If you ever meet a person who doubts the significance of quality tailoring, show them a picture of the late CEO of Fiat, Gianni Agnelli.
The 'King of Italian Style' was known for his sartorial chic, which held a mythical status rivalled only by his grandson, Lapo Elkann.
When he died, he passed the bespoke suits he'd had made by Milanese tailor Caraceni on to Elkann, who was able to have them tailored and wear them with aplomb his style-savvy grandfather intended.
This, according to Glasgow-based style blogger Peter Gemmell, on Instagram as The Gentleman Select, is what buying bespoke is all about. Timeless looks can be passed down and refitted anew.
"Getting a fully bespoke suit used to be something you toddled down to Saville Row for, and you would expect a hefty bill in the high thousands afterwards", Gemmell explains. "Now, tailored suiting has become much more financially accessible option. It's a great thing."
Gemmell is more than aware that there remains a clear distinction between this new brand of made to measure and traditional tailoring.
"With traditional tailoring you are paying for heritage and tailors with skills and secrets that have been passed down from generation to generation, as with Anderson & Sheppard, favoured tailor of Prince Charles, which was founded in 1906."
Budget bespoke will never substitute the role of the independent tailor, but there's no reason the two can't coexist. By shaving thousands from the price of some traditional tailors, budget bespoke occupies a different place in the market.
Peter Gemmell's budget bespoke picks
A range of personal tailoring options are available.
"They've recently launched their Personal Tailoring section. If you head along to one of their boutiques you can expect a fantastic array of limited edition materials to choose from, offering half canvas options like we mentioned above, at a wonderfully competitive price with off the peg starting at around 410 GBP. You can even construct your own shirts, picking the collar and cuffs to match your new masterpiece."
Tailor Me service available on a range of suiting.
I would recommend them as they offer a simple 4 step process such as picking your fit, materials and smaller details like buttons all of which is delivered in just 30 days. Very quick indeed for a bespoke suit.
Bespoke options start at £299
They're another outlet doing fantastically well just now. The company have put a somewhat modern twist on the art of tailoring and will in fact come to you and conduct your fitting should you not want to venture to far. You can expect a fabric choice of over 300, with the chaps actually offering various packages such as 2 bespoke suits from 949 GBP. These guys are very much down the line of budget bespoke and are doing it very well indeed.
Personal tailoring starts at £645
A brand which has been on the high street for many years and offers a wonderful Personal Tailoring section is Reiss. I recommend them as it is a brand which is synonymous with good quality. The same applies with their suits. Visiting dapper men can expect prices starting from 645 GBP and a fully fledged 17 stage process to create a lovely bespoke product at the end.
Made to Measure starts at £469 for a full suit. Separates are also available.
Possibly my favourite, I've chosen them as not only do the made to measure suits start at a reasonable 469 GBP, but they offer over 3000 Italian fabric varieties to chose from. Not only do they look awesome but these options also deliver almost unrivalled, budget bespoke tailoring. Head over to their site to search for your nearest store.
'I took myself home safe in the knowledge I’d made wise choices'
Francis Blagburn tries T. M. Lewin's bespoke service
As I am the kind of person who takes great joy in answering in the affirmative when asked by the barista at my local railway station coffee shop if I’m after “the usual”, it’s no surprise that I enjoyed the experience of having a suit tailored with T. M. Lewin. First and foremost, the store’s Made to Measure service is a personal one, with – at least in my experience – every step of the process guided by a tailor with the garment-fitter’s equivalent of a good bedside manner: a natural way with the customer that makes them feel that they’re not buying just another product, but something special, that will last.
Isn’t that rather the point? Buying bespoke rather than off the peg doesn’t just buy you a better fit, it gives you the feeling of spending time investing in a suit, something that you couldn’t pick up hurriedly on the morning of the wedding – or job interview, or first day of work, or whatever the occasion may be – even if you tried. This is the overarching feeling I took away from the experience.
