Whether you need it regularly for business or you want to get one for an upcoming formal event — say a wedding, a good bespoke suit is essential in every man’s wardrobe.
As any dapper guy will tell you, there’s nothing like a well-tailored suit that’s perfectly created just for you.
What is a Bespoke Suit?
So what exactly is a bespoke suit and what’s so special about it?
Well, a bespoke suit is a garment especially created, often by hand, just for you. Because it is unique to you, rest assured that you won’t be bumping into someone at a party wearing the same suit bought from the same store.
A bespoke suit is created not only according to your specific size and measurement. Most importantly, it is created according to the shape of your body and other personal preferences. Hence, it fits perfectly well.
If you’re taller or shorter than average. If your shoulders are broader or narrower than the next guy. Or if your chest is broad or your legs are skinny. Then all the more that you need to get yourself a bespoke suit.
History of Bespoke Suits
It may be hard to imagine but up until the invention of the sewing machine in the 18th century, all men wore garments made entirely by hand. Much like the bespoke suits of today.
These all changed when demands to supply military uniforms started coming in. In 1790, the first sewing machine was invented. And the bespoke process started to change. Suddenly, companies started manufacturing machine-made garments not only to cater to the military but to the general public as well.
However, the need for a sartorial style is innate in some men that some were not really satisfied with mass-produced garments. One such man was tailor-turned property developer Robert Baker, who established a tailoring business in London’s Piccadilly area.
Baker became the bespoke suit maker to King James I of England. He even created Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia’s trousseau.
Baker bought up the neighbouring lands and established businesses in the area. Many tailors followed suit and started flocking to the now-famous Savile Row. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Savile Row is a street in Mayfair, Central London, that is famous for traditional bespoke suits. It is arguably the centre of England’s — or maybe even the world’s — bespoke menswear trade.
Bespoke Suit vs Made to Measure Suit: What’s the Difference?
Most often, the word bespoke is being loosely used to refer to ‘made to measure’ suits. Some do it because they don’t know any better. Others intentionally do it to make their products seem more appealing and sound luxurious.
A made to measure suit already has a ready-made design and pattern. Unlike it, everything about a bespoke suit is created from scratch and made by hand. And everything is made following the customer’s size, measurement, and preferences. These include an individually-cut pattern, design and specific details of the suit.
In contrast, a made to measure suit is usually cut from an existing pattern. The tailor only adjusts everything according to the customer’s measurements.
When it comes to fitting, a made to measure suit only requires an initial and final fitting. There is no fitting during the process of creation. Whereas bespoke suits require multiple fittings to make sure the tailor and cutter get the fit perfectly.
Last but not least is the choice of fabric materials. Most often, made to order shops give limited fabric selections to customers. Meanwhile, bespoke tailors give a wide selection of fabric materials to customers. This can range to hundreds of different selections.
This can be overwhelming for first-timers. So it is necessary to have an honest discussion with your tailor about what you want and need.
Four Reasons You Should Get a Bespoke Suit
1. It fits perfectly.
The number one reason men opt for a bespoke suit is because of its superior fit. Throughout the process of creating the suit, there will be a few fittings using the unfinished basted garments. This is to make sure the tailor gets the perfect fit right at the beginning of the creation process.
2. You get the style, design, and materials that you want.
Before you even get your measurements taken, you need to decide on the style and design of your bespoke suit. Unlike store-bought or made to measure suits, a bespoke suit is all made from scratch. So every single detail of the suit will be decided by you.
3. It shows you have class and panache.
With the quality of craftsmanship, a bespoke suit says a lot about your sense of style.
4. You’ll wear it for a lifetime.
From the materials used to the hand-crafted quality of creation, a bespoke suit will last you years. Some even last a lifetime. The cut and style are classic and timeless. Hence, you won’t have to worry about getting one suit after another to keep up with the trends.
Three Major Fittings in the The Bespoke Suit Process
In creating a bespoke suit, three important fittings should be done.
The first fitting or the ‘basted fitting’ is when you first get to try on your suit. This is also done in order to check how the measurements are translated into the pattern. The suit is stitched together temporarily using a basting thread. This is a type of soft thread that is easily removed without damaging the cloth. It is during the basted fitting where most of the major adjustments happen.
The second fitting, or the ‘forward fitting’, is when you try on the almost-finished suit. This is where some minor adjustments are done.
The final fitting, of course, is when you try on the suit for the last time before everything is finalised. This is to make sure that everything fits and is according to your desire and preference.
Dos and Dont’s of Buying a Bespoke Suit
1. Do Your Research
Before embarking on your first bespoke process, ensure that you at least have a rough idea of the type and style of suit that you want. Are you looking for a traditional bespoke tuxedo or a more modern and vibrant suit for casual occasions? Consider the ideal materials and colors that you’d like to have incorporated, as well as, the overall fit. For more formal occasions, opt for a sharp and stiff-shoulder. Alternatively, for an added sense of versatility, a softer and more relaxed fit may make the best choice.
