this site)

Currently I’m having a jacket made by Elia Caliendo, entirely off the recommendation from this site and in the new year I plan to go to either Anderson and Sheppard or Henry Poole for a charcoal suit and perhaps something in crispaire for the summer

Yes it’s a lot of money but when I factor in that off the shelf was never going to look great, the fact the process is so enjoyable and the end product is infused with craftsmanship and tradition, then for me it’s worth it.

John

Simon, have you ever considered at what price you would stop commissioning bespoke suits? I can easily find very well made suits on sale in NYC or on eBay for under $1,000 (including tailoring fees). When I look into bespoke we’re talking near $4,000? You can buy a decent Rolex for the difference or three pairs of John Lobb shoes. The math just doesn’t add up. I feel like bespoke tailoring is yet another industry that almost exclusively relies on tax evaders and narcotics traffickers.

SC

I’m assuming the 1800 pound W&S suit is the offshore bespoke using cheaper Indian labour…how then can Cad & the Dandy produce a fully bespoke garment starting at 1000 pounds, using English labour, particularly since they are now members of Savile Row Bespoke Association with requirements to meet strict guidelines ie over 50 hours of handwork and the garment must be made within 100 yards of Savile Row? It can’t be through volume, assuming at that price, using other SR tailors as a comparison, they would be eating a loss for each suit made at that price…

Triskel

This is an interesting thread, and I note that Simon is preparing another article on cost and value. But two linked points occur to me now:

1. Whether the availability of price information (many bespoke tailors give ‘from’ prices on their websites) encourages inflation – not least because a tailor may think that (prospective) customers will consider high price to equal high value and give the tailor business or, perhaps even more so for new suppliers, fear that (prospective) customers will consider low(ish) price to mean low quality and avoid the supplier. This is a bit like universities in the UK where tuition fees are capped by law but all, or almost all, charge the maximum, maybe because they don’t want to be seen to be offering a “low value” product, or maybe because they want to make as much as they can – just capitalism, and this applies to tailors, too.
2. What the profit margin is on bespoke. How much does it cost to make a suit? Cloth, say four metres at £150 a metre (retail – the tailor probably gets it a lot cheaper so there’s a profit on the cloth supply), say £600; making, say 60 hours at say £20 an hour for outworkers, say £1200; linings, buttons, thread etc, say £100. That all adds up to £1900. Of course, there are other expenses – shop rent, rates, heat, light, decoration etc, the time costs of attention to the customer at the shop in fittings. Add a notional £500, or even £1000 for that. Total £2400 to £2900. Still a long way from starting prices of £4000 (minimum) to provide a profit. At 500 suits a year (only 10 a week – one a morning and afternoon) an easy £500,000 a year profit. Can anyone on the inside comment?

Alan Behr, New York

One of the reasons that I favor bespoke for tailored clothing is that I do not seem to have the body that works with most standard fits–except at Uniqlo. Putting aside how that would appear to confirm my many physical similarities to the average Japanese teenager, what that means in practice is that my off-the-peg suits tend to wear out in exactly those places where my measurements comply least with the typical stock pattern. My Henry Poole bespoke suits cost more than what a comparable off-the-peg model may run for, but they usually last about three times as long. Add in the fact that you always look your best in what fits you right and the mathematics become congruent with the aesthetics.

Eric

Oddly enough, I have 4 Uniqlo jackets that fit me better than the one Savile Row bespoke suit that I own, and they cost £10, £20, £50, and £50, which adds up to £130, and they get A LOT of wear. The bespoke suit cost £4000 + and gets very little. I might try bespoke one more time, to see if I am somehow missing the point, but if the experience and end result are similar to the previous attempt, then the next time will be certainly be the last time. On the evidence before me, I would say that if one has a rather unusual figure which means that ready-to-wear almost never fits properly, or if one has such a poor eye for what fits well that regardless of how much money one spends on ready-to-wear, it always fits badly (and there ARE such people), then it may well be the case that having something tailored makes an enormous difference. I work in the visual arts, and I have spend decades considering colour and texture and form, so it may be that I am more likely to be able to identify a proper fit with ready-to-wear than the average consumer, and this is the reason why bespoke did not impress me much. It has certainly been my experience, that contrary to what one might expect, one has much MORE control over ready-to-wear than bespoke, because one can easily and quickly see what a finished garment looks like and either accept or it reject it on the spot. Whereas with bespoke, one has no idea what the end result will be by looking at a tiny swatch of cloth, and as Mr Crompton has previously noted (if my memory does not deceive me), whatever you ask a bespoke tailor for, they will usually just make what they are used to making. That was certainly my experience anyway. And that is the inverse of control.

Moby

Hi Simon,
Thanks for another thought-provoking article. I would expect the most important benefit of bespoke to be to achieve as close to a perfect fit as possible across RTW/MTM/bespoke. Having read your review of the quality of fit of your Saman Amel jacket and bearing in mind its relatively affordable cost compared to a high-end bespoke tailor and what I would describe as their blurring of the line between MTM and bespoke, I commissioned a tweed jacket from their Napoli line. I think it fits extremely well but I’m waiting for colder weather to return before I start to wear it. I’m interested to know why bespoke rather than MTM moulds to you with time, as has been described by many on this forum; especially since SA’s Napoli line is constructed like bespoke in some ways. What has been your experience with your SA jacket in this respect?
Thanks.

Rob Grant

Hi Simon
This post prompted me to ponder the future of not only bespoke but traditional workplace dress. I read recently that just one in 10 people in London wears a jacket and tie to work while Goldman Sachs (I think) has revised its dress code for all employees, allowing not just smart casual but jeans, sneakers etc to be worn by all every day of the week. Is this the start of the end of this 100-odd year of suits and ties? Personally, as a journalist I always wore a jacket and tie, although I was one of the few, but now I have been retired for some time I live in jeans, sneakers (high end ones) cashmere sweaters and tees. I rarely wear shirts, even when going out. I sometimes throw on a cashmere jacket and/or overcoat and find I can get in to most places, the RAC club included (except the members’ dining room). I feel so much more relaxed in my own version of athleisure and feel I blend in more. I love the mix of (slightly distressed) jeans in navy, grey, bone, black, with expensive items. Only I know what they cost and I admit there is a slightly smug satisfaction in that knowledge. I don’t want to dismiss the core raison d’etre of your site but I do wonder how much life is left in suits, jackets, ties, oxfords etc when even places like John Lobb and Burberry are turning to sneakers? There will always be those who love bespoke but are they diminishing?

VSF

This subject of comfort and clothing continues to rear its ugly head in new ways as so many men constantly look for excuses or reasons not to wear a suit, or sport coat, shirt and tie. So, once again here are some facts: One, men look much better dressed in a suit or sport coat and nice pants than in jeans and a t-shirt or sweater, particularly older men. Two, a man will be treated better in social and business situations when he’s well dressed vs when he’s not. Three, women respond positively to men who wear suits compared to men who don’t. Four, quality tailored clothing is comfortable and worth the investment and will provide years of enjoyment. Five, casual dress can look fantastic when, as Simon mentioned, the outfit includes a suede jacket or sport coat, shirt, nice slacks, and suede loafers. Six, there is indeed a resurgence of men who are interested in dressing well and understand its importance and this is a wonderful thing.
Personally I find the idea of a grown man wearing sneakers going about his daily business to be simply ludicrous. In the city, nothing screams teenager or school boy like a pair of sneakers. They should be worn at the gym or the resort perhaps, but otherwise should be avoided. How about a great looking pair of suede chukka or Chelsea boots instead?

