Originally Posted by Bill H
Smartie-pants and Edmorel,
OK, this is extremely helpful and I thank you very much for the insight. Basically, you are both saying that a TF suit, even at 50% off, is overpriced as I can have pretty much the same quality and fit, but customized if I go semi-bespoke. This is great to know.
For better or worse I have a very clear idea of what I want (something similar to this http://www.ebay.com/itm/152159045446
in fit, but probably a silk blend or mohair) you are confident I can have this made for 2500? Edmorel, I would definitely be very interested in your input on where to go from here. Thank you very much men for educating me, I am quite appreciative.
A direct answer to your question (without knowing much about what you are looking for), I would not get that suit/style. A single vent suit with 5 buttonholes on the sleeve is not what I would consider classic (the single vent is, although very much out of favor right now, the 5 buttons are just too much). If you are simply looking for a 2 button notch lapel suit with relatively strong shoulders and a slim cut, yes you can get that made for you for $2500.
BTW, I was not saying that a TF suit is overpriced, many things, tangible and intangible, go into pricing.
A more general and much loooooonger response:
This is assuming you want to go down the rabbit hole.
It’s some mental diarrhea and probably covers stuff you already know. It’s not all encompassing and there are exceptions to everything I say. It’s basically a general overview to get you to think about, what to think about, when buying a suit
Suit buying is no different than buying anything else, you have to look at what you need, what works for you and what is available (within your price range). Suits are not, figuratively, one size fits all. The same maker/tailor could look completely different on two people due to their body types, stylistic details etc. So for someone whose journey for a suit is at the beginning, very broad stage, I like to start with:
Stylistically – What person/celebrity/brand/blogger do you think wears/makes good looking suits? What is it about the style of those suits that you like? What is the first thing you notice when you see that person in a suit?
Physically – This person that you think is dressed well or the models used by the brand you like, are you built similar to them physically? Are you tall and skinny, short and stout, athletic/muscular or some combination thereof? What is your skin color?
Fabric /Design/Use of Suit – What do you do for a living, are you a Midwestern trial lawyer or a sports agent in California? Will this be a suit for daily work, for special meetings/presentations, for evenings out or for a tropical vacation/wedding etc?
Once we build a framework from the answers above, we can start to narrow things down. Let’s use Tom Ford since you mentioned his suits. Let’s assume we are talking about Tom Ford’s suits from the ’13-’14 seasons as I have not paid much attention to his more recent stuff, the things I see on the website look rather generic.
Ford cuts (Zegna makes the suits) a very manly, aggressive suit. I absolutely love his stuff (again, the stuff from a few seasons back). Strong pagoda shoulders, big peak lapels, elegantly loud fabrics, trim cuts. Very FU, very in your face, and very much not appropriate for me and many others. I have a big behind and hips and while not muscular, I have broad (but sloping shoulders) so the cut of suit that I need to make me look good requires it to not be close to my body, for the shoulders to not be too “strong” but to also not be soft and I have short legs for my height so I wear a jacket that is a bit longer than what most people my size wear. When you look at Ford’s suits, they are very trim, very high armholes, short jackets, broad shoulders. The jacket is made to make you look very big up top. I think it’s a terrific cut for slimmer, taller guys. I’ve seen average build people wearing it, and they don’t look as good. So my question to you would be, would that look work for you? And this framework can be used for any brand or tailor, take a look at people wearing the clothing, are they physically like you and the details/cut of the suit that you are admiring, will they work for you?
Once you figure out a suit cut, then it’s on to the fabrics.
Back to Ford, you may love the fabrics (also milled by Zegna) he used, I do. But if I was showing up to the El Paso Trial Lawyers Association annual dinner in a yellow shantung silk shawl collared dinner jacket, I’m probably going to stand out like a sore thumb and attract attention that I don’t want. So when you are looking at fabrics, you need to think about what color works for your line of work and your body. Are you looking for a fabric weight that you can wear year round (and what does year round weather consist of in your part of the woods) or something strictly for summer, winter etc. Do you want a fabric that is smooth to the touch/feel or do you want something with texture that will make the suit stand out a bit from the norm? Do you like your suits to stay as new, unwrinkled and sharp looking as possible or do you not mind a little of a more worn in look?
