The Gentleman: Suiting Up

Made-to-Measure on a Budget

In my recurring Suiting Up columns, I have discussed dress shirts, shoes, tie knots and a few other topics, but have not said much about the suit itself. The reason for this omission is because of how incredibly difficult it is to find a quality suit at a decent price that meets the Gentleman’s standards. A new option, however, has recently cropped up that may solve this problem: internet made-to-measure suits.

When most people buy a suit, they purchase it off-the-rack. Off-the-rack suits are made according to a standard pattern that is sized up or down proportionally to fit an “average person”. For instance, I wear a 38 short suit jacket and a 32-30 trousers. The 38 measures across the chest and the short means that I have a bit shorter arms than the average male. This is an adequate way of making suits and is the way that most people in the last seventy years have purchased them.

An alternative to this is the made-to-measure suit. When you have a suit made-to-measure, you supply a tailor with all of your measurements: the exact length of your arms, your waist size, your chest size and much more. The tailor begins with a pattern, but adjusts every part of that pattern to match your dimensions. The resulting garment is a much better fit for your individual body size than what you would pick up off the rack. Typically, a made-to-measure suit can only be created for you at a high-end store and only at a price point significantly higher than their comparable off-the-rack suit. Think $1500-$2000 for a basic made-to-measure suit at a store like Brooks Brothers and significantly more at a British or Italian suit-maker.

The internet, however, has brought made-to-measure suiting to the masses. My favorite is a site called Thick as Thieves. Thick as Thieves is based in Los Angeles and is run by a tailor named Jason Hue. Jason’s suits are inspired by early 1960s styling. Picture Frank Sinatra, Sean Connery-era James Bond, or the guys from Mad Men lounging at an upscale cocktail bar and knocking back martinis. The lapels are a bit slimmer, the jacket a bit shorter and the pants are more tailored than what you would normally find today. You simply send Jason your measurements via email and he makes you a suit in this style for only $480, including shipping!

I bought my first Thick as Thieves suit from Jason earlier this year. I found the process to be much more accessible than I thought it would be. Jason has a guide on his website on how to measure yourself for your first suit. He even recommends that you do it yourself, perhaps with the help of a friend, because, in his experience, tailors often pad the measurements based on what they expect a client would want; Jason needs the raw numbers. I had a friend help me with the measurements and sent them directly to Jason. He and I communicated over email, and he occasionally pointed out where I might have been a bit off (he was always right). I hand-picked everything: the color of the suit, the type of fabric and the number of buttons.

I went with a two-button, navy suit in wool, a very classic choice. I wanted to keep it simple for my first Thick as Thieves suit. He has two different cuts: house and conservative. He recommended the conservative cut for a gentleman in the legal profession, as I am. It still has very narrow lapels and a shorter jacket, giving it that 1960s flair, but it is a bit more traditional. The house cut is much more extreme and probably more appropriate for going out in the evening than going into the office.

My suit arrived about three weeks after I sent him the measurements and it fit like a glove;  only a very small number of alternations needed to be made. These changes were due to my own measurement errors and the next time I order from Jason, I will adjust my measurements accordingly. The suit is of a much higher quality than what I had previously purchased from Banana Republic. Jason’s suit is fully canvassed, giving it extra reinforcement and durability. It is very difficult to find a fully canvassed suit for under $800. Jason also uses real horn buttons on his suit, instead of plastic, an excellent classic detail. The buttonhole on the lapel is functioning, so if I ever wanted to stick a flower in it, I could. If I had wanted them, he would have even included functional cuff buttons on the suit jacket, instead of the mock cuff buttons that are ubiquitous on suits today.

I was extremely impressed with Jason and Thick as Thieves. His customer service was incredible and the price cannot be beat. I will definitely be buying another suit from him in the future and I would recommend it to any gentleman looking to find a suit for under $500.

Next week: the Gentleman wonders whether a cotton tie is ever business acceptable…

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