I’m a longtime lurker and occasional impulse buyer on the B&S section of this esteemed site. In recent days, I’ve fallen down the bespoke/MTR/CMT wormhole, starting with a few humble shirt purchases from moderntailor. Like the proverbial first free vial of crack, those rather inexpensive shirts have led me to some potentially dark places, like reading the Ercole’s thread obsessively and planning a fall vacation around a trip to a famous Naples tailor. Clearly, I need a life.
But in recent days, my ardor has cooled somewhat. I’ve decided that as much as it would be 42 flavors of awesome for me to rock the hot bespoke shit, I’m going to stick to my current strategy – find a few well-made OTR suits that fairly closely fit my dimensions, then have my trusty local tailor alter them to fit me. This approach isn’t without its drawbacks, but I think it works best for my particular circumstances, namely:
1. Money: While I’d love to drop $3g or more on a custom bespoke suit, I’m a government lawyer who doesn’t have that kind of cheese. (Indeed, to the extent I have “cheese,” it’s of the humble workaday variety, like sharp cheddar or feta; nothing fancy like Roquefort or brie.) Nothing against the Mark Cubans and investment bankers among us – I love you, one percenters! – I just can’t justify the expense.
2. Work Environment, Part I: Some days I feel like the last man in the United States who is required to wear a suit 5 days a week. Given that my work clothes are on heavy rotation, I’d rather have several good suits than one or two drop-dead amazing ones. My work clothes get beat up too quickly to rely on a short bench.
3. Work Environment, Part II: I work for a governor of a small state and spend a fair amount of time in our state’s capitol. Without speaking ill of the denizens of that fine town, it is fair to say that, much like teeth, fancy clothes are seen as a unnecessary luxury. To the extent our state legislators and their respective staffs were to recognize that I was wearing a bespoke suit, their reaction would not be, “That looks sharp.” Rather, it would be more like, “What a dickhole.” It would suck to go to the expense and hassle of getting the perfect suit, only to be loathed and ridiculed by the very people you have to work with.
4. Body Type: I’m short but symmetrical. (Wait, wasn’t that an old Alanis Morrisette lyric from the ‘90s?) Although it can be difficult to find good suits in my size (38S), I’ve been able after quite a bit of looking and a little luck to find reasonably high quality stuff that requires minimal alteration. High-end department stores and smaller boutiques are great resource in this regard, because there are usually some knowledgeable salesmen who can recommend a particular line that you may not have heard of. For example, a really cool salesperson at MAC in SF turned me on to Dries Van Noten, which inexplicably fit fantastically well in a size 48R. Even at $1,200 – an astronomical sum for me – that was a much better deal than bespoke, and I think it looks great. Incidentally, I would not feel good about taking up a nice boutique salesperson’s time and buying the suit cheaper online, but I’d do it in a second for a department store. Does that make me a hypocrite or just an a-hole?
5. Time and Effort: For someone who doesn’t know classic Neapolitan tailoring from classic Neapolitan ice cream, the sheer number of bespoke options is bewildering. Even if I could intelligently describe the cut and fabric of the suit I’m looking for, which I can’t, I just don’t have the time for multiple fittings, bastings (which is a vaguely gross and inappropriate term, inicidentally) and all manner of trial and error. Again, I have nothing against those who truly love and understand the niceties of bespoke tailoring – by all means, rock out with your working buttonholes out. But I find it easier to use the brand name (Dries, etc.) as a proxy for knowing that the suit I’m buying is well put-together. Of course, the devil is in the details…
My two cents turned into a damn essay, which was not my intention. Thanks to those who suffered through to the end.