The first time I tried on my very own custom suit, it felt like I sprouted my first chest hair. Is this what being a man feels like? It’s strange and good. Also… Will I ever get more?
It was a cool autumn day—I think, I actually don’t remember, but for the sake of this article let’s go with a cool autumn day—and I was in Philadelphia for work. I hate everything about Philadelphia [it’s a trash town and it knows it] except two things: it was where our country became a country, and it’s where my tailor lives.
I’d met with my Michael, my tailor, several weeks prior for the measurement and selection ceremony, during which time he took approximately two thousand measurements of my body—most of parts I didn’t know I had—and guided me through the selection process.
The selection process was straightforward. When he asked “what would you like?” my answer was “a suit,” his indication that this particular client would need a LOT of guidance and that this particular selection process would be anything but straightforward.
I choose everything from vents, lapel width, lapel type, buttons on cuffs, whether the buttons were functional. That part was strange to me. Why on earth would you have buttons on a suit if they weren’t functional? Also, why have buttons on the suit in the first place? My tailor explained that they were originally for surgeons, who, at the time, wore suits instead of scrubs and needed their sleeves to roll up because they’d often be elbow deep in blood.
I may have embellished that memory slightly. Or not. It is a memory after all and you’ll never know what really happened! But I digress.
My favorite part was picking the fabric. Selecting a fabric is very tactile. You must feel samples of every single fabric, noting warp and weave and patterns and colors. Herringbone vs houndstooth vs sharkskin vs melange. I couldn’t see or feel any difference, but I didn’t want Michael to know that, so I took what I thought to be an appropriate amount of time selecting my fabric.
6 hours later I’d selected my fabric and we were in business. After that, we sipped our G&Ts and I vowed to learn the appropriate plural form of gin and tonic so that I’d never have to write G&Ts again. As you can see, I failed.
Now, back to the trying on ceremony.
I should point out that every step of this process feels like a ceremony. It feels important. It IS important—each point is designed as a checkpoint and gate for both tailor and customer so that both are on the same page. The suit is customized and expensive; one small mistake on either part could be costly. So care must be taken at every step. Which is why we only had gins and tonics before, during, and after each step; we didn’t want our faculties clouded with any of the strong stuff.
Now, the big question: WHY must a man have a custom suit. Because each man is individual. Each man is unique. And each man thinks he is better than all other men. No two of us are alike, thus no two of us could wear the same suit and believe ourselves superior to our brother. So we must have custom suiting. At least one custom suit. They are expensive after all. And we’re not all Rockfellers [thank the gods; they used to summer in Rhode Island like common fishermen].
Also, men are, at our cores, barbarians. Many of us—myself excluded [refer to the superior part above]—still cannot remember to wash our hands after handling our business. A suit reminds us that we cannot be barbarians at all times. We can, and should, dress us on occasion [daily], and prove to the world that we are worthy of the role we have in society—to lift heavy things and grab oatmeal from the high shelf.
Custom does not mean Brooks Brothers. Though Brooks Brothers does offer several wonderful suits that can only be described as boxy and boring, those aren’t the suits you’re looking for. They’re great if you’re shaped like a square. But you’re anything but a square. It’s okay, you can admit it, men have curves too. Fine, we’ll call them angles. Regardless, don’t buy Brooks Brothers.
Men’s Wearhouse offers cheap clothing that often looks as nice as Brooks Brothers. I would recommend them either, no matter how appealing they look given your budget. (I’m assuming you’re on a very tight budget, otherwise no man in his right mind would shop there.) I bought from them when I was in college. I went in wanting one suit and the [gifted] salesman convinced me I wanted two, because then I could mix and match everything so I’d have 12 different outfits. I wasn’t a math major, but it sounded fishy. But i was too dazzled by the fact that I was buying 12 outfits for the price of 2 to realize I was buying very cheap clothing.
“What’s wrong with cheap?” You might ask.
Very good question.
Cheap is hot. Cheap wrinkles easily. Cheap looks…cheap.
For the price I paid for the two suits, 6 shirts, and 2 ties, I could have purchased one suit, two shirts, and one tie.
They would have all been nice.
Nice suits breath better. Nice suits wrinkle less easily. Nice fits look…nice.
They also fit much better. They conform to your body. They look nice on you, specifically.
And nice is a great way to present yourself to the world.
That’s why every man should get a custom suit. Because he’s worth it. And he should be proud of himself enough to dress nicely.
I have a new tailor now who, unfortunately, ALSO lives in Philly. But he still comes to the city. I bought six suits and as many shirts from him and he’s fantastic. Drop me a line below if you’d like an intro. I get a free shirt out of it, but even if I didn’t, I’d still recommend him; he’s that good.