When you need a new suit, you have lots of different options these days. There are more brands to choose from than ever before.
This is great, but it can be a little overwhelming and that’s why at Hunter Treacy Tailors, we try to make things as clear as possible.
At want to help you choose the best option for your needs and budget.
The good news is, all suit makers fall into three overarching categories:
1. Ready to wear (a.k.a., off the rack)
To avoid confusion, let’s talk about the word “custom” real quick.
WHAT DOES “CUSTOM” MEAN?
Custom is used to describe anything that isn’t ready to wear. If you buy a suit off the rack and get it tailored, that’s not a custom suit. It’s just a tailored suit.
Custom means made-to-measure, fully bespoke or anything in between. Here at Hunter Treacy Tailors, we specialise in purely Made to Measure Suits.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that “custom” and “bespoke” are the same thing. The word bespoke is so widely misused that its meaning has almost been lost. A true bespoke suit will cost at least €2,000.
A bespoke suit is made from scratch, just for you. In other words, no fabric is cut until you’ve been measured.
Our Made to Measure (MTM Suits) are the closet thing you’ll get to a bespoke suit at the prices we charge, our patterns are not cut until you have been measured unlike other MTM Suits where they start from a pattern – multiple pieces of fabric that have already been cut, and are ready to be customized according to your measurements and preferences.
Bespoke is much more time intensive. It requires more fabric and more skill. It also requires a lot more money.
Now that we’ve got that cleared up, we’ll take a look at our options using three suits makers.
Let’s take a closer look at each type of suit.
READY TO WEAR (A.K.A., OFF THE RACK)
John Tweed Tailored is a new brands for men’s suits, and for good reason. Their vertically-integrated supply chain creates a lot of value for their customers with their products being made in Portugal.
In other words, you get a lot of bang for your buck with these guys.
The quality of their suits looks great, I’ve seen some up close and for an Off the Rack product, are really good.
An off the Rack Suit is fine if you want something for work that won’t cost the earth, Off the Rack suits in general are not great for shorter lads like me as they suits jackets tend to be too long, even the Short Jackets in most retailers don’t sit right with me.
Whether you buy online and submit your own measurements, or go to a showroom to get measured by a professional, most modern “custom suit” brands are selling made-to-measure (MTM) suits.
They all have basically the same process: you submit your measurements and select your fabric and details, then they send your order to a factory overseas (usually in China). Your suit is shipped directly to you 3-6 weeks later.
It’s a hit or miss process. For first time MTM buyers, we’d say it’s mostly miss. You can’t go wrong with coming in to Hunter Treacy Tailors and going through the whole process, the process of getting a Made to Measure suits is part of what makes it so special.
My point is: a nice customer experience is great, but the actual product is what matters. And your first MTM suit won’t be perfect, unless you get very lucky or unless you come to us!
A true Made to Measure suit is made exactly to your measurements, we ensure the patterns match up and all the other small details you won’t get with other Made to Measure Suit makers. We firmly believe we make the best Made to Measure Suits in Ireland.
When a suit fits well, it’s actually much more comfortable. Most guys aren’t comfortable wearing suits, which is why focusing on fit can be really helpful.
Part of the process of getting a Made to Measure Suit is coming in to our show room, leafing through our fabrics and having a relaxing coffee or whiskey to get the creative buds going.
I’d always wanted to buy a bespoke suit, but the price point is prohibitive. We’re talking at least €2,000, potentially much more, for one suit.
One reason for the high price tag is the labor. Making a suit from scratch is very labor intensive, and it requires a lot of experience.
Then you have the fabric. A suit requires 3-4 yards of fabric, plus all of the trimmings (buttons, lining, collar felt, etc.). So the “cost of goods” is high, compared to a Ready to Wear Suit where factories can mass produce the sizes quickly.
Simply put, bespoke is expensive.
BESPOKE VS. MADE-TO-MEASURE
What really makes the bespoke process special, though, is the basted fitting. Basically, the first time you try on your suit, it’s just stitched together with temporary thread. It’s not cut down to your exact measurement yet, so there’s plenty of room to make changes.
After the basted fitting, your suit is stitched together for good, and your try it on again. This is typically the second-to-last or final fitting. Minor adjustments will sometimes be made at this stage.
The end result is a unique suit that is, quite literally, made for you – and only you at a very high cost that not everyone can afford. Our Made to Measure suits are just as good (prove us wrong) at a fraction of the cost.
WHICH TYPE OF SUIT IS BEST FOR YOU?
As is often the case, it really depends on your individual situation. What do you need the suit for? How many do you already have? How old are you (are you still growing)? Are you on a mission to lose weight or pack on some muscle?
Perhaps more importantly, what’s your budget? And how much time do you have?
Buying a custom suit takes a long time, especially if you go full bespoke. Our MTM can take 3-5 weeks (sometimes longer). Bespoke could take several months.
FOR MOST GUYS, HERE’S MY ADVICE:
First, if you’re going for Off the Rack. Assume it will need a little tailoring, as this is totally normal with suits. Set aside €50-100 for basic alterations, such as getting the pants hemmed, sleeves shortened and jacket taken in.
Be sure that certain “unalterable” parts fit well off the rack, such as the shoulders, hips and seat. If the sleeves are too long off the rack, make sure they don’t have functioning buttons. These make shortening the sleeves difficult and expensive.
If you can’t find anything that fits well enough off the rack, consider going custom. For most guys, this means made-to-measure. If money isn’t an issue – and/or you’re willing and able to invest in a great suit that you’ll wear for years – then you’ll be very happy with one of our Made to Measure Suits.
Remember: if you need suit fast, like for your buddy’s wedding next weekend, custom is not an option.
Prioritize companies that have showrooms (or fit shops) near you. It’s much better to go get your measurements taken, in person and by a professional, than to submit your own measurements.
I’m not saying this always works out. Sometimes you’ll get a newbie “tailor” who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
But they still probably know more than you do. Plus, certain measurements like the shoulders and arms are just hard to do by yourself.
Even if you don’t live near one of these major brands, there are plenty of smaller custom clothiers around the world who serve their local market, often without any sort of online presence. Check your local Google results, Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc. Ask your tailor and dry cleaner if they can recommend anyone.
I can guarantee if you come to Hunter Treacy Tailors, we’ll make sure you have a great experience.
EITHER WAY, GET IT TAILORED
Unless you go bespoke, you’ll probably need some alterations to make sure the fit is as close to perfect as it can be. So be sure to set some time aside to visit your local tailor before that big event (wedding, interview, etc.).
What do you prefer: ready to wear, made-to-measure or bespoke? Let me know in the comments section below!