Is Bespoke Always Better?


I spotted this jacket on a recent visit to Nino’s. I liked it straight away. Made in Italy it’s pure linen with a floating canvas, working button holes, satin lined and hand finished. I also like the contrasting dark brown piping on the pockets and stitching around the button holes.

When Nino told me the price of £560 I instantly thought, ‘But it’s not bespoke. Is it worth it?” I suspect my reaction would be a common one.  Perhaps the real question is, am I right to think that way?

I once put this issue to Adrian Holdsworth, the owner of luxury menswear shop Volpe in Pimlico. His core business is off the peg and made to measure suits which range from £450 right up to £2000. Revealingly he says his customers want shape and comfort, minus the fussiness of bespoke. He also made the point that, “the internal construction of a [English] bespoke suit can be too heavy. Many tailors aren’t used to working with fewer layers, lighter interlining and lighter horse hair. As such a traditional solid construction doesn’t always lend itself to lighter weight fabrics”. He makes a good point and one I’ve heard before.

There is another angle to consider. Where I would see possibility in choosing lapel widths and shape, linings, cloth types and weights, padding types and more, others may simply see a mine field. These men aren’t lesser beings for not knowing. They just want to look good and have someone remove the head aches for them.

Does everybody need bespoke? If you have a fairly standard body shape then in terms of fit you’re unlikely to notice the difference between one of Nino’s jackets and one you had made. The jacket above has a beautiful silhouette, high arm holes and narrow sleeves. What more could you ask for?

I suppose the real point is that it doesn’t matter whether you have a wardrobe full of bespoke or none at all. Provided what you do buy is well made, fits properly and suits you, you can class yourself a well dressed man.


  1. E. said:

    Although I can see where you’re coming from, I’m not convinced by the reasons you offer for your conclusion.

    Firstly, letting someone who doesn’t make bespoke suits formulate an argument against those suits, doesn’t convince me wholly: he has got an ulterior motive.

    Secondly, the fact that there might be tailors out there who can’t handle lighter internals for a suit, means one should avoid those tailors, but it doesn’t disqualify bespoke tailoring as such.

    Thirdly, bespoke tailoring is about making you look good. It’s not meant to be for dandies who think that any idiosyncrasy makes a suit more special (although they have got the upperhand nowadays, for they actually care about clothing, whereas a lot of men don’t). The choices one makes are meant to make you look as good as you can. A good tailor won’t leave you drowning in all those details, but will suggest the wisest choices, considering your particular frame.

    If you have a fairly standard body shape, an off the peg suit will look better on you than it would on someone who does not conforms to this stereotype. However, a bespoke suit will always fit better, for it will have been measured and cut for you. Not a standard model, but you. Does it make a difference? Well, one can always tell, but it’s up to you if that’s something you mind.

    However, I do concur with you on your conclusion: you don’t need bespoke to be a well dressed man. But that conclusion can also be reached without the arguments you have put forward. Also: it is a nice jacket.

    October 8, 2009
  2. Angus said:

    Good point.

    BTW: I see a comercial for UGGs (!) on this page. Is that a joke?!?

    October 8, 2009
  3. MensFlair said:


    Such vaguely related commercials are displayed by third party ad network. No great harm we think will come of it.

    October 8, 2009
  4. Aaron said:

    The only advantage I can see to RTW is that there *may* be fabrics used which are not available at your (or any) bespoke tailor. i.e. they are short(er) runs made specially for the RTW manufacturer.

    And… That is all. Everything else – fit, finish, construction – can only suffer in a RTW suit.

    Your friend seems to forget that Italians have a long and illustrious history of bespoke tailoring with… you guessed it, light Italian cloths.

    October 8, 2009
  5. fabio said:

    Bespoke v. High-End Brands

    I am somewhat startled by all the attention given to bespoke suits. I mean, take somebody you would consider to be an extremely well-dressed man. Does that person have to wear only bespoke suits? What about brands like Zegna, Valentino, Brioni, Caraceni, Canali, Armani? Would you consider some body who wears those brands to be a amateur/newbie that barely knows what real tailoring is about and therefore sticks to brands names.

    Put simply, can a man that wears high-end brands still be considered well-dressed or does a real sharp dresser have to wear only hand-made suits by an unknown tailor ?

    October 11, 2009
  6. tony said:

    hi. just to talk about italian makers that this previous prson Fabio has brought up. Brioni suits are all hand cut and hand made.i am one of a hand ful of people that have seen their manuifaccturing line. they have 1200 workers in their factory and the suits start at £1500 up to anything over £20000. depending on fabric. it isn’t really an off the peg suit.there are not many off the peg places that have good suits with good fabrics apart from the ones well known such as canali,corneliani,zegna, but are not cheap are they. if you then get the hand made ones like Brioni and Kiton they are very expensive. it’s what you wear but especially how you wear it.

    November 21, 2009

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