A bespoke suit flatters, never shows its age, and has the power to imbue a tinker, soldier, or spy with the sort of confidence he might otherwise find in a bottle. Every man deserves one, but actually acquiring a tailored suit requires more than just taking out the plastic. You have to work with your tailor to build something worthy of a rite of passage. And, yes, that first trip to a serious haberdashery – whether it be on Savile Row, Fifth Avenue, or the streets of Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood – is as much of an initiation as any graduation, bar mitzvah, or first kiss.
That doesn't mean that stepping in front of a three-way mirror isn't unnerving. It absolutely is, which is all the more reason to study up before you start playing with fabrics and talking about that Tom Ford sport coat you saw in the pages of 'Men's Journal.' This is no time to rest on your lapels. Before you part with a lot of money on a suit that will be with you for life, you need to have a long conversation with your sartorial spirit guide: your tailor.
Tailors operate on small margins and word of mouth. The field is stunningly – and increasingly – competitive. That means you need to listen, but it also means you need to participate in the process. Here is everything you need to do to help your suit maker create something so long-lasting you'll want to be buried in it.
Respect the tape measure.
A truly custom suit should reflect who you want to be, but it has to flatter the figure you actually have. Now is not the time to be in denial about your height, your waist, or any other lingering insecurities. The tape measure doesn't lie, and the measuring process is only awkward for men who don't want to face themselves. A good tailor can compensate for a long torso, a short neck, arms of different lengths, and features far stranger than anything you're likely working with. Just make sure he knows how you feel about the suits you already own. Are they uncomfortable through the shoulders? Do trousers sit too low?
A tailor will measure everything from your inseam to your arms and some will take photos of you to capture your posture. Some have been known to ask what side you prefers to wear your manhood. Just answer the questions.
And please have mercy and do not suck in when your tailor is measuring your waist. You're not fooling anyone, and you'll end up paying the price when you have to go on a liquid diet to fit into your new purchase.
Credit: Photograph by Chad Springer