Many of our first time customers who contact us for a fitting have the same types of questions. One that we hear a lot is, what exactly makes a custom suit, well, custom? Of course, when we hear “custom,” we equate it with “quality,” which is true! But what is it exactly that makes a custom suit such better quality than an off-the-rack look-alike? To answer this question, we compiled a list of 10 distinguishing features of a custom suit. Are you ready to become a custom suit aficionado? Here we go…
Canvasing (Custom Suits): The traditional way of constructing a men’s suit involves sewing horsehair canvas underneath the wool fabric shell. Canvas acts as a foundation to help the suit hold its shape and keeps it from sagging. Over time, your body will help mold the canvas to itself, creating that amazing fitted shape. Canvas lining also helps the suit to drape naturally without bunching.
Fused (Off-The-Rack Suits): Many suit manufacturers have gone to a fused, non-canvas lining that is glued inside the shell, creating an unnatural stiffness. Problems can arise over time due to natural wear and dry-cleaning, such as bubbling and rippling as the glue wears.
Half-Canvasing: The most popular custom suit takes a hybrid approach, called half canvasing. The horsehair canvas runs only along the chest and up over the lapel, giving the tell-tale lapel roll we all know and love as a sign of a custom suit. This allows for the best of both worlds, keeping the jacket light as well as allowing it to fit and drape like it should.
We mentioned the lapel roll above as being one sign of a custom suit, but what exactly IS it? To put it simply, the lapel roll is the curl and fall of the lapel downwards from the fold (aka break) to the middle button. The canvasing creates a soft, natural curve to the finish of the lapel.
Yet another feature of a quality custom suit is pick stitching. Pick stitching refers to the small subtle stitching around exposed edges on a suit, such as the lapel and pockets and even buttonholes. Pick stitching adds an extra “finished” look to a custom suit and can be designed to blend seamlessly into the suit or involve a contrasting color to add visual interest.
Accent Threads on the Lapel and Buttonholes
Going right along with pick stitching, accent threads on the lapel and buttonholes are another way to distinguish a custom suit. Part of the appeal of custom vs. off-the-rack is having a say in what goes into the design, and choosing accent thread colors for the lapel is an excellent way to add your own personality into the making of your suit. From subtle shade differences to full contrast, the options are virtually limitless and add a polished look to the entire suit.
Monogramming has become extremely popular of late, especially with grooms. Monogramming takes custom to the next level, allowing a gentleman to add something meaningful to the inside pocket of his suit. Wedding date, initials, custom messages…they can all be embroidered permanently using a variety of fonts and colors to make your custom suit truly unique.
Functional Sleeve Buttons
Functional sleeve buttons are another marker of a quality custom suit. While most manufacturers of off-the-rack suits have moved away from “real” sleeve buttons in favor of merely decorative ones, a custom suit with buttons that actually button (novel idea, eh?) remains the look of the old school die-hards. Whether buttoned all the way down or leaving the last one undone for a little “show-off,” functional sleeve buttons allow for much more flexibility and movement in the suit. Plus, let’s be honest. They just look SO good.
Another option generally reserved for a custom suit are hacking pockets. British in origin, these flapped, diagonally-cut pockets were originally seen in traditional riding clothes but are now another mark of a gentleman.
Ah, the ticket pocket. Another gem from our friends across the pond, these extra pockets were created for gentlemen to keep their train tickets and spare change in during the Industrial Revolution. Now, the half-width pocket rides just above the right hip pocket and are used less for train tickets and more for business cards to pass out on the subway and has become one of the features of a custom suit in America.
Also known as stacked or “waterfall” buttons, they just barely touch or overlap in line along the functional sleeve as opposed to being spaced out. A traditionally Italian feature, Americans have adopted the design as a hallmark of a custom suit.
The only sure way to get a custom fit? Get a custom suit. While off-the-rack suits can be tailored after the fact, there is nothing like having a suit built for you in the first place. Alterations can only fix so much, and they involve cutting and re-attaching the fused liner. One of the features of a custom suit is that they are made to your measurements in the first place, with the canvasing cut to fit perfectly inside the shell before attaching it.
Wait, 11? Now of course, custom suits all MUST come with an unbearably high price tag as well, right? WRONG! At Tailor Cooperative, our custom suits start at only $595. That’s the full experience, the whole shebang. So no, price most definitely does not need to be a distinguishing mark of a custom suit. That’s why, there actually isn’t a number 11. It’s just an illusion.
And there you have it, folks! The 10 distinguishing features of a custom suit, demystified! Now when you walk down the street or take an unbearably long elevator ride, you may find yourself studying other gents muttering to yourself, “Ticket pocket, custom. No lapel roll, off-the-rack.” It’s ok, though. We get it.
Ready to experience a custom suit that actually FITS? Schedule a fitting here and never wear a sh-lumpy off-the-rack suit again.