In an ideal world, we'd all be able to commission a hand-tailored suit from one of the classic Savile Row names. For many of us that's likely to be a once in a lifetime treat, at best. But that doesn't mean that chaps need to settle for mediocrity. There are two ways, we'll suggest, to get the very best suit for your money...
Where time allows, the most 'Savvy' course of action is to pick up a vintage hand-tailored suit and have any necessary alterations carried out (preferably by an experienced 'old school' tailor). We always have a wide selection of hand-tailored suits in stock, including Savile Row pieces by Huntsman, Henry Poole, Tommy Nutter, Welsh & Jeffries, Anderson & Sheppard, Norton & Sons. Of course, condition and 'the name' will determine the price but what all these have in common are the bespoke details that you're simply not going to find on a ready-to-wear suit.
Floating canvas - not fused (or glued). A hand canvas will allow the suit to drape better, flow with your movement and adjust to your body temperature. It feels like a separate piece of cloth underneath the outer cloth, 'floating' independently. A glued canvas is fixed, which is why a ready-made suit often bunches noticeably. A glued canvas doesn't take well to dry cleaning - check for heat damage appearing as 'bubbling' to the front of the jacket.
Hand detailing - buttonholes, lapel holes and edges will be hand sewn.
Working Cuff Buttons - whilst there are conflicting opinions about how necessary a set of working cuffs are, there's no doubt that they do instantly say 'hand tailored'. The potential complication is that it can make altering sleeve length a more challenging procedure. There are slightly conflicting reports for why they were invented. Some suggest they were originally designed for surgeons, others say it was for country vets - which sounds like 'same meat different gravy', anyway!
Horn buttons - made from real animal horn.
Longer Lapel Holes - hand-tailored suits will have straight and long lapel holes, usually no less than one inch long.
Finest Linings - Bemberg for light weight and breathability in a town suit, or full satin for comfort and durability in a country tweed.
English-Cut Trousers - high-rise with one or two forward facing pleats. Pre 1960s suits were nearly always cut for braces, with a curved waistband, notch-back, and buttons for attaching the braces, either inside or on the outside of the waistband. If you've not tried a higher rise trouser with braces then you're missing out on both comfort and elegance. You'll also often find features such as waistline change pockets and rear pockets with mother of pearl buttons.
From the 1960s, as braces fell out of favour, waist adjusters with matching material straps and buttons, sometimes known in the trade as 'Daks Tops', became common-place.
House Style - one of the most fascinating, and satisfying, facets of a hand-tailored suit is the personal signature that the different tailoring houses incorporate into the cut of their garments. Dege are known for a shaped, skirted jacket style, Anderson & Sheppard for a soft and roomy garment, Huntsman for a slim shape evolved from hacking jackets, while the late Tommy Nutter was known for a witty style that "combined English tradition with American loudness".
Such workmanship and fine materials ensure that a small investment in addition to the purchase price to have a garment altered is entirely worthwhile. Many savvy chaps purchase 'bespoke' vintage suits from us, then whisk them off to their own tailor for a 'fitting'. The trick here is to err on the side of generosity - it's almost always easier to take a suit down a little in size, and the end result is more satisfying. So, if you don't find a vintage hand-tailored suit that perfectly matches your measurements, look for one the next size up and let a proper tailor work their magic with some alterations - a pleasurable experience in its own right.
Vintage bespoke suits are, by nature, in limited supply, so if you need to procure a decent suit without delay then we advise you to buy a ready-made suit on it's merits, not for it's label. While you won't find the sort of bespoke features that a hand-tailored suit will offer, not all ready-made suits are made equal, nor does a 'designer' label guarantee quality of materials or construction. Some quite expensive 'designer' suits are made on the same production lines as suits selling for a fifth of the price. Here's what to look for:
All wool - worsted is most durable and versatile. Avoid Polyester and its variants unless it is for a suit intended for travel / warmer climes (in which case some man-made content can help to keep weight down and improve crease resistance).
Breast pocket - sometimes they miss them off. You might not notice at first glance.
Lapel holes - the longer the better.
Cuffs - look for four buttons and make sure that there are 'buttonholes' - they won't open, but they'll still look much better than none at all.
Fit - if it hangs well then that will make a big difference. After the obvious, shoulders, collar and lapels are the essentials.
Don't follow fashion - go for something classic like a dark navy or charcoal grey worsted in 2/3 button single-breasted or 2/6 double-breasted. Charity shops are full of nasty turquoise and khaki brown lower end designer suits - need we say more? Unusual button combinations are also best avoided - the four button / Nehru jacket style will only ensure that you'll look like a lower-division footballer!
We always have a respectable selection of better end ready-made suits in stock - concentrating on the likes of Crombie, Aquascutum, Gieves & Hawkes, DAKS and Austin Reed. We also show lots of photos of all the detailing, so you can see exactly what you're getting.VIEW OUR CURRENT STOCK OF VINTAGE AND CLASSIC MODERN SUITS