- Dec 22, 2003
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As I've watched over the years, there has been thread after thread comparing the virtues of many Ready-to-Wear brands, R-T-W Brands vs. Bespoke shirts, and at the top of the food chain, comparisons among the various bespoke makers. This series deals with only the second thought, that of Ready-to-Wear in contrast to Bespoke. I shall neither comment on Arrow v. Borelli (except to say that the Arrow is probably a better value), nor shall I opine on whether Charvet out-gussets Turnbull or Paris is more beautiful than Geneva. My sole goal here is to explain why bespoke shirts will serve you better than the pursuit of the ultimate R-T-W. Future threads in this series will deal with fit, quality of construction, levels of craftsmanship, and choice of styling options such as cuffs, collars, yokes, pockets, front center treatments ... but that's for later. This thread will explain in very simple terms the primary and overarching advantage of Bespoke vs. Ready-to-Wear: Selection of the Fabric. The average well-stocked specialty menswear retailer will have in current season stock somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 different R-T-W shirts, each in a variety of sizes ranging from 14-32 to 17.5-37. A large department store may as much as double that. Within that selection must be included button cuffs, French cuffs, self-collared shirts, white-collared shirts, as well as perhaps a few tabs and button-downs. Hence, for the person seeking a specific type of shirt, that 100 shirt selection gets divided down by at least a factor of four, leaving a universe of maybe 25 fabrics from which to choose. It is different at a reputable bespoke maker: One of the advantages is that you will be offered not only current season stock, but due to the long lag time in the Ready-to-Wear trade, you will even have the privilege of choosing from Next Season's offerings. New fabrics are offered at the same time to Bespoke as well as R-T-W makers. The major difference is that a bespoke maker can have a shirt made for you within days or weeks whereas even the fastest R-T-W production process requires a minimum of six months ... and usually longer. Advantage One: Be the first on your block It is different at a reputable bespoke maker: Though specialty menswear and department stores will usually have an oxford and maybe a jacquard, the vast majority of their offerings will be broadcloths. Of these, the overwhelming number will be single ply 80's; the 'special selection' on the top shelf will consist of a few two ply 100's and perhaps one 'World's Finest' 2x2 120s or a Sea Island. Not so in the world of custom. Any good shirtmaker will stock oxfords, broadcloths, voiles, jacquards, meshes, basket-weaves, blends of linen & cotton, pure linen, silk and maybe even a cashmere-cotton or cashmere-silk. Most of those will, in turn, be offered in 80's singles, 100's singles, 80's 2x2, 100's 2x2, 120's 2x2, 140's 2x2, 160's 2x2, 180's 2x2, and the pinnacle of all, 200's 2x2. Heck, the bespoke maker has more variety just in types of fabric than a menswear store can carry in their entire selection of patterns. Advantage Two: You order type of fabric which suits your purpose It is different at a reputable bespoke maker: The bespoke maker cannot survive by offering 100 fabric designs. In order to satisfy the variety of needs of a group of sophisticated shirt clients, the average custom house will stock a few more than that. This is where words fail. Enjoy:Advantage ... the Ultimate: You order type of fabric which suits your purpose ... from a selection of thousands. More to come. Thanks for reading. A quick note: Please do not cut and paste the fabric photo with any questions or comments you may post. It is large and will consume a great deal of bandwidth. Thank you. Copyright Â2005 Alexander S. Kabbaz. All rights reserved.