Charles Moorman

Dear VSF

I couldn’t agree with you more. I detest people who wear sneakers to work!! Detest them!!! I own 23 pairs of Allen-Edmund shoes and once they are broken in with their cork inner and Goodyear welt they are more comfortable then wearing sneakers and the heel support give my lower back the oomph I need to walk around comfortably. Sneakers give no support to the body whatsoever and I feel weird wearing them (I have never worn them in an office setting–how juvenile). I really don’t get business casual but no longer wear a tie, let alone a suit where I work. I have lots of both (love ties) and many a weekend a don a suit and go out-especially if I am going somewhere nice. Lots of times I will be the only person wearing a suit but so be it as that is my style. We have become way, way to much of a slovenly nation!

VSF

Mr. Moorman, sneakers on grown men make them look juvenile and silly, except when they are at the gym exercising or doing outdoor chores. I get a lot of pushback from men on this matter of course and my response is always the same; essentially please grow up. When I see a grown man basically wearing the same outfit as his ten year old son, or even worse, grandson, e.g. jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers I’m at a loss for words. As the casual craze continues, I’m afraid it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Men don’t seem to understand, or want to, that they look so much better well dressed than poorly dressed. To look good in such things as t-shirts, shorts, jeans a man needs to have a fit body with good muscle tone, particularly older men. How many adults can honestly say that? I can’t tell you how many extremely successful men I know who wear some version of this hideous look who think they look good. In reality, they just put on public display bird legs, twig arms or a beer gut. Tom Ford said it well: “Being well dress is another form of good manners.”

Charles Frank Moorman

Thank you Simon. So much has changed over the years in regards to expectations of appropriate wear in public. Church, marriages even funerals people are showing up in shorts and t-shirts- have they have any idea how stupid they look let alone how inappropriate they are? I grew up in the late 60s early 70s and though that was the hippie era it was considered a right of passage to buy your first suit when you reached early adulthood. Now, by all appearances it is not. Pretty sad in my opinion but as for myself I will stay true to my believes that one should dress nicely for all situations. I refuse to look like an overgrown teenager just to go along with the adolescent whims of the crowd

Robert

Well said. Agree 100%.

Nicolas Stromback

Hi Rob,

It would be interesting to know where you live.

I’d say here in Sweden the number of people who “dress well” or “dress up” has increased many times since the 90s when I grew up and it was all wide jeans and checked flannel shirts or sportswear. I dont even remember my dad wearing many suits or sport jackets in this period. He started buying his from Armani about 15 years ago though, when it suits and jackets came into the mainstream again.

Not being a sneaker guy myself, I dont understand why people would wear them, other than to the gym or goins for walks, but I guess that is the charm of living in an area where anything goes (in Stockholm that is) so longs as it is appropriate.

Vincent

This is an excellent parsing of what you actually receive when you purchase a bespoke garment. As someone who runs a bespoke business, this is a topic we discuss often. From our perspective (obviously biased) the clients who get the most from our product are the people who visit regularly. We talk about how needs, or lifestyle has changed (navigating gentlemen through the changing workplace environment is a frequent topic). The relationship is perhaps the unique quality that makes Bespoke “worth it” Vs a Brand. It allows for a continuity of discussion with regard to fit and styling that cannot be replicated with a brand. Apart from the control of fit unlocked with pattern making, understanding just how a client prefers a collar sit or identifying the specific fabric qualities that makes an individual comfortable in their work day makes the garments personalized to the lifestyle of the wearer. When the conversation gets personal (especially with regard to body image), no two people have the same ideals of fit and styling. It is the job of the Tailor to listen and customize the garment to the use of the client. Happy bespoke clients clients wear with a confidence of a perfect garment. It is hard to put a monetary value on confidence in clothing. In half jest, we liken ourselves to an individual’s lawyer or doctor; being measured is quite intimate and with honesty we can do the most for you.

The relationship is also the aspect of the business for the Tailor that makes it more enjoyable. It is nice to connect with gentlemen who share an appreciation for the artisan craft that is antithetical to the production realities of fashion.

I do not believe evaluating two garments upon the basis of their construction will reveal the true value of Bespoke.

Paul

Great article, Simon. Please tell me where I can purchase the dress shirt you are wearing. Not the exact one that you are wearing. You know what I mean. Our sleeve length probably isn’t the same.

Nicolas Stromback

Simon,

When I first started following your blog all those years ago I was more into style and all those things that fashion has promoted over the years. Yet, something was lacking in this approach and I wanted a change. Having read about all your different relationships with tailors over the years and then established my own relationship with a few of these myself (Luca for instance) I must say that this i probably the most enjoyable part of the process, same as mr Nick wrote above.

As far as the worth of bespoke I am yet to commission my first bespoke suit or jacket but as it stands today I am not sure if that will happen at all having found the messrs at Saman Amel here in Stockholm (which I decided to try based upon your experience with them). Theirs is a MTM experience that covers all the aspects of bespoke that most would want and adds the predictability of being able to see what the garments will look like in their atelier. One also has the advantage of being able to chose to have their fatto a mano jackets and thus gets even closer to the full bespoke experience.

My point here is that we are lucky to have them in Stockholm but also that such a level of MTM including the full service that they provide has mademe ponder if bespoke will be that much better that its worth almost doubling the price (as I would going to the few bespoke tailors we have here in the city).

I’d be interested in your take on this.

Nicolas Strömbäck

Yes it seems that would be the case, with a higher income I probably would like to try it just to know the difference. But I’d then be more likely to try something I cant get here in Stockholm, like Solito or even Michael Browne, just to get that experience.

Rob Grant

Hi Nicolas
I live in Melbourne and here, too, there has been a swing to more tailored clothing, much more so than in the past. I think it’s the result of the internet producing thousands of blogs etc showing men how to dress well and why they should, as well as the proliferation of easy made to measure stores.
Our weather has always meant a more relaxed approach to dressing but that has changed dramatically in line with other major cities.
I was in that camp too, spending a lot on suits etc but my change was literally forced on me and this may be a lesson for other older readers.
I used to dress up to drive to the city for regular lunches when I retired but got fed up with the horrific traffic and dealing with the worst drivers in the western world.
So I decided to take the train, a short walk from my home. The trouble was, while driving I was walking just a few steps from home to car, city carpark and dining room.
During my seven years of retirement the shape of my feet had changed – my wife told me this happens to women who give up heels then try to return.
The change meant walking in Edward Greens for more than 15 minutes suddenly became a nightmare as I had been living in jeans and trainers for years.
It was so bad I limped out of of the club to the nearest pharmacy where I had to bandage my feet for the walk home from the train.
I simply had to return to sneakers – even desert boots didn’t work.
That meant a change in my whole approach as I’m not one for trainers and suits…they only go with jeans (or chinos at the most) in my view.
I then discovered a whole new world, finding high end trainers at places like To Boot, New York. I then found jeans with stretch in them (previously I found them to stiff and uncomfortable) which made them almost as comfy as track pants. I mixed these items with cashmere sweaters (I got my first cashmere at 15 – precocious, I know!) and became addicted. Also cashmere jackets, if necessary and well cut t-shirts (But I’m certainly not paying $A350 for John Smedley tees, that’s just silly for me at least). And bomber jackets in soft materials.
Nicolas, I agree I am going against the tailored trend which is as popular here as it is in Stockholm for anywhere else.
But I have a new-found freedom, a sort of Damian Lewis ‘Billions’ approach with his jeans and cashmere hoodies, and I’ve found I can blend in but still feel I am wearing quality.
Yesterday I wore slightly distressed blue jeans, deep olive suede trainers from Ghoud Venice, an olive quilted bomber over a navy Ballantyne cashmere jumper. It’s been an interesting but quite exciting transition.
Rob

