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.
Seek out bespoke.
The word custom is so overused that it doesn't mean much anymore. A custom shirt can run the gamut from a carefully constructed Turnbull & Asser from London to a Gap Oxford from the mall with your initials embroidered on. A custom suit can be an altered off-the-rack number or a carefully constructed original. Well-dressed men know to look for tailors who use the term bespoke, which refers to the bolt of fabric a client orders from a suit maker. It signifies something owned by exactly one man and implies that the suit will be based on a paper pattern hand-drawn to the exact specifications of your body. This may be an increasingly rare service, but it is still the ultimate in men's clothing.
Remember that a true bespoke suit should be designed to serve you and your particular needs – whether that means hidden pockets or exclusive fabrics. The sleeves should be attached by hand so you can move freely. You should be able to play some pickup ball if you want to – of course, we don't recommend it, but that's your call.
Credit: Photograph by Chad Springer