2. Schedule a Consultation First
The internet is flooded with reputable tailors. Each of them are revered for their unique styles and designs. As such, it best to schedule a consultation ahead of your first fitting. This will ensure that you make the best decision when choosing your tailor. During each consultation, take your time in browsing each tailor’s collection of fabrics and pre-made suits to gain a better idea of their capabilities and distinct style. Only once you’ve found a tailor that best understands and matches your vision, should you then begin the bespoke process.
3. Be Open-Minded
As much as you have a clear vision of your ideal suit, you are encouraged to remain as open-minded as possible throughout the bespoke process. Sometimes, what you envision in your mind may not actually flatter your body type or skin complexion. As such, remaining open-minded to receiving suggestions and feedback from your tailor can help ensure that you leave with the best possible outcome. Stay true to your overall vision, but trust your tailor’s expertise as well.
4. Don’t Choose Overly Striking Designs
Striking designs can showcase your vibrant personality, but going all out on your first bespoke suit may prove to be more detrimental that not. As you’re still new to the bespoke process, and figuring out how to make the most of your new garment, it is best to opt for muted designs and colors. This way, you can re-wear and re-style your suit for various occasions without feeling the embarrassment of others knowing that this is your only suit.
5. Don’t Overdress
Whether it’s your consultation or first fitting, do not overdress. Dress comfortably or in your usual day-to-day style. This will help your tailor gain a better understanding of your preferences, and collect the most accurate measurements.
6. Don’t Limit Yourself
The bespoke process encompasses so much more that suits. Upon discussing with your tailor, you can opt for a bespoke tuxedo or even simply a bespoke blouse, trouser, blazer, and more. Therefore, do not limit yourself to simply requesting full suits. Get creative and request for other individual bespoke garments to mix and match in the future.
Common Questions to Ask
These three questions below will also help to clarify what you need to know about this type of suit.
1. How much is a bespoke suit?
Depending on where you go, be prepared to shell out at least $2,000 for a simple bespoke suit. If you go to a well-known shop on Savile Row, a three-piece suit will cost you as much as $10,000.
Meanwhile, average two-piece bespoke suits from reputable tailors will set you back between $3,000 and $5,000.
2. What is the process like?
It all starts with knowing your personal preferences and the style you want. For example, do you need a suit or a tux?
You and the tailor will decide every single detail of your suit. These include the design, cut, fabric, pocket style, and lapel type, etc.
The second most important process of making a bespoke suit is to have an honest discussion with your tailor. You will have to tell him about your preference and lifestyle. He also needs to know the occasion you’ll wear it and how often you’ll wear it, among others.
The next step is measuring you up. To make sure your bespoke suit has a superior fit, the tailor will take your measurements. This will take about 20 different measurements for the coat alone, and five to 10 for the trousers.
The next step would be the waiting game, and finally the fitting. Depending on where you go, some bespoke tailors require 9 to 12 weeks to finish a bespoke suit. It often requires multiple trips to the tailor for the fitting to make sure you get the fit right.
3. Where to go to get a bespoke suit done?
Most of the big cities in the world have their own respected bespoke tailors. However, the well-known ones are on Savile Row in London.
Below are 15 of the most respected bespoke suit makers in the world — from Singapore to Savile Row.
15 Best Bespoke Suit Makers in the World
1. Anderson & Sheppard
Founded in 1906, Anderson & Sheppard has been one of the top bespoke tailors on Savile Row. Its goal has always been to create bespoke suits to stylish gentlemen who wish to dress in “comfortable, understated elegance”. And for over 100 years, this bespoke tailor has stayed true to its mission. It delivers one-of-a-kind and stylish bespoke suits that fit its customers to a T.
Address: 32 Old Burlington Street, London W1S 3AT
Phone: +44 (0)20 7734 1420
During Rome’s glorious heyday in the ‘60s, Battistoni was famous among the most stylish of Hollywood’s leading men. Rome back then was a favourite holiday destination of Hollywood’s who’s who.
Founded in 1946 by Guglielmo Battistoni, the bespoke tailor shop has remained in the same location. Today, it is still one of the go-to bespoke ateliers for the elite and the stylish, which include aristocrats, actors, and CEOs.
Address: Via dei Condotti 61/A, 00187 Roma, Italy
Phone: +39 06 6976111
3. Cesare Attolini
Established in 1930, Cesare Attolini prides itself on being able to deliver impeccably tailored bespoke suits to customers. A family-owned business, the bespoke tailoring shop now has presence all over the world, from Milan to Moscow.
At its helm, today are third-generation tailors and Cesare’s sons, Massimiliano and Giuseppe. The duo continues the Italian tradition, all while imbibing modern panache to the bespoke tailor shop.
Address: Via Nazionale delle Puglie, km 36 Casalnuovo (Na) 80013, Italy
Phone:+39 081 8444411
4. Cifonelli Bespoke
One of France’s best-kept secrets, Cifonelli Bespoke offers not only the highest quality of bespoke suits but also the greatest experiences of having one made.