Nicolas Stromback

Haha, well who can say no to the Damian Lewis approach 🙂 Reading back my previous reply to you I find that it may have been a bit rude in terms of my view on sneakers, and for that I apologize. My version of what you are speaking of (what I would like to wear all the time that is) would not be a navy suit and black captoe dress shoes, even though I find that to be a lovely combination that works for most occasions. I would go for a pair for green linen trousers (like Informale that you have down under), a pair of brown Sagans (Badouin Lange), denim shirt and neapolitan jacket (Saman Amel that makes them for me). That I would wear all the time and I hope to get there someday. It just that when in finance there are certain things to dont seem quite right to wear and so I adapt, at least in some way.

All the best

Nicolas Stromback

Oh, and by the way. How do you find your cashmere sweaters wear in terms of pilling and such? I still havent gotten into this area, mostly for fear of cashmere being to hot (even in Sweden I know!).

JB

Nicolas,
Being a fellow swede and Saman customer, I highly recommend trying their mtm knitwear program. I live in my cashmere crews throughout fall and winter. My oldest one is on it’s third season I think and I have minimal pilling.
Will try their two ply merino this fall for roll necks I think.

Nicolas Stromback

Excellent, I have been thinking about it for a while, but like I said, being hot has kept me from taking the plunge into cashmere. But it was only a matter of time I guess 🙂

JB

Their merino offering is really nice too, if cashmere is to warm for you.

Anonymous

Regrettably, as more than one reader comments, the move away from suit and tie appears to be moving with greater rapidity rather than slowing down. Bespoke can charge at the present level because fashion, particularly mid to high end, has increased in price inverse to the proportion of quality. Bespoke therefore seems reasonable.
However, in 2008 TimeOut did a London Guide – it quotes most SR bespoke houses as starting at £3k, by 2016, 8 years later, and with near 0% inflation (and similar wage growth) GQ quotes (SR Guide) most SR bespoke houses at £5k. That’s approx. a 70% increase.
Maybe the economics of business costs (rents and rates have risen at above inflation rates) demand this but the change is significant. To build cash flow and provide a low cost alternative many London houses have introduced MTM at around £1k.
However, the dynamics of this are to then outsource to large 3rd party providers (Mauritius, Romania, East Asia). Historically the skills base was fundamentally different consider that Burton’s, M&S, etc. all once made in the UK. At its peak 30,000 suits a week were being made by Burton’s alone (and 10,000 people employed) The machinist skills (mainly women) were second to none.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/leeds/content/articles/2005/07/05/local_history_montague_burton_feature.shtml
Volume brought efficiencies of scale and allowed average earners to buy MTM at rates that are similar to today’s RTW. Cloth quality, from British Mills (100% wool), was also high. The cost of an SR suit at the time was £91 (or £1,300 now), a cheap High St suit was £17 (£250 now).
https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/cost-of-suit-mad-men-ear-sixties/#comments
Essentially the High St cost has remained but bespoke has increased markedly. Taking into consideration stagnant wage growth, suppressed price growth in RTW, the rise of SR MTM and the move away from formality the factors formulate a calculation for bespoke where the numbers begin to struggle with reality.

VSF

Simon, you’ve previously covered a tailor Sartoria Formosa that makes RTW to the same quality standards as its full bespoke garments. So if the garment fits a man well with only minor adjustments needed, then this is something to consider. Now if one prefers MTM that’s available as well, also made to the same quality standards as full bespoke. Are you aware of any other tailors that do what Formosa does?

VSF

I think that’s basically right. I do notice that Orazio Luciano appears to offer something similar. The Armoury carries Orazio so, it worth investigating, but it’s clear that most tailors don’t offer do this.

Dan

Great post, but I believe the case for environment and sustainability is curious at best.

For me, the greatest benefit of bespoke is knowing that a team of dedicated craftsmen and women are applying their expertise in manipulating a two dimensional cloth into a flattering three dimensional object that is proportionate to the wearer’s physique in every department. When I wear bespoke, I don’t have to worry about exposing unequal lengths of shirtsleeve, the collar is flush against my neck, the waist is cinched, and foremost, I secretly enjoy looking at the reflection of my silhouette in shopwindows from slightly afar.

Assuming one can afford it, I think an argument can be made for ordering bespoke from Savile Row tailors, simply because there really isn’t a RTW brand that replicate their styles and robust construction at a reasonable cost.

Timofey

Dear Simon, as an English gentleman you miss 3 major reasons to go bespoke: its love , passion and the ability to spent good time in Naples))))

Peter

I would have found the images in this article more convincing had the cutter/fitter taken the time to wear a tie and had the foreparts pressed before presenting to you. There is a fine line between being casual/familiar/sloppy.
Incidentally the collar on the jacket is padded by machine.

Boston ( USA )

I was very glad to have Nicola’s account of the virtues and values of bespoke tailoring, not least because they echo both my values and my experience over decades.

What he has to say about craft, relationship, durability, general and specific ‘smartness,’ have made sense for me all my life. There are a few things I would like to add that while perhaps unique to my situation might figure in the equation for others.

First, I’m from a working class family who not only had to watch their pennies but stressed the importance of careful selection, care or maintenance, of various objects over the long haul. Whatever was bought in my household was bought with some thought, and, this carried over with advice at the start and along the way, from my Savile Row tailor about how to properly care for each piece. I’ve checked the closet and counted nine ( 9 ) jackets, mostly heavy but several light, and a suit with vest. #1 was made in 1972 when I was almost thirty, #10 was made six years ago when I was 70. While a few have been repaired – perfectly – following my tailor’s apt cautions (‘Not to tell a man how to suck and egg, but…’) has kept them all in good shape. And given what they cost and the effort put into making them, their owner as well. So much for a portion of Scot’s heritage!

Second, I’m five foot two and broad shoulders (from years of caddy work as a youngster, I suspect), and could not, even if I wished, decently fit into anything off the peg. When it came to the point where I had to have something ‘presentable’ for work, the reasonable decision, at the outset, was bespoke and to consider it, at one level, as an investment, pure and simple. Poorly fitted clothes, especially a jacket or suit for a man, wear out for any number of reasons; any sense of an investment is therefore compromised.