Luca, the tailor in question, who has been in the business for many a moon, was able to make an accurate assessment of a couple of my measurements before he’d even taken out a pin or picked up the tape measure, but rather than rush over the process, he executed it with a deft balance of swiftness and care, making sure everything was just so.
The decision over the type of suit was made by browsing the store, feeling the textures and assessing the cut of many of the different suits they had in there, and admiring the fabrics; cashmere, mohair, merino wool and the like. In the end, my final decision was made fairly easily, with requisite consultation on stylistic points (Yes, navy blue, but what are your preferred lapels? A modern tapering of the trousers, or a more traditional look? Just where exactly do you stand on waistcoats?)
The model of suit was decided upon after twenty to thirty minutes (or thereabouts) of actual measurements at a relaxed pace inter-spliced with discussion on the more subjective aesthetic points. When I eventually went to pick up my suit and have final adjustments made (“it was the bright orange one, right?”, Luca joked) I found that it fit better than any I have previously owned.
Had I not been so distracted I might have engaged in the oldest lifehack in the suit-buyer’s arsenal and bought an extra pair of the same trousers, but as it was I took myself home safe in the knowledge I’d made wise choices, guided by a tailor who knew his craft like the back of his hand.
'Weddings, interviews, disciplinary hearings – years of formal smartness awaited'
Tom Ough is measured up by Debenham's
“If you have a prominent seat,” the tailor tells me gently, “you might be better off with a double vent.”
Some explanations. A double vent is when you have a flap on the bottom of your suit jacket, as opposed to a single vent, which is just a slit. The tailor is Peter Randall of Debenhams’ bespoke suit service, and a “prominent seat” is… a big butt.
Guilty as charged! I am a man of juicy booty and I know what’s good for me. I ask for the double vent and Peter moves on.
Lo: the art of the tailor, nudging a customer towards good style while making him think it was his idea all along. We’re in a cupboardy room off the menswear floor rather than a 200-year-old shop on Jermyn Street, but all the basic accoutrements of bespoke tailoring are here. The swatches of fabric, the tape measure – even the awkwardness of having your upper thigh circumference taken. Peter, with one knee to the floor, goes about it firmly but professionally, like a doctor giving a physical examination; I don’t know what to do with my arms, unsure whether to trail them at my sides, thus getting in Peter’s way, or just cross them, thus looking gauchely uncomfortable.
See – the bespoke tailoring experience, all yours and available on the high street! Pick a cheap fabric and the whole thing, suit included, will only cost £375. Pick some kind of Beau Brummel fantasy weave and you’ll be looking at £1800 for a two-piece, but in the world of tailored suits I guess that’s still not loads.
Mine was a mid-range navy-blue blend of worsted and mohair. Peter’s first question had been what I wanted to wear it for; since I didn’t need one for work, he suggested we go for a special occasions sort of suit. Weddings, interviews, disciplinary hearings – years of formal-event smartness awaited. Because I wouldn’t be wearing it daily, we could trade durability for lightness.
Next: measurements. Peter took fourteen of them, starting with the width of my back and continuing with my arms, legs, chest, and, uh, seat. My prominent seat.
So here I am, post-measurements, designing the rest of the suit. A double vent? Obviously. How about the lapels? Notched or peaked? In a moment of vainglory I choose peaked lapels, offsetting them to some extent with a more subdued pocket design.
Inside the jacket, I ask for the full arsenal of pockets, from breast pockets to pen pocket to ticket pocket to glasses pocket. Since we’ve identified that the suit will be around for a while, long enough, indeed, for me to wear it when I’m lumbering into my thirties, we add one more feature: an adjustable waistband. Nice.
The suit-fitting process, from hello to goodbye, takes about an hour. In six weeks or so the new suit will be finished and I’ll come back to the shop for adjustments. For now, all that remains is to sink back on my prominent seat and dream of my pre-eminent suit.