The Cifonelli Bespoke experience starts by going to its shop on rue Marbeuf in Paris. There you’ll feel like you have just stepped into an exclusive and private club. The rest of the experience is all an enjoyable breeze, including meeting Lorenzo and Massimo Cifonelli, the third-generation master tailors.
Address: 31 rue Marbeuf, 75008 Paris, France
5. Egon Brandstetter
Headed by bespoke tailor Egon Brandstetter, this team of tailors from Berlin are passionate about details, finest materials, timeless style, and meticulous craftsmanship. They take pride in creating sustainable bespoke suits and working closely with their customers.
The team guides the customers every step of the way to ensure they get the bespoke suit of their dreams.
Address: Chausseestrasse 50, 10115 Berlin, Germany
Phone:+49 30 95 61 83 83
6. Gieves & Hawkes
An icon in bespoke tailoring, Gieves & Hawkes occupies the most prestigious address on Savile Row — No. 1 Savile Row in London.
Established in 1771, Gieves & Hawkes has been a tailor of the Royals since 1809, dressing the British royalty and reinforcing its unparalleled style. Gieves and Hawkes hold the prestige of being the oldest bespoke tailoring company in the world.
Address: 1 Savile Row, Mayfair, London W1S 3NE, UK
Phone:+44 20 7434 2001
7. Greenfield Clothiers
Martin Greenfield of Greenfield Clothiers is one of the most respected tailors in the United States, creating suits for big stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
However, his finely tailored bespoke suits are what set him apart from the pack. Active since 1947, Greenfield has been serving famous customers, including US Presidents, politicians, and celebrities.
Address: 3rd Floor, 239 Varet St, Brooklyn, NY 11206
Phone: (718) 497-5480
Taking inspiration from horse riding jackets, Huntsman is one of the most respected bespoke tailors on Savile Row. Its signature waisted silhouette and high armhole are its clients’ favorites.
Address: 11 Savile Row, Mayfair, London W1S 3PS, UK
Phone: +44 20 7734 7441
9. Johnathan Behr Bespoke Clothiers
Putting together the best of English panache and Italian fabrics, Johnathan Behr creates bespoke, hand-tailored suits. He believes that a man should have a subtle, quiet style. And wearing a fine, bespoke suit can greatly enhance this style.
He takes inspiration from the dashing elegance of the 1960’s gentlemen. It’s no wonder he did some of the suits for the TV show Mad Men.
Address: 5455 Wilshire Blvd #100, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
10. Kevin Seah Bespoke
Touted as Singapore’s top bespoke tailor, Kevin Seah Bespoke was established in 2009 and has been inspiring sartorial enthusiasts in this part of the world. Seah started as a wedding dress designer and moved on to becoming a respected bespoke tailor in the country.
Address: The Mill, 5 Jalan Kilang #03-01, Singapore 159405
Phone:+65 6532 2018
Another Savile Row favourite, originally founded in 1882, Kilgour‘s ticket to fame was when it dressed Fred Astaire in the film Top Hatin 1935. This started its long history with Hollywood’s most stylish, from Cary Grant to Daniel Craig.
Kilgour believes in the glamour of less is more. It typically offers a slimmer silhouette and notch-less lapels, making it a favourite among the modern gentlemen.
Address: 5 Savile Row, Mayfair, London W1S 3PB, UK
Phone: 020 3283 8941
12. Michael Andrews Bespoke
A by-appointment-only custom and bespoke tailor in Manhattan, Michael Andrews Bespoke has been creating fine, bespoke suits for discerning customers — from Hollywood actors to CEOs and athletes.
Founded in 2006, the bespoke tailor prides itself in delivering exactly what the customer wants. In addition, they offer a style that’s both modern and timeless.
Address: 2 Great Jones Alley, New York, NY 10012, USA
Phone: (212) 677-1755
13. Nicholas Joseph
One of Chicago’s best, Nicholas Joseph offers high-quality bespoke suits at a fraction of a price than what you get from Savile Row. They make sure they only use the finest fabrics, including those from Loro Piana and Ermenegildo Zegna.
With this, Nicholas Joseph delivers only the exact suit that you want, handcrafted by its team of tailors.
Address: 300 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60654, USA
Phone: (312) 895-1577
Founded in 2007 by Ray Stowers and his son Chris, Stowers offers classically British-cut bespoke suits. The father-and-son duo makes sure every suit they create is of high-quality and stylish. And they take pride in offering only the finest fabric and giving customers exactly what they need.
Address:13 Savile Row, London, UK W1S 3NE
Phone: 44 (0) 20 7287 3080
15. William Fioravanti
William Fioravanti is one of the remaining true practitioners of bespoke suit making. Recognized as the ‘Master’ in the industry, Fioravanti served as President of the Custom Tailors Designers Association of America. He has been practicing the art of fine bespoke suit-making for over 40 years.
His clientele includes gentlemen in high society, finance, and the arts. Among his famous customers was Frank Sinatra. Enough said.
Address: New York, By appointment only