Third, in another context the poet Keats wrote something like, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Again, possibly the Scots thing, the feel of good cloth is an experience not to be missed, and not least when that cloth is draped and cut with respect to respecting the material as well as the man (or woman) who has also had the pleasure of selecting it. And selection, feeling the bolts on top, moving them around to give others below their due, the play of light and shadow, then touch and texture, consideration of weight and thoughts as to where this newcomer might fit, as it were, into its cohorts. And then from anticipation to fitting.

Fourth, as a young man I knew that one shoulder, for whatever reason, fell slightly lower than the other. It was measured with a tape at one point, I knew this to be true. Was I surprised in my first bespoke fitting to be up on the box and the cutter, Mr Pitt, calling that fact out, that exact measure, to a young assistant? I mean, Mr Pitt hadn’t measured it with a tape; he had stood back and put his thumb up I believe. “How did you do it, Sir, without a tape,” I asked. “That’s the job,” he replied, “getting it right; that’s what you come here for…” One comment in this post remarked, slightly embarrassed I think, he got some pleasure catching a glimpse of himself in a glass or mirror and feeling quite satisfied. Why not? when you are in something so well made in and of itself, and knowing it was your choice and put together as a kinf of collaborative effort, over time, it is genuine reassurance, each and every time, the choice was a good one. If there are more than one in your closet, consider it many assurances. And after a time, they are like old friends. As regards the suit and value for money, just how many things have we bought a quarter-century ago still look good and “function” perfectly?

Lastly, As I look forward to those times I might get together with one or another of the Firm’s representatives on their visits to America, a visit to the London shop is, alongside whatever else I am in London to do for my work or research, something I always look forward to and plan so as not to miss. Decades past a special treat was down the street for a pint, a ‘cuppa’ from the big teapot below, or, away from the showroom to watch the (immensely) skilled work of a diverse crew cutting here, sewing there, pressing and otherwise making memorable, spinning new/old straw into gold.

Anonymous

Hi Simon. I have never commissioned anything due to the high price of bespoke in Europe and the possibility of getting it wrong the first time. I was wondering what your thoughts are about the SE Asian tailors visiting Europe twice a year. They claim a fully bespoke service, alas with only one fitting, and offer brands like Scabal, Loro Piana, etc.. The prices are substantially lower, about 500£ for a sports jacket and 1000£ for a suit in Loro Piana. I cannot stop thinking that something isn’t right.

Anonymous

Fine comments by everyone. I have a job that requires me to wear a uniform and said uniform is supplied to me at no cost. Therefore, the only times I need to dress up are for the occasional instances where I feel I need to look my best or sometimes just for the simple pleasure of it. Therefore, I have found bespoke clothing to be very well worth the time and money since I honestly don’t require a lot of dress clothes. If I worked in a job that required me to dress up every day perhaps I would have to reevaluate this time and money factor in regards to clothing.

On another note, I really enjoy reading this website. Keep up the fine work Simon.

Rob Grant

Nicolas
The issue of cashmere pilling is relative. The old traditional weavers have now largely been driven out of business by cheap, short-haired Chinese rubbish and inferior designer products. There used to be dependable brands like Pringle, Ballantyne, McGeorge…mostly gone or absorbed by a designer firm…. on which the wool was amazing, never pilled and never lost shape. I am wearing a 30-year-old Pringle now without a hint of pilling and with its original shape.
All my current jumpers are by William Lockie, perhaps the last of the original makers and carried by only a handful of stores. Trouble is they cost around £300. maison cashmere in Italy are cheaper and I have a number of those…they may be among the best of the rest. You don’t really need a lot, just a navy and a grey crew or v-neck and if take that plunge you will be wearing William Lockie for decades.

Anonymous

Simon, would you still go for bespoke trousers over MTM trousers in terms of fit?

In my case MTM trousers at my local outfitter is $500 after tax and bespoke with visiting W&S is about $660 after tax. Is that price difference worth the difference in quality?

For the 5 trousers you commissioned with W&S did you have all 5 fittings at once? Or did you do each separately over a year? I’m trying to decide whether to do 2 off the bat or wait to see the final product of the first one. Requires a half year more of wait time.

Anonymous

Can you please elaborate on why the price difference is worth it, besides the finishing? To play devil’s advocate I’ve been with my MTM outfitter for a few years, and it’s mentally a bit more difficult to make that leap since they’re so close.

And what’s the reason for making each trouser one at a time? Time for adjustments? If you’ve achieved a perfect fit at some point, would you commission more?

Also, if there are little tweaks and button issues in future should you expect your tailor repair them at no charge? Thank you~

ben w

Is lining by hand superior to lining by machine?

Phil

Wealth and income aside. Whether something is worth it largely comes down to priorities. People tend to buy expensive cars a lot, expensive watches or a new iphone every year etc. Cars and phones don’t last that many years and lose their value really fast. How much is the yearly cost of a car(yearly mortgage, insurance, repairs, gasoline etc)? Arguing the value of a watch is also difficult, but seems more accepted than the price of a bespoke suit. What about the cost of drinking just one cup of coffee at 3 GBP from Starbucks every day for two years(2190 GBP)?

Charles Moorman

Phil you are absolute correct. 1 Starbuck Grande is $6 plus times 360 days comes out to be $2000 or about a third the price of a nice bespoke suit. So if you pass on the Starbucks for 3 years you will have a nicely make Savile Row suit rather then a urine stream of absolutely no value. 6 years without Starbucks and you can buy yourself a nice, Gold Swiss watch from Rolex, Zenith, Omega with some complications. That’s the logic I use when I buy suits and timepieces. Never buy coffee from Starbucks and I own 4 nice SR suits and 3 beautiful timepieces-2 gold, 1 stainless steel by Jaeger-Lecoultre, Ulysses-Nardin and Carl Bucherer respectively!

Dhruv G

Hi Simon,
I am an engineering student located in Texas, currently 19 and seeking internships I have become astutely aware of my complete lack of a professional wardrobe (the majority of my daily wear consists of jeans and either a t-shirt or a Polo). I also have realized that the dress code in engineering is quite lax, usually consisting of slacks/chinos with a long sleeve shirt. However I really like the look and feel of a tailored jacket and would love to be able to work them into my attire as I build my wardrobe, I will have little to no need for suits but would love to get my jackets bespoke. I have also had trouble finding shirts that fit me well off the rack, do you have any suggestions for relatively inexpensive MTM shirting and bespoke tailors, preferably in the Italian style, where a jacket could be tailored for less than ~$1500? I would be building my wardrobe slowly but would like to minimize international travel if possible.

Stephan

Dear Simon,
Excellent article, however a point of contention. I agree with all the points of bespoke over RTW or MTM, save for the one on price. You say bespoke is cheap for what it is – so can you elaborate more on that? Surely a great RTW suit can be had for around 1,000 or 1,500, at least on sale (not an option for bespoke), but a bespoke usually starts at 3,000, no? And if you have to wait for the second suit that’s an extra 3k or a bit more, plus you need that leap of faith to forgive the first not being good enough and hoping the second would be. A good, full-canvas RTW can also mould to your body over time, can be adjusted by a skilled tailor for a few hundred quid max, and can also be repaired and lengthened etc. given generous excess fabric many good RTW brands give. So what are these benefits of bespoke being ‘cheap for what it is’? Can you please elaborate more? And sorry for playing the devil’s advocate here, but it’s to highlight the issue I’m struggling with.

