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How To

How to spot a custom suit (4 subtle giveaways)

By on April 12th, 2017

Custom suiting for men has skyrocketed in popularity over the past five to seven years. Many men are discovering the advantages of buying a custom suit or tuxedo that’s made for them, as individual as their own signature. Features like pick stitching and pattern matching, although subtle, begin to tell a story of a well made garment.

As you can imagine, there are many, many attributes of a suit that can be customized when you shop bespoke, but there are four that I would call the tell-tale signs of a bespoke suit. These are subtle things that are almost exclusive to the world of men’s custom clothing:

  • Fit
  • Working sleeve buttonholes
  • Pick stitching
  • Pattern matching

Does it fit well?

Obviously, fit is the most important thing. You’ll know a good fit when you see it.

The sleeves will be of an appropriate length, the body shaped and neatly contoured around the torso, and the shoulders right where they should be. Less obvious to the untrained eye, will be that the jacket lapel lays flat on the chest and without a gap between the shirt collar on the back of the neck.

The buttonholes on the sleeves actually work

Working sleeve buttonholes (surgeon cuffs) are a throwback to the old days, when all jackets where bespoke and had functional buttonholes on the sleeves.

Historically, military field surgeons wore jackets that they could roll up when helping a wounded soldier in the field. At one point in time, many of these surgeons lived in Saville Row, London. When the tailors moved into the neighborhood, a little cross pollination happened that resulted in working buttonholes becoming the norm on men’s suiting.

Today, these working buttonholes on the sleeves are not only nods to their practical beginnings, but can still serve a purpose. Regarding your summer suiting, unbuttoning one or two buttons and rolling the sleeve back a little will help you to stay just that much cooler.

Pick stitching

Pick stitching is often neglected on off-the-rack suits. It’s labor intensive (when done right) and somewhat difficult to do well. It’s easiest for most manufacturers to simply forget it altogether.

But that’s a shame, because pick stitching is a subtle detail that can really add some life to a men’s jacket. Look for it along the lapel and pocket flaps.

Pattern matching over pockets

This is something that you have to look closely to see. What you are looking for is that with patterned fabrics (plaids, stripes, etc), do the pockets line up with the rest of the shirt? In other words, was the pocket fabric haphazardly sewn on or was care taken during this process to line up the pattern on the pocket with the rest of the suit or shirt?

pattern matching is often a sign of a custom suit

For instance, in the image above, you’ll notice that the suit jacket’s flap pocket has been carefully arranged to match the blue plaid pattern of the cloth. 

Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “But not at the top of the flap!” And you’re right. Sometimes due to the geometry of the suit’s cut and style, a manufacturer will have to make a choice on which lines to match up. In this instance, the bottom portion of the flap pocket was (correctly) aligned.

And for the dress shirt on the right, the cloth was perfectly aligned to make the pattern cohesive. In the case of shirting, it would look quite odd to not have these lines match up!

Pattern matching is quite important, no doubt.

What else?

Perhaps a train ticket pocket.