Now on to the color/design. Are you short and stout? I would suggest staying away from pinstripes/chalkstripes but if you must, I would go with narrow spacing between the stripes. If you go with a solid color, stay away from anything bright, grey/blues/browns are the foundations of any good suit, there are multiple shades of each color and typically the lighter shades are associated with warmer weather (although you can wear things like cream flannel in winter or dark brown hopsack in the summer). These are just some general things to consider.
Now you are picking a suit style. Double breasted or single breasted, 2 or 3 buttons (3 roll 2), peak lapels or notch, besom or flap pockets? A 2 button single breasted suit is the default business uniform in the US. A 3 roll 2 suit jacket adds a bit of style and Ivy nostalgia. A double breasted suit will make you stand out in certain circles. On a DB, I hate thin (<3.5in) lapels, I think it defeats the purpose of a DB. I also hate flap pockets, I think they detract from the “cleanliness” of a jacket. On the lapel width, your size should determine your lapel width (to an extent). Nothing worse than a large man with thin lapels or a thin man with 1970’s lapels. Your shoulders, are they very sloping (pointing downward?), mine are and I find that I look better with some padding at the end of my jackets shoulders. Peak lapels are generally more formal than Notch lapels. Patch pockets more casual than flap/besom. I live by sportcoats = 2 patch pockets and suit jackets = besom pockets but you have to decide what you like.
So you have the style of suit you like, the fabric style/color now on to what brand or tailor to use. The great thing about ready to wear is that its…… ready to wear. You can immediately see what the fabric and cut will look like on you. You can try on multiple brands/cuts and figure out what you most like before you spend your first penny. The downside is that you don’t have say on fabric, or style and if the cut doesn’t fit you just right, you have to either settle or get alterations. There are only so many things you can alter on a finished suit. Also, the proportions of the suit may not be right for you. As an example Ford likes oversized flaps on his pockets, the smaller you are the worse that looks.
The great thing about tailors is the options available. Fabric wise, you can get anything that you could possibly imagine. The right tailor will give you great advice on what fabric will best work for your need/suit, with RTW you are flying blind in that regards. A tailor will get you a suit that fits/works for your body and will be there to make any necessary adjustments down the road. A good tailor should stop you from making a huge mistake (“do you think this yellow/green/purple gunclub fabric would make a nice jacket/ Sure!!”). A store salesman is for the most part just looking to make a sale and push their brand. The bad thing about tailors is that there are more mediocre ones then there are good ones. A lot have pretty bad taste and will give you pretty bad styling/fabric advice. Also, depending on where you are, you may not have much options in terms of tailors.
Probably the most important thing about deciding to use a tailor is that you need to approach it as building a long term relationship rather than a one-time buy. The likelihood that the first suit/jacket that you get made is not 100% to your liking is very high, either cut/fabric wise or just stylistically. You will see examples here from the most expensive to the cheapest tailors where people are not 100% happy or where something is wrong. There is no tailor in the world that does not have (ex) customers that did not like the work done for them. It’s a human process which means there will be human mistakes from tailor and customer.
So when you look at things you like and you realize that you like strong shouldered suits (Huntsman/Tom Ford) or that you prefer less sharp cuts (Kiton/Southern Italian tailors) or something in between (Oxxford/American tailors), you need to take into consideration your needs as I expressed above. Some people love the process of picking fabrics and going through the month’s long process of getting something made. Some people need to see exactly how something will fit right away and don’t have the time or inclination for waiting around months for a suit. And depending on your social circle/desires, a Tom Ford suit will carry a lot more cache then a Steven Hitchcock suit, regardless of which is better made, uses better fabrics (BTW, TF suits are pretty well made and details like the Milanese buttonhole are not easily replicated by your typical run of the mill tailor) etc.
Everyone has a favorite tailor or a tailor that they would like to work with but again, what works for one person may not work for you. I won’t get into the distinction between tailors/cutters/salespeople, mtm/custom/bespoke as I think those should be things that you begin to consider once all the other things I discussed have been figured out. I would also advise that on your journey you give very little consideration to “handmade” as most RTW that is “handmade” is not and most tailors that do “handmade” do a mediocre job of it anyway. Whatever tailor/RTW brand you choose, the amount of handwork in the garment should be your last consideration.