Stephan

Thanks for providing these further points, Simon.

Fabrizio Gatti

On the subject of environment and sustainability, repair and re-use, I’d like to add that I own five of of my father’s suits, including a very old and perfectly preserved tuxedo, which were made by one of the top Milanese tailors of the forties, fifties and sixties with minimum footprint. I asked my tailor to alter them (not much work needed in my case) and now they fit my body very well and, of course, look good. Given the high and, for most common human beings that appreciate quality clothes, impossible costs of the SR tailors, my question for Simon is, would you consider buying a vintage jacket or suit tailored by, let’s say, a SR house that “almost” fit and then having it modified by your tailor? Of course, it’s not the same as wearing an item that belonged to a beloved relative of yours, but you would still acquire a piece of the highest quality. I am actually considering that option for the first time in my life.

Fabrizio Gatti

Thank you Simon for your honest response, as you always do. It is just a recent consideration that I wanted to consult with an expert on men’s style. Of course, I would buy a vintage bespoke jacket (I am thinking tweed), “only if”: 1) I really like the fabric (color, texture, type of tweed and origin, manufacturer, etc.) as if I were choosing it at my tailor’s shop; 2) it is a bespoke item by a SR tailor; 3) I like the style (mostly A&S); 3) it almost fits me, thus in need of a few small adjustments; and last but not least 4) my wife approves (after all, she is the one that has to look at me while I am wearing it. I don’t like MTM at all, and I will most likely still prefer to go to my tailor as I always did all my life, since the day my father took me to his in 1962 at age 12. However, I want to try, since some smartly dressed gentlemen in Instagram, who constantly hunt vintage, look good wearing what they find.

Rups

Its a nice idea but there are a few problems in trying to find vintage bespoke. Main thing is that bespoke by nature is made to fit a particular individual, and therefore has little tolerance unlike a lot of RTW. That means you find the armhole too tight or the shoulder pressing etc.

The other problem is that while we in menswear community all talk about ‘classic style’ even most top tailors seem to have given a nod to passing trends so for instance in the 80s button stance was moved a little lower etc.

If you can find a bespoke suit of a guy who has a build just like yourself though and the tailor has stuck to almost classic proportions which haven’t dated much you might be lucky! What you don’t want is to look like your wearing someone else’s clothes and engaging in cosplay) Are there many good vintage menswear shops in Italy?

Fabrizio Gatti

Thank you Rups for your valuable feedback and advice. I now realize that I need to learn a lot more about how to purchase vintage cloth. I am aware that there are people (in the Instagram pages), who, over the years, have become experts on the subject, are good at it, and, above all, spend (or waste) much time hunting. I frankly don’t think to be cut for this type of search. I live in Chicago and travel to Italy every year to visit my daughter and grandchildren. I have seen a couple of vintage stores, one in Milan, my town, and another in Genoa. I don’t recommend them at all: they have a lot of high end signature items (with logos, initials, etc.), which the participants of this blog are most likely not interested in, and also much “rubbish”. I am thinking to pay a visit to a vintage store located in Brooklyn (New York) and owned by Mr. Sean Crowley, and, on my next trip to London, Hornets Kensington. Thank you again.

J. Dough

How often do you see downright errors in bespoke items? And does it
sometimes happen that some of your instructions are ignored? If so, do
you, when it’s too late to change the item in the relevant way, let it
slide?

enzo

Simon why do you mention ‘very politely’ if tailor makes a mistake? in Italy its ok to shout at tailor if he makes a mistake, in England perhaps people have different way of things. once I throw jacket back at tailor when he didn’t get correct stitching I ask for on button hole! Tailor dont mind, in fact they expect from passion customer!

Anon

Hi Simon
Question. I have around 20 bespoke suits thus far, having tried 10 top bespoke tailors. In the process, I want to think I learned a thing or two about what to expect from them.
One thing I have not been able to master though, is when to say no, or when to reject the final fitting. My latest first order from an Italian tailor left me unhappy. Armscye was way too low and large, and it clearly cannot be fixed. If I did not have these many suits, I might not be troubled, but as I do, I know I will not be wearing it.
In this circumstance, is it acceptable to outright reject the commission and not pay the final instalment? What would you do?
Thanks!

VSF

Of the tailors you have used so far which ones have you been most pleased with and why?

VSF

Sorry Simon, but that question was meant for anon. Of course that’s a great question for you as well, but that would probably require a whole piece on the topic, given the number of tailors you’ve commissioned.

Anon

In case you were asking me and not Simon (who is much more qualified to reply)…
I have two answers. For structured/more formal suits/jackets, and if you can afford it, Parisian Cifonelli is the house I keep coming back to, and will keep coming back to for a couple commissions every year. Consistent, reliable service, and will not stop altering each piece until you are satisfied. A notch below but still outstanding, Gaetano Aloisio from Rome. Great finishing and perhaps a touch lighter given what (to me) feels like a slimmer canvas.
For unstructured/soft casual suits/jackets, I’d stick to the Neapolitans. Its a harder place to navigate as I’ve had a few inconsistencies in the past (perhaps 3 out of 6). Don’t want to name the tailors I’d stay away from, but I do like and have repeated orders with Caliendo and Rubinacci, both of which have been covered by Simon.

Fabrizio Gatti

Hi Simon and posters. I am Italian and would like to point out that we don’t shout and throw jackets at tailors when they make a mistake beyond repair. This is considered an aggressive, impolite and ungentlemanly reaction anywhere in the world. We just pay and never come back. There may be cases where such reaction occurs, but it has nothing to do with the latitude. It is also a childish way of stereotyping Southern and Nordic European people as in “Englishmen are cold and slow to understand a good joke, while Italians are passionate and witty.” Human beings are human beings with the same hearts, feelings and brains.

Andrew

Is it worth it? Yes it is. Took me 25 years to realize.

After many more or less ill fitting OTR-suits (which come at a significant cost because you buy more and sometimes don’t even wear them when they are not comfortable) I am now owning 4 bespoke suits which fit like a glove and feel like a jumper. I also love to wear my father’s vintage bespoke suits (well, I finally have to admit that he wasn’t so wrong about his suits…) and for special occasions a bespoke tail coat of 1908 after some alteration (easy with a bespoke). They are still great, especially the tweed suits. I get compliments and feel dressed properly.

You don’t have to start with high-end bespoke suits, just never fall into the online trap of “bespoke” suits. Go to a real tailor who offers real fittings. If you can’t afford bespoke at the moment, try MTM or at least get your OTR suit altered. Don’t get too much into today’s fashion with a bespoke: you (or later your son) want to wear the suit for a longer time.
Be patient. Some things come with time and age.

