Earlier this year, I wroteÂ â€œIf you canâ€™t afford bespokeâ€,Â which covers the main hierarchies of tailoring: â€œready to wearâ€, â€œmade to measureâ€, â€œbespokeâ€ etc.
After receiving a lot of e-mails from English Cut readers, itâ€™s pretty obvious that thereâ€™s plenty of people out there who would love to have a handmade suit from any of the wonderfulÂ tailorsÂ on Savile Row. But the reality is; they donâ€™t come cheap. Not everybody has Â£2000 to spend on a garment.
What if you have only Â£200 to spend? [approx. $350-400 US] For that money, Iâ€™m afraid all youâ€™ll get on Savile Row is a very good meal for you and your friends atÂ Sartoria, a lovely restaurant on the corner of Savile Row & New Burlington Street.
Realistically, for Â£200 youâ€™ll probably have to settle for a standard ready-to-wear, unless you get very lucky and find a good second-hand bespoke in a charity shop (which does happen occasionally), or you happen to know the name of a good tailor in the Far East.
That being said, for Â£200 you actually can get a ready-to-wear decent enough to convince us in the trade that you spent more around the Â£600-700 mark (approx. $1000 US). Just as long as youignore the labelsÂ and follow these points:
Pick a classic,Â grey or blue worsted,Â pin or chalk stripe in classic colours. Dreadful dark maroons and semi-turquoise blue stripes would never come from a decent tailoring company. Make sure itâ€™s wool, not polyester or any other weird-sounding fabric, the latter being usually just a disguise for cheap, synthetic rubbish.
Make sure you pick a classic, single-breasted, two or three button front. Never choose those dreadful four-buttons or nehru style collar suits- they reek of cheap designer rubbish and look totally stupid once youâ€™re over twenty years old. A double breasted is cool, but try to find a six button (two fastening , and only fasten the top button).
Little things to look for are important; those in the know will spot them a mile off. Make sure that the lapel has a decent lapel hole. Straight and of a decent length. Ours are 1 & 1/8â€ long , you are unlikely to find that but still, the longer, the better.
Avoid at all costs aÂ â€œkeyhole lapelâ€Â hole. This is an awful clanger thatâ€™s dropped by even the most expensive designer labels. Always try to to getÂ four buttonsÂ on the cuff and make sure they have button holes- I know they wonâ€™t be actual, functioning buttonholes at that price point, but theyâ€™ll look the part. Never pick the type that just sew the buttons on to the cuff, thatâ€™s a serious faux pas.
(Photo fromÂ Marks & SpencerÂ website)
Make sure the pockets have flaps, and that thereâ€™s an out breast pocket. You often donâ€™t spot this until you notice youâ€™ve nowhere for your handkerchief.
There arenâ€™t as many things to go wrong here, but if possible Iâ€™d try to avoid belt loops. Weâ€™re not fans of them in the business and it can look really untidy, especially when youâ€™re wearing your favorite Harley Davidson buckle. Try to find the trousers with those side strap adjusters, fastened with a buckle or buttons (in the trade theyâ€™re called â€œDaks topsâ€).
Plain fronts are fine but if you want pleats, try to make sure they have four, and not two. Sadly, 95% of ready-to-wears have the pleats going the wrong way, i.e. reversed. I know our Italian cousins would argue the opposite, but on The Row our pleats go forward. It makes for a more flattering line on the leg. This is unlike the continental way, which throws a lot of fullness behind the thigh, which can look baggy.
As itâ€™s not pure bespoke, the fit will of course be a compromise. However, you can still look pretty good, very good if youâ€™re lucky. Again, ignore the labels- just because itâ€™s claiming to be aÂ â€œposhâ€product doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s going to fit you the best. A ready-to-wear is a pattern cutterâ€™s interpretation of which shape fits most people. A 40 Reg. from two different manufacturers can look totally different, so try them all on, and be honest with yourself. As I said in an earlier post, if youâ€™re in between sizes, then get the larger size and have it altered for a small cost at a high street alteration specialist.
If you follow the above advice you should be looking pretty good, so donâ€™t shoot yourself in the foot by wearing a paisley shirt with your favorite kipper tie. I know Iâ€™m being personal here, but I donâ€™t think you can beat a clean white orÂ pale blueÂ shirt with a double cuff and cufflinks. Again, make sure the fit is generous; you should show cuff. Skimpy shirt sleeves are awful. Well-chosen cuff links orsilk knotsÂ only cost a couple of pounds and look superb.
TheÂ tieÂ should be silk and, like as the suit, donâ€™t even consider polyester (I hate the word, let alone the material). Printed designs are fine, but woven is better. Again, youâ€™re not talking a fortune here if you look around. Itâ€™s not mandatory, but I do like a handkerchief, silk or just plain white cotton. You can fold these or, like me, just pinch it in the middle and stuff it in, as simple as that.
ShoesÂ and socks are not rocket science. Again, keep it classic, and above all keep them polished and shining.
Some of the links Iâ€™ve put in above show where you can get some decent products without spending all of your hard-earned cash. So choose wisely and I reckon you should look a regular James Bond. Keep dressing like that, and youâ€™ll soon get a promotion and be able to enjoy more than just dinner on The Row.
[TIP:] Iâ€™ve said it before, and Iâ€™ll say it again. For the money, the British high street retailer,Â Marks & Spencerâ€™sÂ makes as good a suit as anyone. I rate them highly. [NB: I do not have any business dealings with them. Just one tailor’s opinion etc.]
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