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11 Terms to Know When Buying A Custom Suit

June 13, 2017 1:03 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Terms to Know When Buying A Suit

Are you thinking about buying a custom suit? Whether you’re in the market for your first suit or you’ve got a full closet already, make sure you know what to talk about when working with a custom tailor. In today’s post, we’ll talk about 11 of the most important terms to know when buying a custom suit.

Let’s get started!

1. Blazer


Robert Sheie via Flickr

Many men especially when buying a custom suit for the first time use a few different terms like: jacket, sport coat, suit coat, and blazer interchangeably. But it’s important to know the subtle but significant differences to make sure you get the exact garment you want!

A blazer is a solid-colored jacket that’s often worn as a separate (in other words without matching pants). Blazers are typically less structured than more formal suit jackets. The classic blazer is a navy Brooks Brothers with gold buttons and patch pockets.

A sport coat is even less formal (originally worn when hunting or taking part in other sports) and is often made of tweed or heavier cloth for durability.

A suit coat or jacket is one that is meant to be worn with matching pants. If you’re buying a suit, this is what you’ll be getting to wear over your dress shirt and tie. Remember that it’s not a great idea to wear your suit jacket or pants on their own. The fabric will begin to wear at different rates, which isn’t ideal.

2. Canvas

We’re not talking about canvas as in the heavy material that tents used to be made of! In the world of menswear, canvas is a kind of construction that gives a suit jacket its shape. Fully canvassed jackets have a layer of horsehair canvas stitched between the layers of wool fabric. Fused jackets aren’t canvassed at all and use a less structured lining, glued to the outer fabric. Half-canvassed jackets are a little of both, canvassed in the chest and lapels and fused everywhere else.

Canvassing is a sign of a high-quality garment. By pinching the fabric of a suit jacket you can quickly learn to tell the difference between one that is canvassed or fused.

3. Color

Suit Fabrics

Kent Wang on Flickr

It’s important to match the color of your suit to how you’ll be wearing it. Solid colors are more formal than patterns and darker colors are more formal than lighter shades. Black suits are almost too formal and should only be worn after dark to formal events or to funerals.For everyday wear, a dark navy or charcoal will cover almost every need from job interviews to important meetings. Beyond that, light

For everyday wear, a dark navy or charcoal will cover almost every need from job interviews to important meetings. Beyond that, light gray, brown, and khaki suits are decidedly informal and best worn in more casual workplaces.

4. Fabric

When it comes to suit fabrics, wool is the most common choice. It’s durable and versatile. While most people think of wool as a warm fabric, looser weaves can actually produce “tropical weight” wool. These fabrics can be comfortably worn in warmer weather.

While most men will only own wool suits, cotton and linen suits can be great options for men who live in warmer climates and who want a little variety in their suits.

5. Fit

How should a suit fit?

Luiz Alberto Fiebig on Flickr

One of the defining characteristics of a suit is its fit. A pair of wide-legged trousers and a jacket with boxy shoulder pads feels dated today. And while slim pants and a jacket with a narrow waist might feel fashionable today, it too will look out of place a few years from now.

That’s why, in most cases, it’s best to choose a classic fit that’s not too trendy. In our opinion, classic proportions look best on most men. For starters, this means:

  • Trousers that sit at the natural waist
  • Shoulders with form and structure but that aren’t overly padded
  • A jacket that doesn’t pull tight at the waist

6. Lapels

On a suit jacket, the lapels are the areas of the coat around the collar that are folded back to lie flat on your chest. Lapels are one of the defining features of a suit. When talking with your tailor about the lapels on your suit jacket, consider:

  • Width – Match the width of your lapels to your body type and your tie width. As a general rule, your tie should be about as wide as one of your lapels. In addition, narrower lapels look more proportional on thinner men.
  • Style – Notched, peaked, and shawl lapels are the 3 main types of lapel options. Tuxedos will usually have a shawl lapel, for example.
  • Roll – This refers to the spot where the lapel “rolls” as it pulls back. In some classic suits, the roll will hide the top button (which you should rarely be buttoning anyway).

7. Measurements

Suit Measurements

When being measured for a custom suit, an experienced tailor will take nearly 30 measurements! Ask your tailor about the measurements he takes. The more measurements and the more accurate those measurements are, the better the finished suit will fit.

When you’re being measured for a custom suit, ask your tailor what to wear. In our opinion, you should always wear dress pants, a dress shirt, and dress shoes. Jeans, sneakers, and bulkier (or tighter fitting) tops can lead to incorrect waist, chest, sleeve, and inseam measurements.

8. Pattern

When choosing the color of your suit, you’ll also need to consider the pattern of the fabric. As a general rule of thumb:

  • Solid colors – The most formal and also most versatile choice.
  • Pinstripes – Thin pinstripes are a more formal choice.
  • Checks or Windowpanes – In general, all checked or windowpane style fabrics are better for more casual suits. The larger the pattern, the more casual.

9. Suit or Tuxedo?


Kent Wang on Flickr

Many men, especially those who are buying a suit for a very special occasion, might actually be better off buying a custom tuxedo instead of a traditional suit. If you’re planning on attending a black tie affair or other elegant event, a tuxedo might be right for you.

In general, however, unless you already have a few all-purpose suits in your closet, a dark suit will be a bit more versatile than any tuxedo.

10. Thread Count

Thread count is very misunderstood. Most people believe that the higher the thread count, the better quality the fabric. In general, this should be true, but it isn’t. Some high thread count fabrics use lower-quality threads. Instead of asking only about thread count, ask about the source of the material– if wool, is it merino or cashmere? Is a cotton fabric made from high-quality Egyptian cotton?

Rather than looking only at numbers rely on your sense of touch and actually feel the fabric. When I meet with clients to design a custom suit, I bring hundreds of fabric samples. I encourage all men to feel different options and choose the one that they like most!

11. Custom Features!

Custom Shirt

The best part about having a suit made just for you is that you can customize it however you like! A few of the custom features my clients often request include:

  • Reinforced cuffs or heels to protect your custom suit from excess wear
  • Non-slip inserts in the trousers’ waist to keep your shirt from pulling out
  • Custom jacket linings for cold weather or no lining for warm weather
  • Hidden pockets to hold your phone or other valuables

Read to Start Talking About Your Custom Suit?

See if I’ll be in your area soon and schedule a consultation to get fitted for your custom suit.


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