Karl

Hello Simon,
Can you recommend a bespoke tailor based on body size and build ? I am 5’10”, 14 stones, with large shoulders and chest. I’ve tried several made to measure before with mixed results, some good, some bad, most average.
I’m keen to try Anderson & Shepherd based on what I have seen of their work, however I’m concerned that their house style and drape may over-emphasise my body rather than flatter it.
From your experience are some tailors and their styles more suited to certain body types ?
Thanks

Anonymous

I am traveling to Rome soon, do you have any recommendations on Roman tailors or shops to visit? Thank you

Jojoremeny

I disagree with you on some points..
I’m a fashion designer that has trained in tailoring from 4 master tailors … All based in Birmingham .One Tailor kapnisis a sprightly 91 years young (still teaches me and comes to my shop and cuts jackets for my customers) a Cypriot master tailor won savile row cutter and tailor exhibition in 1957. Some of the best tailors are not on Savile Row Or London and evidently you have a tendency to be loyal and bias to London tailors.
One of the best tailors in UK is David young an Irish master tailor who is based
in Galway . David did work on Savile Row for a while .Not many tailors can cut and make suits like David with super fine 200’s from Scabel .The skills needed to make a suit from this weight is a lot more than Savile Row tailors can handle..( you will be lucky to see in-house on Savile Row superfine 200 cloth )
As a fashion designer,I like to combine traditional tailoring methods with design elements and always chat with the customer to see what personality he/she possesses and if he wants to make a statement and look unique. I like doing things differently anyway and sometimes tradition is a hindrance !..
I teach dressmaking and bespoke tailored courses on trousers and waistcoat making including making buttonholes the traditional way with gimp and beeswax. I teach draping called moulage for my dressmaking courses and use this technique to make waistcoats so do not cut a pattern out or use a block i; I cut on their body so pretty unique what I do in tailoring.. I use this method for shirtmaking as well and I’m developing this into draping an actual jacket onto a customer which Will be more accurate than traditional “rock of eye “cutting or using blocks .
One of my master tailors who taught me,Ammi who was based in Birmingham was a technical tailor who was brilliant at cutting and was a tailor’s tailor .Any tailor who had problems used to go see him for help. Ammi worked as head cutter and tailor for Colliers an outfitter who had about 7 shops and had a factory in Leeds for Mtm etc .. Ammi was head cutter and made sure all patterns before going into production was accurate.
Ammi later set up his own tailoring shop
in Birmingham and made UB40 and Robert Plant (Led. Zeppelin) suits.
Ammi’s stance on suits was he fused every thing as suits made with canvas in modern times was outdated and heavy and superfluous to how a modern suit should be. I questioned him on many occasions about this and he said nobody wants a heavy suit even lightweight canvas creates heaviness.. He would make full canvas if a customer wanted it . Ammi’s suits were perfect in cut and execution but he was mocked by another Birmingham tailor 91 years old Kapnisis who won cutter and tailor exhibition in 1957 .. Kapnisis called Ammi the “factory Tailor” and Kapnisis follows a very old traditional bespoke method where everything is canvassed and most of it hand stitched including handstitching the linings in ..i have been learning kapnisi’s way which is beautiful but too regimented.. Kapnisis cut is beautiful and perfection is his forte but design elements are not ….
I do offer MTM to customers and went to Huddersfield last month to Antich who weave fabric for Scabel and other big companies.I went to the mill and was very impressed with their set up .
They only produce a small quantity of MTm and this is good I looked at their block patterns and suits and looked very good as regards for fit etc .In today’s modern times MTm are really improving .
I will be using this company as it’s all made here in England which I’m passionate about.
With the clothing/fashion industry being the world’s 3rd main polluting industry we need to change our attitudes sooner than later … I upcycle old jackets and use left over fabrics to create new designs on traditional tailored jackets ..
Why would you or encourage English
residents to fly around the world or have tailors come visit you from other countries to have a suit made !!??
This is outrageous and really defeats our carbon footprints strategies to be more eco and sensible .
We have amazing tailors here in England and UK … Check out Attilio Ripano an Italian tailor resident in Cornwall,he could run rings around most Savile Row tailors.
David Young in Southern Ireland.
Kapnisis here in Birmingham who is working with me .. and many more around England….
Thanks,
JoJo Remeny

Brian

Hi Simon,

A question on damage control. I’ve received a first-time commissioned jacket from a tailor that you are familiar with and have featured multiple times on your site. To put it bluntly, the final jacket’s cut is off in so many ways – to make matters worse it is uncomfortable / tight to wear. I have not gained any weight since last fitting and to be frank it seems like the measurements were changed materially between last fitting and this jacket.

Have you been in situations like this? Is the best course of action to ask for the jacket to be re-cut? What’s the best approach to effectively making this ask in your experience? Alterations could work but a trusted alterations tailor told me it would take up almost all the outlet cloth along with sleeve pitch and shoulder shape being off.

Charles F. Moorman

Thanks, Simon. Guess I don’t understand the hierarchy of roles for Savile Row shops. It would appear the Cutter is the maestro and the tailor(s) are the instrument players in the orchestra? A little elucidation on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Charles F. Moorman

Brian,

I have made the same comments about Savile Row tailors. Reference several e-mails contributions made over the past several days to this site. I had one suit jacket that after 4 measurements should have fit but when I got the suit I couldn’t even put it on as it was so tight. Had to send it back to the UK twice before they finally figured it out–go figure why that’s the case. Now upon a commission I am quite explicit to the point of being rude by telling them I want my trousers tight and my jacket loose and not the other way around like they have made for me in the past,

Brian

Thank you, Simon. I will be very straight with the tailor yet of course polite. I’m just wondering if it’s best to draw a hard line and ask for jacket to be re-cut or leave it more open-ended? I fear even if alterations work, no outlet cloth will be left and pattern may not remain changed for future commissions.

Brian

My concern is that the jacket’s measurements changed materially from final fitting to now. I do not recall having issues with comfort during the fitting and I asked for it to have a classic fit which it did during the fittings. Have you heard of cases like this?

I appreciate your input, Simon but I do fear this may eventually be a lost cause.

Ian A

Some tailors such as Solito seem to cut a very slim fitting jacket that might not flatter a more portly figure! My Graham Browne jacket which I asked to be cut in an Italian soft shoulder design was actually more of a classic fit for me and hence it is more comfortable and I choose it far more often. It isn’t really an Italian jacket just the cutter Russell’s interpretation of an Italian jacket but it is my most comfortable bespoke item outside of the Pommella Napoli bespoke trousers I own. Often your own feelings of how a jacket should fit really come into it making the experience quite subjective.

Vijay

Do you have to adhere to the house style of a house if you get your suit made bespoke?

Charles Frank Moorman

I have had several Savior Row bespoke suits mafe and except for the last one currently being made they haven’t been that good. Amazingly I make it so easy for the past SR tailors to make them well as Y
I give them a thorough and complete lists if my expectations but it seems like they just throw it away and make the suits their old tried and true way and don’t honor my instructions. Nothing like paying $6000 and getting a subpar suit. Thank you for nothing Ray Stowers!

Scott

Which tailors were you not happy with?

Rups

If you rotated 2 bespoke suits every day for 5 days a week how long would they last roughly Simon? 4 or 5 years?

