Dismiss Notice

STYLE. COMMUNITY. GREAT CLOTHING.

Bored of counting likes on social networks? At Styleforum, you’ll find rousing discussions that go beyond strings of emojis.

Click Here to join Styleforum's thousands of style enthusiasts today!

Why should I care that something is "handmade"?

Discussion in 'Menswear Advice' started by FopTalk, Mar 29, 2016.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. FopTalk

    FopTalk Member

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    1
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2016
    I own a bunch of RTW Luigi Borelli shirts and a couple of RTW Kiton shirts. I think they're beautiful and I love them.

    Now I know that these shirts, particularly the ones by Kiton, contain a lot of handwork. I've inspected the stitching and various parts are clearly done by hand, not machine. It's particularly noticeable (and oddly impressive) on my Kiton shirt's button holes, evidenced by dense, irregular stitching pattern. I appreciate that this means more labour when into to making it and this begins to explain why they're so expensive.

    However, when I think about it more deeply, why should anyone care that a shirt or parts thereof were stitched together by hand? How does that benefit the consumer? Wouldn't logic suggest that machine stitching means fewer irregularities, less chance of wear of tear and maybe even better fit?

    I've asked my tailor about this and I don't feel I've ever gotten a coherent answer. He told me that when a suit or a shirt is hand-stitched, the garment moves and pulls better and complements the body better than machine-stitched. I don't see how that makes sense.

    If a garment is bespoke, than I might be willing to believe that hand-stitching procures benefits as the specific irregularities of your body might be accounted for (but, even then, I fail to understand why a sewing machine couldn't do the same thing better).

    So, please explain to me why I should care that a garment is handmade? And when something is advertised as "handmade", is there any way to discern how much was in fact made by hand?

    Would love some help on this one.
     


  2. IChen

    IChen Senior Member

    Messages:
    354
    Likes Received:
    44
    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Location:
    Boston
    I'll let more experienced/opinionated people answer the durability and movement but I view handmade as a "luxury" thing. Only you will really know it's handmade unless the viewer is aware of the brand's habits for example. I view handmade as giving the garment a "special" feeling that you won't get this kind of stitching from other brands since it's handmade by said maker.
     


  3. 12345Michael54321

    12345Michael54321 Distinguished Member

    Messages:
    1,566
    Likes Received:
    491
    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2008
    Location:
    Baltimore County, Maryland, USA
    While handmade can - sometimes, and often only in theory (not practice) - result in better fit, better quality, better suited to one's specific needs, etc., usually the big advantage to handmade is psychological. The fact that it was handmade leaves you feeling happier. Probably for no objectively valid reason, but feelings needn't always be objectively valid, after all.

    To the wearer, "handmade" may carry connotations of skilled tailors, devoted to producing the finest quality humanly possible. Whereas machine-stitched may carry connotations of soulless automatons, joyless uniformity, and some vaguely Metropolis-esque post-modern existence.

    Liken this to home cooking vs. frozen/prepared/restaurant food. (Home cooking may be better, but that's far from a given.) Receiving a handwritten note from one's love vs. receiving an email. Having a human line judge in tennis vs. relying on an electronic line judge. Etc.

    You are correct about machine stitching often - no, not always, but often - being superior to hand stitching in most meaningful ways. In matters where precision and uniformity are good things, a "soulless" machine can often produce results superior to those of a human being. If you want art, go with the human being. If you want reliable, repeatable results, consider going with a machine.

    Machines tend to be best at obeying rules. Humans, at least potentially, at taking exceptions into account.

    Mind you, machines can certainly be used to produce low quality results. In order to save on production costs/increase output per unit time, that's often what's done. But, of course, humans can also crank out low quality product, and often for the exact same reasons - to save on production costs/increase output per unit time.

    I'm admittedly not well versed in this area of US law (much less the laws of other countries), but I don't think there's an objective standard codified into legal regulation on the use of the term "handmade." Is it, for example, "handmade" stitching if a human being used a sewing machine, or is it only truly handmade if the human being used a handheld sewing needle to pull a thread through the fabric? What if a human being pressed the button on an automated stitching machine, supervised the machine's operation, and inspected the result? If there are legal standards in place, I'd welcome being enlightened.

    You could ask the seller for details regarding the extent to which an item billed as handmade was actually made by hand. You might even get an answer. It's not completely impossible it'd be a meaningful answer. It's barely within the realm of possibility that it'd be truthful.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2016


  4. FopTalk

    FopTalk Member

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    1
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2016
    Quote: Thanks 12345Michael54321! I really appreciate your answer and I find it philosophically compelling. I can totally get behind the notion that things that make us feel happy need not be rational; I guess this is what distinguishes "feelings" from, say, "thoughts", and the joy of living is not so much about the logical justifications supporting the thoughts we have, but the irrational or mystical feelings we experience.

    As it applies to menswear, I'm comfortable with accepting that I can get romantic about clothes: the other day I wanted to buy an expensive but thoroughly used vintage cardigan on Ebay made in the 1930s only because I found it cool that that particular cardigan had been around since before my parents were born, which really means nothing in terms of quality; the satisfaction I'd get from having that cardigan is based on romance, not logic.

    That said, I, like most any consumer, don't want to be fleeced and I want to know when I'm making a romantic decision or a logical decision or a mix thereof. I also don't want to be manipulated by marketers whose job it is to exploit my romantic feelings so they can take my money.

