Quick Guide to Men’s Suit Options

If you are in the market for a great fitting suit, you’ve probably heard the terms Off the Rack, Made to Measure, and Bespoke. What’s the difference? A lot, actually. Here’s a quick guide to men’s suit options and some advice on how to make an informed decision on what will work best for you and your budget.

Off The Rack

Off the rack suits are what you most commonly see. They are machine made, mass produced, and vary widely in terms of quality and standards. You will pay a premium for a suit by a big-name designer despite the fact that it takes the same amount of time for the machine to make a designer suit than a no-name label. Sizes are standardized and unless you can find a brand that nails or gets very close to the fit you prefer, you should plan to invest some money with your tailor.

PROS: Affordable, wide availability.

CONS: Designed for mass market (one size doesn’t fit all), which means you will have to invest some extra time and money with your tailor if you want a great fit. Limited choice with regard to quality, fabrics, and construction. In the case of a workhorse suit, this could lead to the suit deteriorating quickly.

He Spoke Style Advice: If off the rack is where you want to go, make sure the suit jacket fits your shoulders properly and be willing to throw a little money your tailor’s way to get the best fit possible.

Made To Measure

A made to measure suit is cut from a pre-existing pattern but with more variations to get closer to a proper fit. It is still being manufactured by a machine for the most part though some made to measure programs will offer handmade options for certain parts of the suit. With made to measure you have much more control. You choose the fabric, the details, and so on, though the amount of control will vary from program to program. Some may allow you a choice of only a few options, while others are more comprehensive and may offer up to 15 or more choices on details. Made to measure has advanced considerably in recent years and you can definitely get extremely close to a perfect fit from a made to measure program. Made to measure is sometimes referred to as custom suiting.

PROS: More control, higher quality, a more custom fit.

CONS: A bit more expensive, 4-8 week delivery time, plus allowances for any alterations needed once the garment arrives and you are fitted.

He Spoke Style Advice: If Made to Measure fits your budget, I definitely recommend it. Not only are you getting a higher quality garment, but depending on the program, you will have much more control over customization of your suit. And if the program you are working with offers a high level of control, be sure to go all out on the custom details. You want your suit to be your own, to stand out, and to say something about you. Don’t try to design a suit you saw on the rack in a department store. Not sure where to make a statement? Choosing an interesting lining for your suit jacket is a great place to start.

Bespoke

The true custom option and the highest expression of sartorial craftsmanship and quality. Unlike a made to measure suit, which is cut from a pre-existing pattern, a bespoke suit uses a pattern that is unique to the individual. It is truly your own personal pattern. The term ‘bespoke’ comes from the days when a tailor had bolts of cloth and the client would choose a particular cloth. That cloth was then said to have “been spoken for.” Bespoke suits are generally completely handmade, though depending on the program, machines may play a role at some point in the process.

PROS: One of a kind, complete control over design and options, superior quality, superior fit.

CONS: Cost prohibitive, longer delivery time.

He Spoke Style Advice: There really is nothing like a bespoke suit. Custom clothing is an entirely different experience in terms of fit, quality, and feel. However, you pay a premium for that level of suiting; and for good reason. Budget-wise, bespoke is not for everyone. If you can afford it, do it. You definitely won’t regret it.

My Take

If you are serious about investing in your wardrobe, try to avoid purchasing your suits off the rack. An off the rack suit will almost always require some sort of tailoring and depending on what needs to be done, could end up costing more than you paid for the suit. Instead, find a reputable made to measure or custom suiting (or bespoke, if your budget allows) program to work with. Remember, a great fitting suit is an investment that should be a staple of your wardrobe for years.

What are your experiences with off the rack, made to measure/custom, or bespoke suiting?

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

He Spoke Style

Photography by Rob McIver Photo.

Chime In

  • http://www.wristwatchreview.com Patman

    What companies would you recommend in the MTM arena? Also, what sort of pricing would one expect to pay?

    • http://hespokestyle.com Brian

      Where are you located? If you live in Baltimore, I would definitely point you to the Quinntessential Gentleman. They did my suit for the Preakness this year. Brooks Brothers also has a great, MTM program. I’ll be doing a series of posts this week and next featuring my khaki suit, which is Brooks Brothers MTM. Great quality and a great value.

      I would say, in general, you should expect to pay about $500 to start, though that will vary from program to program. From there, the sky is really the limit and it depends on how much control you’d like to have over the fabric and details.

      If you’ve got any more questions, definitely feel free to ask. I’m happy to help out.

      And thanks so much for reading.

