Buying a suit is an exciting experience. Even for the man that hates shopping, spending the time and effort to have a custom suit made specifically for them is invigorating.
When making a suit purchase, there are four main ways to go about it:
- Rack to Wear. Often called RTW or OTR (Off the Rack), these are generally cheap suits that never fit. It is advised to stay away from these suits.
- Custom is a general term for any suit that has been altered for fit. RTW is not custom; the following two options are.
- Made to Measure (MTM). A tailor takes your measurements and a suit is made using a pattern resized to fit your measurements.
- Bespoke suits are handmade, hand sewn and one of a kind. The pattern for the suit is made directly on the client.
Before you can just determine how much a custom suit will cost, you need to understand where the value comes from. The four “C’s” of suit value are cloth, craftsmanship, customization and consultation.
When deciding on the type of fabric will make up your suit you should understand the differences in available materials. Most high-quality suits are made from 100 percent wool. There are other materials commonly used to make suits in all price ranges as well: polyester, silk, cotton, cashmere, and linen.
Avoid polyester and polyester blends. These are often labeled as “wool blends.” Polyester is the least expensive material a suit can be made from and will not last as long as other materials.
You also need to consider the climate and temperature when picking your suit. Colder weather will need a thicker material such as tweed or flannel. In the summer months and warmer weather, linen, silk and cotton are better bets. Wool or a wool/cashmere blend is a good year-round choice.
A thread count used for bedding is the same method of grading a suit. Yarn counts or “super counts” are a number that determines the fineness or softness of the material. The higher the number, the softer the material. You will see the super counts in a wide range. In general, you want to look for a super number above 100 and below 200.
There are suits with a sub-100 super number. If you are looking for a warmer or year-round material for your custom suit, Super 100’s to Super 130’s is a great option. Anything above Super 180’s is not a good choice for everyday wear, as these suits will not last as long as the rougher counts.
Weight and Twist
The weight of the cloth adds to the cost. The heavier the material, the more of the material there and, and thus the cost increases. Custom tailored suits generally fall in the 7 to 12-ounce range.
When the threads are made, mills will usually spool multiple threads together in a process called twisting. A double-twist is the most common. You should be wary of single-twist cloth as it will often not hold well together and the seams won’t be as smooth.
Outerwear is generally when you use triple-twist. For cost, style, softness and durability an excellent double twist is what you need. For everyday wear, a double twist with a weight between 7 and 10 ounces is preferred.
When buying a custom-made suit you should know how it was made. Was it made entirely by hand, by machine or by some mixture of the two? Who made it, where were the materials sourced from? You are spending your money on a well-designed and fitted suit. Don’t be afraid to ask.
The suit doesn’t just end at the cut and material. Most of the cost comes from the extras, or “trimmings.” What are the buttons made from? Avoid paying for plastic buttons. Your buttons should be made from bone, horn, wood, or mother or pearl. The chest piece should be canvas and the lining should be cupro. Do not accept a polyester lining.
Make sure you have a consistent tailor. You have the right to know. A true bespoke suit will be made, by hand, from the same person that took the measurements. You will pay extra for this.
A made to measure suit will pass through a few hands and maybe a machine or two. It is more expensive than a general custom made suits but worth it. If your tailor isn’t consistent, then your next suit won’t fit the same as the last. This is crucial for high quality, and the price tag reflects it.
When being fit for custom tailored suits, the fit is the most important thing. Ask questions about the measurement process. You should question a tailor that only take 4 or 5 measurements. If you are having 12 or more measurements taken, rest assured the suit will fit perfectly.
Not to be forgotten, consultations are necessary. You will never get a proper fitting when purchasing on line. Having to take your measurements yourself is daunting and never exact.
Face to face fittings are always going to be the best option when being fitted for a custom-tailored suit. The tailor will be able to see and account for varying body differences such as length of the neck, slope of the shoulders and if the left arm is fractionally shorter than the right.
When everything is said and done, you can expect to spend a good amount for a high quality suit. With factors such as trimmings, face to face consultations, measurements, materials and even super counts, custom made suits are an investment.
The general rule is to expect to pay $1200 or more for MTM suits. True bespoke will run you $3000 or more. While you can find sales and deals and get away with a decent suit for $800 to $1000, be wary. As Justin Yates, Founder and CEO of Beckett & Robb, says “Buyer beware! Never has the statement ‘you get what you pay for’ been truer than when it comes to the sourcing of suit.”