Charles Moorman

The jacket could last for years the real problem is the wear in the crotch area of the trousers which is why it is best to buy two pairs of trousers for every suit jacket. With a little luck you will get up to 20-30 years of wear out of really well made suit rotating the trousers every other wear. Only dry clean the garment once or twice a year as that is where the real wear takes place on the item. I like to have a plain front made sans brace buttons and then have a single pleat pair of trousers in which I wear all my zany silk braces that Trafalgar used to make but don’t anymore.

SC

Simon, since you’ve done the W&S London vs. made in India bespoke suits, what are your thoughts of the offshore bespoke options from Sexton or Huntsman 100? Supposedly better than MTM and similar to made in London bespoke but skipping one fitting. Have you seen any examples to compared to the full bespoke in terms of fit and finish? Any limitations in styling or personalization/cloth options? ie would you still get the strong roped Sexton shoulders for offshore bespoke or would it be somewhat watered down?

SC

Thanks. I wonder how much handwork is done in the overseas workshop vs machine as compared to London. Though the main concern with offshore bespoke would seem more to be the missing fitting. No basted fitting for ES, and no forward fitting for Huntsman 100. Would you be concerned more for missing the basted fitting, since anything can be adjusted still at this stage vs at a forward fitting? Though I would hope with the skills of Savile Row cutters, only minimal adjustments need be made regardless of which fitting is skipped.

George

My situation is very complicated. I’m working in a job that eventually would require me to wear suits every single day, so I have a need for many many suits, I can definitely afford bespoke suits, but the problem is I need to have enough numbers of them for rotation.

I understand bespoke can be better at many ways, but that comes with a assumption that your posture and body shape never change, and because I do a lot of movement with my suit, even a perfectly fitted bespoke garmet can get wrinkle and look “out of place” even. In this situation, I probably won’t see the superiority of bespoke clearly if at all.

But I’m still wondering if I should get many great fitting mtm or a few bespoke. What would you suggest me Simon?

Joel

Thank you for this article Simon.

I really enjoyed it because I feel you write that bespoke is not “perfect” right away and might take until the second or third suit or pair of shoes for the perfect fit. This always bothers me because the dream is a bespoke suit, however, I will only ever be able to afford (if that) one bespoke suit.

I know there’s a lot of marketing talk from tailors who mainly do MTM but also do bespoke. So many tailors talk about how their MTM is so good and if it isn’t, they will make it so. Then they give you the option of bespoke and again it’s all marketing like using words like premium or ultimate or “up a level” from MTM. The reason I’m writing this is because I often think if I chose a “Master” tailor like Gieves And Hawkes or H. Huntsman their MTM would still be amazing.

Love to hear your thoughts Simon and readers.

DKP

Simon – is the shirt featured in this article from Luca and if so, which collar is it?

Thanks

DKP

Thanks Simon – it’s beautiful. May I ask which fabric was used and if Luca does a similar collar? I have a couple of spreads from him but this one is slightly different to my eye. Could be the angles but appears to be perhaps not quite as “spread”?

Rupesh

Hi Simon,

Could you kindly share the fabric details of the suit shown in the images along with the shirt details.

Thanks

Rupesh

Peter

Dear Simon,
Could you share your view on SR tailors doing orders straight to finish?
My tailor suggested that he could start completing the suits directly and just shipping them to me as I moved out of London. As long as I order the same weight, do you think it could be justified. It would be absolutely convenient, but am unsure how to proceed.
Best
Peter

Lindsay Eric McKee

Surely there must be more retailers or manufacturers out there that offer bespoke than we realise.
For instance Trickers Shoes, Barkers Shoes through Robinsons Shoes in Carrickfergus and Belfast, Grenson shoes by special appointment.
Jeans…. Levis and so on.
I think it would be fun over a period of time, to put together a list by country of what is offered bespoke, be it tailoring, shoes, knitwear, eyewear, headwear and possibly others to whet the sartorial appetite.

Charles F. Moorman

Simon,

What I am hearing now about this matter is quite distressing–such famous tailors as Huntsman, etc. are contracting portions of trousers and jackets out to shops in Asia. This to me doesn’t sound like how a bespoke suit should be made. I am presently having several suits being made for me by one of the leading Savile Row tailors and if I find my suits were made in this manner I will consider legal action. When paying $6000-7000 for a suit my expectations are that it is made exclusively on the premises of a place of business on Savile Row.

Charles Moorman

Tim Correll

Actually, the traveling tailors on and off the row in London as well as the traveling shirt makers and shoemakers in London claim that they only use their own seamstresses and tailors in house. Of course, these shirt makers, shoe makers and tailors are less than 10% of each of these types of bespoke makers in England.

Tim Correll

Then I stand corrected about English tailors, Simon. As for English shoemakers, they also use freelance workers.

However, there are some bespoke shoemakers in London that have freelance workers that work just for them. Among them are George Cleverley, Gaziano & Girling and John Lobb, Limited, according to what they told me in personal exchanges of emails (I don’t think they would lie, for what it’s worth).

Rups

The boast of places like Huntsman when they employed all their own tailors on premises even into the glory days of Hammick and Hall was that they could oversee the process and therefore quality control would be of highest level. That idea isn’t mentioned anymore as it became inconvenient to run their businesses in that way. It cant have been true then but not now.

In theory the cutters are supposed to check all the work when using outworkers, however from my own experience on Saville row I believe there is a lot which is missed in terms of quality control generally. If everybody is working by themselves and only sending work back when it is finished then nobody by definition was watching the process as it is actually being done. The result is that badly completed tailoring is sent back to the shop. Now the cutter is in a difficult position as do they resend it back to the tailor to redo again or perhaps just hope for the best and try and get away with it. The latter is often what happens especially at bigger or more busy houses who even with good intentions don’t even bother to properly check all the work going through. On top of this you have variability in work, if you’re lucky its sent to an experienced tailor who takes pride in their work, if you’re unlucky its sent to an unexperienced tailor who may or may not take pride in their work. A third factor is since the tailors are freelance and often in demand in London as numbers of experienced staff has reduced in the field the houses cant hold them to the same standards as they once did. If they tried to the tailor would just move to doing work for another house. Of course this will vary with demand for bespoke tailoring in the area they work in but with the resurgence they seem to be quite in demand over the last decade or so. That shows in the prices a coat maker or trouser maker charges the house to do (its roughly a 1/4 to a 1/3 by my calculations depending on where you go and the price the house ends up charging the customer).

I have Savile Row suits from 30 years ago bought vintage and also had made on Savile Row suits for myself during the last 5 to 7 years. The former are made to a far higher standard and that is apparent to even an amateur eye. Thats not even getting into the cutting aspect in which an even wider discrepancy in quality has occurred. Basically Mr Moorman paying £6-7k for a suit will I fear sadly not get what a contemporary of his would have got for a inflation adjusted fraction of the price on Savile Row years ago.

Tim Correll

This freelancing that you speak of, Simon, I take it that the methods that are used (including some freelancers working for one tailor) apply to all of the garments that the tailors cut themselves (such as dresses, shirts and skirts) and not just coats, trousers and waistcoats.

Tim Correll

There are, in fact, a very small number of tailors that do ladies wear where they offer dresses and skirts. Who cuts their dresses and skirts if they don’t?

Tim Correll

For those few bespoke houses that make dresses, shirts and skirts, if they employ tailors in house (which I know is also few), do they also employ tailors in house to sew dresses, shirts and skirts like they do with coats, trousers and waistcoats?

