Everybody wants to look sharp in a suit. More importantly, nobody wants to be seen wearing a cheap suit at a grand event.
Great suits make James Bond, Barney Stinson and the boys from Mad Men look amazing. Compare that to the uncle you saw at your friend’s wedding. Who looks smarter? The secret is that it isn’t really the wearer. A good suit will make anyone look sharp. If someone doesn’t look smart in a suit, chances are, it’s the suit.
But how exactly do we know if a suit is high quality?
1 – Full Canvas
Most of the suits we see sold outside or by normal tailors have 2 layers. The bottom layer is the inside lining which is usually very thin, and the outermost can either be made of silk or wool for better suits.
Bespoke suits have a 3rd layer in between the inner and outer layers. This layer is known as a canvas. That’s where the terms “full canvassed suit” and “half canvassed suit” come from.
The inside structure of a fully canvassed suit is typically tailored specifically to fit perfectly, which is also the most tedious process when it comes to making a suit. This prevents it from getting stuck to the other two layers. Due to the way it shifts around freely whenever you move your body, anyone wearing a fully canvassed suit naturally looks like their suit molds to fit their body shape, instead of the other way around.
In non-bespoke suits, the inside structure and outside material are stuck together with glue and hence, the fit will always be stiff due to the missing layer.
2 – Lining
To reduce weathering effects on the suit’s outer fabric, mainly from perspiration, a firm lining is essential. The construction of the inner suit can also be well-hidden, which in turn enables the wearer to move freely and flexibly. Ideally, the pant-leg lining of the trousers should stretch all the way down, at the very minimum to knee level, so that it can last longer.
3 – Shoulders
The construction of the shoulder should complement the build of the body. Sloping shoulders may need padding to lift the area. Narrow shoulders with a gut may want to slightly extend the horizontal shoulder area to offset things a bit. A body with a strong V shape, may shun strong shoulders in favor of more balance. But, a good shoulder construction is not too big (no sagging shoulder crown over the shoulder line) and not too small (provides relative ease in moving arms from front to back).
Let’s see it in pictures.
The above suit is obviously made of good material. One look at it and we can tell the material is posh. But upon further inspection, anyone on the street will be able to tell that it’s a cheap suit from the way the shoulder dimples even when the wearer’s arm is fully at rest.
Now let’s compare this to Daniel Crag’s James Bond suit. The bespoke nature of his suit allow such a high degree of flexibility that even in this highly dramatic pose, it still maintains most of it’s shape. Then again, he is wearing the Brioni, which we’ve mentioned as one of the top 5 suit brands around.
A good bespoke suit will let you raise your arms or move around without the shoulders looking stiff and floating up. Non-bespoke suits are unable to reproduce this due to the missing canvas layer. This is how even layman on the street are able to subconsciously tell if a suit is quality or cheap.
4 – Hand-Stitching
You can easily buy machine stitched suits from a shop, but a real bespoke suit is always sewn with human hands. When you wear a machine stitched suit, you will find that it feels more uncomfortable since you cannot move as freely compared to wearing a hand sewn suit.
Find and compare 2 suits side by side. Try to lightly tug the suit apart. You will notice that hand stitches retain the elasticity while machine stitches feel far more rigid and stuff. The waistband and sleeves especially, must be stitched with bare hands.
Good suits are obvious from the hand stitches, or pick stitching, visible at places like the lapels’ sides. Every handmade suit has a unique identity thanks to such imperfect stitching, since without using machines, you can never create a flawless line of stitches equally apart from each other.
But beware of fakes, as the latest trend actually involves adding fake stitching to the lower end suits, which serves no real purpose other than appearing more pleasing to the eyes.
5 – Pockets
There is a huge difference between a hand-stitched pocket and one sewn using machines. The hand-sewn ones mostly last longer and will not fly off after extended usage. Every pocket, be it the flap, the ticket or the jetted one, should always be sewn by hand to ensure that the jacket can stay smooth and lasting. Even the trouser pockets should be hand-stitched together to the waistband so that ugly lumps and sags will not appear, and they will have much better support to achieve a nice-looking line.
Look out for the stitching on a suit’s pocket to gauge the durability and quality. As pockets is a part not many tailors pay attention to, you can be sure that a good tailor who sews these well can be trusted to do a good job for the rest of the suit.