HOW TO BUY A CUSTOM SUIT #ABOVAVHOMME
The Suited Man: The Newest, Cheapest, and (If You Play
It Right) Smartest Way to Get a Custom Suit
In the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair, Pierce Brosnan has a custom suit fitted at his office while taking a meeting—a visual shorthand meant to portray the untouchable world of the superrich. Those days are over. Now there are roving custom-suit makers who will come to even a junior analyst’s cubicle. They’ll take his measurements, help him choose a fabric, send it all off to a factory in Hong Kong, and ship him his suit eight weeks later—all for as little as $800.
At first, these upstart labels specifically targeted young corporate bucks. National brands like Astor & Black or Tom James would score a client, fit him in his office, and once word spread they’d soon be taking orders from half the floor. Now there are custom-suiting shops popping up that are explicitly aimed at the wallets of so-called creative professionals—the cool guys who wear suits because they like to, not because they have to. No matter what your age, tax bracket, or office dress code, the idea of a custom suit, with the endless options and the whiff of old-world refinement, is awfully enticing.
But buyer beware: If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll spend a wad of cash on a custom-made disaster.
Because even with the guidance of a rep who’s wielding a tape measure and a book of swatches, when you’re building a suit from the ground up—choosing every fabric, button, cut, and lining—you’re essentially designing your own suit. Do you know enough about lapel widths and button stances to take that on? We can’t count how many guys we’ve seen bragging about their custom suits—with ticket pockets, working buttonholes, and exotic linings—even though the basic fit is all terribly wrong. Frankly, they would’ve been better off at their trusty department stores.
The good news, though, is that while custom isn’t a cakewalk, it’s not string theory, either. We think there are two types of dudes for whom custom is a life changer: (1) the guy who can’t find anything off the rack that fits just right, even after tailoring, and (2) the guy chasing a suit that just doesn’t seem to exist in his price range.
To help you navigate this new tier of suitmakers, we went through the process with three New York-based labels, keeping an eye out for the pitfalls and taking notes along the way. Turn the page for our guide to nailing every detail—and to see the three suits we scored. Just remember: If you go into this blind, you might wind up wondering if they shipped you the wrong duds. But if you follow our lead, you’ll look like you just stepped off a jet, direct from Savile Row.
The Eight-Step Path to Custom-Suit Nirvana
Get it wrong and you’re pissing money away. Get it right and you’ll never buy off the rack again
Go Pound the Pavement
It’s free to go check out this new breed of suitmakers. Swing through or have them come to you. Look at some swatches. You don’t want the first spot you find; you want the one that syncs with your style.
Suit Up to Do Your Suit Shopping
Got a suit that makes you feel like Brad effin’ Pitt? Wear it the day of your fitting—along with your dress shoes. You’re off to a good start if you can tell the salesman, “This is my favorite kit. Make it fit like this.” Oh, and pick the salesman with the best style. He gets it.
Bring Your Homework
Rip out your favorite photos in GQ. Troll Tumblr and hit print. You want to show your salesman references. So when he asks how high you want the notches on your lapel, you won’t have to stammer. Just point at the photo and say, “Like that.”
Run the Numbers
Yeah, the suits start at $799, but what’s it gonna cost when they up-sell you on the tastiest fabric? Have a frank money talk way before it’s time for your credit card to come out.
Pictured: Seize sur Vingt
Looking for a Business Suit?
Stick to the basics: grays, dark blues, only the smallest and tightest of patterns. Ask for chalk stripes, not pinstripes. Think classic.
…Or Trying to Make a Statement?
This is your chance to let it rip: Get that suit you have in your head that doesn’t exist in stores. Glen plaid, anyone? The cool thing now is to get all seasonal: tweeds and flannels for fall; cotton and seersucker in the summer.
Pictured: Requisite Custom Clothing
Stick to the Game Plan
Very few good audibles get called in the showroom. Come with a plan—navy, notch lapel, two-button, say—and stick to it. Say hell no to razzle-dazzle like cheesy red paisley linings. And when the suit comes back, try it on and get as many tweaks as it takes. After all…
You’re the Boss
Most guys don’t have a clue when it comes to suits. But you’re not most guys.
Pictured: Michael Andrews Bespoke
The Tale of a Tape Measure
Writer Sean Hotchkiss tested a trio of custom-suiting houses. Six to eight weeks later, this is what came back
The Boss Tweed
Michael Andrews Bespoke
“MAB is for Wall Street rainmakers. I went with a tweed for double takes on the trading floor.”
Michael Andrews Bespoke, $2,195, available atmichaelandrewsbespoke.com
A Radder Plaid
Seize sur Vingt
“Art-world types hit SSV for colorful twists on the classics. This light brown glen plaid is staid enough for business—but works with sneaks.”
Seize sur Vingt, $2,850, available at 16sur20.com
The Italian Job
Astor & Black
“Custom starts at $650, but like options on a car, it can get much pricier. This one-button peak is for the style nerds on the Net.”
Nobility by Astor & Black, $ 1,350, available at astorandblack.com
These four stores can make the suit of your dreams—or one that sits in the back of your closet. It all depends on you New York
NEW YORK11 West 25 Street, 5 Floor,
New York, NY 10010
Requisite Custom Clothing
Cincinnati (and nationwide)
Astor & Black (Pictured above)
Dallas (and nationwide)
Tom James of Dallas