Charles F. Moorman

Thank you, Simon. I am aware that most tailors are free-lancers on the Row having had some experience now with two tailor shops on it. G & H seems to make most of the garment in-house and, as far as I can tell the tailor I deal with directly there is an employee of Gieves and not a contractor. The other entity I dealt with did contract out almost all of the commissioned work with disappointing results. Very disappointing results. Going forward I will stick with Davide Taub at Gieves and Hawkes. He is a great tailor and, after going through 30 tailors in 35 years, I have finally found the Gold Standard of master tailors who is my tailor for the rest of my natural life!

Rups

@ Mr Moorman You have been through 30 tailors! Thats a lot for anyone. Are you able to say which you found good and bad in your opinion who are still operating today? Tbh I should say that I think cutting is more important than the finishing as if the suit looks aesthetically poor you won’t want to wear it irrelevant of how neatly or nicely its been stitched. The converse is not true, in that if a garment is cut nicely it still looks flattering even if the finish is a bit sloppy. Finding a cutter who cuts well consistently is very difficult in my opinion and the main problem in bespoke today. Its a personal thing but I just dont like the way almost all of the tailors Ive seen cut. I think its a mix of talent going downhill, the old cutters losing passion for their craft, and the current aesthetic in the bespoke world. On the latter I dont mean tight skinny modern Heidi slimane inspired look in RTW, but there the look which has been in vogue in bespoke tailoring which is closely cut through the body, low button point, big chest and shoulder. Its almost trying to replicate the gym body builder aesthetic but in tailoring. Personally I just dont like it.

Charles F. Moorman

Yes, believe it or not some of the best tailors I had were Mexicans who immigrated to the Los Angeles area (not sure if they were legal or not) and did great work on several pairs of trousers years ago. I would have continued using them but once they get the hang of what they are doing they tend to go back to the home country and open their own shops. I had an Armenian tailor in Beverly Hills do OK work, not great but people in the states don’t buy nice clothes anymore and he went out of business. As I stated before I used several SR shops who did very poor work (sad but true) and several of these sites when out of business for justifiable reasons. Other tailors I used over the years were several Chinese tailors in the U.S.–some good, some horrible a Korean tailor who was headstrong on how he, not myself, was going to make my suit look (I obviously got rid of him), two or three Italian tailors in Los Angeles who were just OK and recently a Mexican-American tailor in Downtown Los Angeles who does excellent work (you should see the precise stitching on his trousers and shirts-fantastic) but unfortunately he does things I don’t ask for and doesn’t do things I do ask for–its almost comical. I will continue to use him but he is no Davide Taub my Gold Standard gentlemen. Over the years there ten to fifteen tailors whose names (and rather mediocre results escape my memories for obvious reasons). Now that I have someone who truly is the best, I am happy. Just took 35 years to get there. I has got to laugh over that fact.

My son is developed a bent for nice clothes so when he is ready to go “high-end” I will simply steer him to Davide so he doesn’t have to go through all the crap that I had to go through.

L. M.

I can sympathise with Charles Moorman’s comment.
He mentions Huntsman. They offer two levels of bespoke.
The 1845 Bespoke service is the exclusive service which is fully undertaken in house in Savile Row.
The other service, called Bespoke or Bespoke 100, utilizes, as they put it, “carefully selected and vetted ateliers”.
Apparently this is the cheaper option where some of the work is carried on in China.
I feel this should be made crystal clear in their description of this service.
It is totally unacceptable when other tailoring houses are more transparent on this matter.

Charles F. Moorman

Well I have seemed to stir a hornets nest with my cogent question about the provenance of a Savile Row suit–who would have thought little old me would raise such an interesting round of comments. I will say this. The difference between a Geives and Hawkes bespoke suit I had made in 2006 and the recent one one that Davide Taub made for me is like night and day. There were major discrepancies in the suit made in 2006–the pockets on the trouser flared out terribly and the jacket was too damn tight (whose chest were they measuring?) to the point I had to send it back to get it done right. A second suit was even worse as I couldn’t even put the jacket it on due to it being too tight–obviously that had to get sent back to the UK as well–in fact I had to send it back twice. Fast forward to 2018 and my initial conversation with Davide–he asked relevant questions and after 4 fittings I have a suit that fits like a glove–it is simply better in every way from the 2006 suit. He even came p with a couple of personalized ideas for my suit that I hadn’t even thought about. If Davide is an independent contractor he is one hell of one as he really seems to “get it” in regards to what I want. Another SR tailor who shall remain nameless and will never use again didn’t and basically I have a $6000 pile of crap that perhaps I can get $400 for on the used clothing /vintage web-sites now out there. Savile Row’s reputation is really imperiled by lowering the standards of clothing fabrication and farming out portions of the suits to others. Like Roche Bobious the famous French leather furniture make aptly stated–our name means more than anything else and we make it out furniture strictly in house because of our reputation. Amen to that and British suit makers need to follow the same ethos!

Christopher Frey

Bespoke or MTM my 40 year old son has tried many tailors in London.BUT the problem is, that no matter the tailor or the cost of the suit, the Trousers are always worn through within a year. Can anyone recommend a Tailor who makes Trousers that last longer than a year?

Rups

Which tailors did your son use out of curiosity? Think its the material and not really the tailor who is responsible for wear and tear as the cut of the trouser isn’t really going to affect the rate the trouser is worn through much although a looser cut will prevent a lot of pulling etc when sitting. A lot of cloth these days is flimsy in terms of density of weave) Cavalry twill is the most solid material I can think of, but after that a good worsted which is dense, and weighs 12oz and upward should hold up ok over several years. Also remember its just cloth at the end of the day and clothes wear through) I know the bespoke luxury industry promotes this idea of bespoke suits ‘lasting a lifetime’ but its really just one of the myths peddled in the business to help sell expensive suits) If you combine it with some of the others ‘you need x suits for each season etc’ most people will never catch on) A solution to the expense of wearing suits though is to have one or two higher end suits for special occasions and a few ‘beater’ suits to wear day in day out when nobody is particularly bothered but you need to be wearing a suit. Thats what most people always did and it still makes sense) GL.

Charles Frank Moorman

Tim,

Check with Kathryn Sergeant who has her own bespoke shop just off the Row. I knew her from Gieves and Hawkes and I do believe she employs dressmakers at her new shop. Good luck

robert

Above comments spot on regarding the inability of the average adult male to ,well, dress like an adult. I frequently wonder “Seriously, that’s the best you could do? ”

Regarding the value of bespoke. Yes, it’s a guilty pleasure I choose. For me the value is there. I don’t need to justify it to anyone. As indulgences go, it’s pretty innocent.

Regarding relationships, I think this is not emphasized enough. I have been fortunate to work with the same shop for 25 years. Their work may not match the best European houses, but I consider the retired Neapolitan tailor a friend. He still comes by the house whenever he returns to town (with his apprentice successor in tow ). We sit. Drink an espresso. Talk. We disparage the EU, seersucker and his ex-wife (but not necessarily in that order). In our e-commerce get it from Amazon overnight society this may not count for much. But for me it has been worth the price of admission.