I saw this article a few days ago and I found it really interesting: Want a Custom Suit? Good Luck Finding a Tailor! – without reading through it line by line, the article discusses how the art of fine tailoring is in danger of dying off, and there are just far too few people willing to go through the training that it takes to build a custom suit from scratch. There is a reason for that though.
A good suit is certainly a thing of beauty, but a bespoke suit – something made to measure, specifically for an individual, is something on an entirely different level. Reading this I thought to myself that there just has to be a pretty fair amount of tailors in the US, right? I mean places like Brooks Brothers, Gary’s, and Ermenegildo Zegna all pride themselves on custom tailored suits. But, for the most part, these are not bespoke per-se. Certainly the tailors at these storied institutions can take an off the rack suit and form it perfectly to a discerning customer, but most anything that would be made to measure would be outsourced significantly.
Thinking more about this, I realized that I have two bespoke suits, and both of them were purchased overseas. The process was long and time consuming, but elegant and dignified. Choosing the cloth from bolts of fabric, the initial measurements, and the discussion with the tailor of what I wanted – two button, slanted breast pocket, no pleats on the trousers, uncuffed legs, etc. Then remeasuring, forming, fitting, and several more bouts of measuring and tailoring until everything was perfect. The suits had the added advantage of coming with tailored dress shirts, also made to measure, and French cuffed, at my request. I have had these suits for several years, and still love them. My fiancé has pointed out several times that I have had them a while, and I might need to invest in some newer suits, but every time I put one on she admits that they do, indeed, still look great. In hindsight, this process is not really something that can be done in the US at what most would consider a reasonable price. The tailors of Savile Row in London are famous for their outrageous prices, and the same could be said for many boutique shops in New York City or Los Angeles.
There does seem to be a shortage of tailors in the US, but a part of that may be that there has also been a shortage of demand in the last few years – or even the last generation or so. It is not an easy profession to break into, and the training and skill required are significant, but as with any product or service in a capitalist society, a demand will create a market. A bespoke suit is an experience unto itself. When people start to realize that, and begin to be willing to pay more for something other than “off the rack” then tailors will see more demand, hire more apprentices, and the process might, through competition, become more cost effective and efficient. It all begins, however, with the consumer knowing what he wants in a good suit, and being willing to go out of his way to get it.