Suit yourself

If you’re not sure what to look for in a well-fitting, custom man’s suit, here’s some advice.

Five years ago, Dennis Tavares was his ideal target customer: a young, stylish professional who understood the power of a well-made suit to help drive his career but one who had limited funds. “There was no way I could afford a $2,000 suit,” he says. Tavares began ordering less-expensive suits from Hong Kong and Thailand, which he says were better than off-the-rack suits, but not much. He finally found father-son suit cutters and sartorial satisfaction. Colleagues took note and asked him to do the same for them. Demand was so strong that he quit his job as a sales executive with a Fortune 500 company and launched Empire Customs (empirecustoms.ca) in Toronto in 2012. Today he sells about 150 custom suits a month.

His success is part of the confluence of two trends: technological advancements that are driving down the cost of making made-to-measure suits (Tavares charges $750 for a custom suit, shirt and tie) and more men getting into fashion. According to UK-based market research firm Euromonitor International, global sales of men’s designer apparel rose 5.6% in 2014 to US$32.3 billion.

Here, Tavares offers his best advice on tailoring and what to look for in a custom suit.

Quality fabric

The higher the thread count, the thinner the fabric will be and the better it will drape. Aim for a thread count of super 100 and up. This is particularly important if you have chosen a solid colour, which is less forgiving than bold patterns. The sheen of the fabric should be subtle and will look different depending on the lighting.

The right cut

This is the most important aspect of the suit, dictating how the fabric will drape and how the shoulder will be constructed. The shoulder is the foundation of a well-fitting suit and is the only part that cannot be adjusted, so it’s important to get it right. Your posture determines the shoulder’s construction. For example, if you tend to slouch forward, you need a shoulder that slouches forward with you. A boxy shoulder looks more formal and a little older, while a fitted shoulder is hipper and younger.

Structure

A rigid, lightweight, full canvas layer between the jacket’s fabric and liner will ensure it hangs well. (A felt liner under the collar will help hold its shape.) Jackets should hit about a quarter-inch above where your hamstring connects to your glute muscles. If you have a flat bottom, a little more coverage is fine. Sleeves should come to the wrist and allow for a quarter-inch of shirt cuff to be visible.

Surgeon cuffs

Nothing says custom like four functioning buttonholes on the edge of the sleeves. Using a contrasting colour on one of the buttonholes will personalize the suit further.

Word to the wise

Don’t overstep; vests and matching suspenders are reserved for senior executives.

About the Author

Mary Teresa Bitti


Mary Teresa Bitti is a freelance writer based in Oakville, Ont.

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