There is one essential hurdle in recommending a bespoke tailor shop: geography. A custom-made experience comes down to the individual shop, or even the individual tailor; so much of a custom suit is the custom part, from walking into the shop the first time, to being measured, to getting fitted and re-fitted. You have to be there, and be there for a while. It’s why we can’t condone getting a suit made on the cheap while you’re vacationing in southeast Asia and, for oddly similar reasons, why we’ve probably missed your favorite tailor shop in Dallas or San Francisco or Virginia. These are only five, after all. But they are an essential five: shops that cover a wide range of custom options, price points and styles. Where you get your suit, of course, will come down to where you happen to be.
A. Caraceni, Milan
This tiny shop in Rome opened in 1913 and has remained more or less unchanged since then — aside from a brief pause during World War II, a move to Milan and the growth of the business into a veritable bespoke juggernaut. One of the company’s three tailors painstakingly labors over each suit, made from impossibly fine Italian (or occasionally English) fabrics. The place is famous for dressing Hollywood royalty like Gary Cooper and Cary Grant, and actually royalty, including the royal families of Greece and Italy, Prince Rainier of Monaco and, uh, Silvio Berlusconi.
Gieves & Hawkes, London
When you talk about Savile Row, you’re really talking about Gieves & Hawkes. Standing at No.1 on the corner of the famous street, Gieves & Hawkes is, in many ways, the benchmark for all things bespoke, at least in the grand English tradition (never mind that it’s currently owned by a Hong Kong conglomerate). The shop was founded in 1771 and earned its reputation by dressing the British military and the royal family, and it continues to hold several royal warrants (even Prince William is a fan). The shop remains renowned for evening wear (which doesn’t come up a lot outside of certain circles) and is otherwise the guardian of the English style, including all those glorious tweeds and wools. Of course, all of that history comes at a price: suits start at around $5,000.
BESPOKE VS MADE-TO-MEASURE
It’s great to see so many options for custom-fitted suits these days, but it’s important you understand what you’re buying. Below, we’ve outlined some typical areas that makes the bespoke process different than made-to-measure so you can be sure you’re getting what you want, regardless of the level of customization you decide on.
1. Custom Patterns
Patterns are blueprints for garments. Bespoke suits are made using a specific pattern created for the buyer, capturing all of the nuances of the individual’s body. Made-to-measure suits are created from modified standard patterns. How much modification is made to the standard pattern to achieve a great fit varies by the suit maker. This is why far more measurements are usually taking when buying a bespoke suit.
Bespoke suit makers typically source their suiting materials from a wide range of mills, versus the one or two usually found with made-to-measure competitors, giving buyers a greater selection to choose from. The ability to commission special patterns and colors is also often available, for the right price.
The bespoke process usually involves several fittings between taking the original measurements and delivering the finished product. This allows tailors to make tweaks during each iteration and achieve a truly precise fit. Finding a made-to-measure option that offers fittings during the production process is rare, if not impossible. Adjusting the fit of these suits is done via alterations on the finished product.
Most made-to-measure solutions let buyers weigh in on things like the number of buttons, vents, pocket styles and cuffs. Some even go further letting shoppers choose lapel styles and jacket-linings. In the bespoke world, anything goes — as long as you’re willing to pay for it.
5. Face Time
Paying the premium for a bespoke suit grants you the privilege of meeting the craftsman making your suit, in most cases. On the made-to-measure side you’re speaking with informed sales associates who pass information along to a production team. It’s assumed that in the former case, cutting out middlemen will result in a clearer understanding of your wishes.
Martin Greenfield Tailors, Brooklyn
Who is America’s most famous tailor? It’s a big question, with a big, almost unanimous answer: Martin Greenfield. Greenfield was born in Poland and survived Auschwitz, making his way to Brooklyn in 1947 where, at 19, he started working in the garment industry. The rest, as they say, is history. His shop has fitted at least three U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama, a few New York mayors, including Michael Bloomberg, and more than a few Hollywood A-listers, including Paul Newman and the entire cast of Boardwalk Empire. But what makes Greenfield continually relevant isn’t just his old-school pedigree, or the fact that Greenfield knows suits and fabrics better than practically anyone else in America. It’s the fact that he’s a master collaborator, and his designs are reaching new, younger clients through his made-to-measure work with brands like Gilt and Freeman’s Sporting Club.
1701 Bespoke, Detroit
Yes, that Detroit. If you needed proof of a cultural renaissance in a down-and-out city, there’s no better example than 1701. Tom Daguanno and Max Shmidt are grade school friends who started their suit company in late 2013 year to outfit Tom’s wedding. Now you’ll find their pop-up in downtown Detroit (they’re looking for permanent digs), where they offer slim-fitting custom suits with old-school details like surgeon’s cuffs and turned back collars. It’s a very different take on bespoke suiting — much less fussy than Savile Row — but no less exacting.
Johnathan Behr Bespoke Clothiers, Los Angeles
Located on the Miracle Mile, this famed LA suit maker is one of the only to design and make his suits in house. Known for his British-inspired bespoke styling, Behr follows the rituals embodied by Saville Row, always making clients their own paper pattern and insisting on several basted fittings before delivering the final goods. While every maker on this list has their fair share of endorsements from famous clientele, Behr’s work has helped spark trends in conjunction with Mad Men Costume designer Janie Bryant: he’s made three-piecers worn by Roger Sterling and threads for Don Draper as well, the most notable of which is his Madras plaid jacket. More importantly, Behr’s Hollywood style isn’t offered only at Hollywood prices. Most suits and tuxedos range between $2,500 and $4,000, depending on fabric.