    An example might be if I were to buy something labeled "organic" without knowing exactly what that means and why it should matter, save that I know the culture ascribes some vaguely moral/spiritual qualities to it and so, by buying it, I'm engaging in conspicuous consumption, buying it purely because of what other people think about it and with a view to showing it off to them without any deeper reflection on value. Now, I'm totally fine with choosing organic with purely moral/spiritual/conspicuous reasons in mind, so long as I've made that choice knowingly (mind you, if people around me will think better of me simply because I eat organic and not because of any objective consideration for the environmental or dietary good it may do, there's an objective value in that alone because my status has risen). There might be objective reasons as to why organic might matter, and you can choose to eschew or endorse them, but it strikes me as best to know these reasons first before making the "it just makes me feel good" or "other people will think better of me" 'decision. No one wants to act out of ignorance.

    Which comes back to "handmade." To me, the only objective quality I can think of that might be associated with it is scarcity. Factories and machines exist for minimizing production costs and achieving mass consumption and mass production. It's fair to assume that, all things being equal, something involving more handwork will be more unique than something involving more machine-work. And scarcity alone might very well be a valid reason to enjoy something, as it makes you feel distinguished, apart from the crowd and privy to a more rarefied experience; you can live and die feeling a bit happier about yourself because you saw or experienced things that most other people in the world did not.
    Quote: You've come up with good examples here, but I think even the juxtapositions proposed can be distinguished.

    For example, while home cooking vs. restaurant food, without any other details might not indicate anything with respect to quality, there are some pretty safe assumptions one can make about the experience that carry real meaning (i.e. going out vs. staying in are vastly different experiences that might elevate the culinary experience; after all, plating, seating, ambience and pacing affect one's enjoyment of a meal).

    A handwritten note from a lover is not a consumer experience involving money changing hands and it's also imbued with the hand of someone you know personally and dearly. It also presents a starkly different visual experience than an email (whereas the "handmade" element of an item does not necessarily, nor even usually, reveal a different aesthetic or interactive experience).

    I'm not being a tennis guy, but I'd guess a human line judge adds a level of excitement and unpredictabiltiy to the event, but if I had to pay significantly more for a tennis event only because there was a human line judge, I might scoff because the value differential is minute.

    Ok, I've been long-winded. You just unleashed a torrent of thoughts I wanted to organize on digital paper. Your assessment was pretty spot-on and far less verbose.

    To summarize what I've taken so far from this thread on "handmade" is that it really doesn't mean anything in terms of value... but, then again, I have to admit that I love those damn irregular, handmade stitches on my Kiton shirt's buttonhole. It's just a feeling. And that's fine.
     


  5. LGHT

    LGHT Senior Member

    Messages:
    125
    Likes Received:
    33
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2015
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Although I can appreciate items made by hand, and find great joy in making art and other items myself I find it odd that men get “joy” from clothes only because they have been made by hand or include a fancy name. It’s not like the pattern is one of a kind like a painting or a handmade vase. Far too often that term “handmade” seems to impart superiority over none handmade garments to the purchaser when as explained it’s simply an inferior garment. I enjoy dressing nice and appreciate others who take time and put effort into their appearance, but far too often I see men spending hundreds of thousands of dollars not because a shirt / suit is nice, but instead because it’s handmade and by a famous designer.

    I know a co-worker that purchases Tom Ford shirts, but almost never wears a jacket or even bothers putting on a tie to complete the look. He still looks like every other guy in a pair of slacks and a dress shirt that spent $20 at target on their wardrobe. In fact some say he dresses worse because he only has 2 pair of shoes and rotates between the same half dozen shirts and a few slacks that all seem to look the same. To make matters worse most of his clothes are too big and slouchy so he just looks messy most of the time. I make it an effort to wear a suit or at least a sport coat with a tie daily. I mix it up with pocket squares, suspenders, over a dozen pairs of various shoes / loafers and have a huge collection of ties. In his eyes he probably feels great that he spent $500-$700 for a single shirt because he can, but in reality his overall appearance is seen as below average at best.
     


  6. 12345Michael54321

    12345Michael54321 Distinguished Member

    Messages:
    1,566
    Likes Received:
    491
    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2008
    Location:
    Baltimore County, Maryland, USA
    
    It may mean something in terms of value. Or it may not. And if it does mean something, that something can be anything from positive, to negative. It just depends.
    Although at least in the US (and many other countries), there are actual regulations in place defining what "organic" means, in the context of produce. Whether organic produce is better for one's health - or in some cases, whether it's even better for the environment - could be debated. But at least you'll know what the word means. So that's something. (Now that he's dead, I guess Ricardo Montalbán never will be forced to tell me just how the fine, Corinthian leather in my '75 Cordoba differs from the cheap, non-Corinthian leather in my neighbor's Maybach 62.)
    Much of marketing is about convincing the consumer he will be happier when his bears the right fancy name. Sometimes brand name really does matter. Sometimes it doesn't, and you're paying a 1000% price premium not for any tangible benefit, but purely for pride of ownership, or reassurance that you "made a good choice," or the like.
    And if that feeling is worth the extra money to him, who's to say he didn't make a wise purchase decision?
     


Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

Styleforum is proudly sponsored by