  • http://www.scotchrocks.tumblr.com Alexanio

    I’m new to your site so I know this response is late but my experience has been mainly with off-the-rack suits. It’s the only option I can afford (being a new grad just starting my career). I try to go with the suit that speaks to me the best, fits me as well as possible to minimize my tailoring costs, and is made well but still cost effective. This of course is hard to do but I have had really good luck and my tailor is amazing. Once I make the kind of money necessary I will invest in a made to measure and eventually graduate to bespoke. Ahh, one day. Love your site and style!

    • http://hespokestyle.com Brian Sacawa

      Thanks, Alexanio. Going with what works for your budget is always extremely important. And off the rack can work really well, especially if you invest a little in some tailoring. I definitely recommend experiencing made to measure at some point. It is an amazing experience.

  • Chris

    Brian,

    Great site, great post. Obviously, Brooks Bros is available in almost all areas, however, I wanted to inquire into any local MTM shops you’d recommend in the New York City area that are in a similar price range. A cursory google search reveals a lot of websites, so any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance,

    Chris

    • http://hespokestyle.com Brian Sacawa

      Thanks, Chris. I can only speak for those that I’ve worked with personally. Check out Alton Lane and Michael Andrews Bespoke. Good luck and let me know how you make out.

  • http://www.hiras.com Custom suits

    You plotted the whole scene. Bespoke is truly one of a kind. If you aim to get the right fit and quality, bespoke is for you. Also, with regard to bespoke, fitters can also assist you with the best styles that will complement your looks. I’d say, if you have the cash, bespoke is for you.

  • Frank

    Hi Brian,
    I like the mtm program of Hugo Boss. It’s a really good investment.
    Thx for your great Blog and all the effort you spend to make the world a little bit better dressed.
    Cheers from Germany,
    Frank

  • Sam

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the great post. I’ve been searching for various sites on information for suits to purchase online and I came across your site. Your definitions of each type of manufacturing was dead simple to read.

    Since you are in this space, I was wondering if you have heard of this company called Noirblanc. You can check them out here at http://www.noirblanc.co. They seem to be reputable and have a decent following.

    I would love to get your thoughts. Thanks again.

    Sam

    • http://hespokestyle.com Brian Sacawa

      You’re welcome, Sam. I’m not familiar with that brand. Suits look fairly classic in terms of styling with a bit of a modern cut. Let me know if you try them out and how you like them.

      • Sam

        I’ve decided to try them out. I don’t buy a lot of suits just because my job doesn’t require it but also because I’m a bit frugal. My “frugality” means that I will typically buy suits that are essentially timeless in look and that I can pull out and use when the occasion requires it such as weddings.

        I’ll let you know when I get the package.

        PS. They offer a 5 day turnaround upon ordering and free shipping which is something unheard of when shipping halfway across the world.

        • http://hespokestyle.com Brian Sacawa

          You can call it frugal, but I’d also say that it’s smart! Definitely report back when you get the package.

          • Sam

            Hi Brian,

            I just got the package from Noirblanc and I’m happy to say that the experience and product was better than I thought. This is definitely a departure from buying a custom product where I would expect the product to fit perfectly.

            For the price I paid I’m happy to get this quality and fit, I would definitely buy from these guys again. I didn’t get the suit but I decided to get a shirt to try them out.

            From the time of order to when I received it was 5 days which is pretty fast. Although I think if there was an issue with customs, I think it would have taken longer than 5 days.

            When the package arrived, I got in a DHL plastic bag but inside this bag was a swanky textured black box with the Noirblanc logo embossed on the top. The packaging is just as good as some of the top brands out there to prevent damage to the shirt during shipping. The shirt’s material is definitely good and the stitching was very good. There were no loose threads. It was a bit wrinkled but I can accept that since it traveled half way across the world. A bit of ironing and the shirt looked perfect and fitted well.

            If you haven’t visited the site recently, they have a promo where you can get the shirt for FREE if you buy a suit and shipping is free too. It’s not a bad deal, actually its a pretty darn good deal. This will probably become one of my go to sites for shirts.

            Let me know if you try them out. I would love to hear your experience.

          • http://hespokestyle.com Brian Sacawa

            Thanks for the report, Sam!

  • Adam

    I think it’s time to graduate from OTR. Though I have an excellent tailor who has given my suits a nice tailored look, after reading this article I am resolved to acquire a made-to-measure suit. What are your thoughts on SuitSupply?

  • Noel

    Awesome suit.
    Visit Men’s Fashion site

  • Ivar

    Classic suit.
    Visit our Men’s Fashion site