Men’s suits: Bespoke or Off-the-rack

Whether bespoke suit or off-the-rack, men’s suit and even men’s shoes selection is no easy choice. A man’s first suit is a big deal! Shoes to go with them are usually an afterthought, but that’s a big deal too. If he intends to enter the corporate environment, and be taken seriously or look like a rock star, he needs a suit. Preferably one that fits and fits well. Discourse about fashion by sociologist have centered around its association with social class and social change. A man’s social change from being a university student with dozens of hoodies to his name involves his transition from student to young professional.

perfectly fitted suits
Hawkes Bespoke Outfitters client, looking sharp.

Consumers, to a large extent, converge on fashion pieces they deem ‘different’ and designers meet this demand for differentiation with unique trims, hemlines and colour blends even as the general styles and themes remain the same in a particular season. Some consumers, like the student transitioning from campus to corporate may opt for an off-the-rack suit because that’s what he can afford, but as he matures and becomes a senior member of the corporate community, he may want to differentiate rather than imitate, or better yet, he can go for bespoke tailored suits.

So, what’s the difference between bespoke and off-the-rack suits? The term bespoke has absorbed many forms in recent times often being used to give items or services some level of ‘snob appeal’. For example, furniture that is designed for a specific customer can be termed as bespoke. But the original use to the word is far more interesting. To be authentically bespoke in the English manner, it was said, was to lay claim to a piece of material or fabric and then directed the manner in which it was to be produced to an object of an individual’s taste and requirements. Simply put, a bespoke tailoring is a process that will involve a choice of materials, styles, cut and fashion before being individually crafted and adjusted to a man’s taste.

jamie roberts
Jamie Roberts, Welsh Rugby player at a fitting in Hawkes Bespoke Outfitters, Cardiff, Wales.

Even the definition of bespoke sounds expensive, right? That’s because it is. But according to industry experts, the difference in price goes beyond the appearance of the suit. It is mostly related to time as the average bespoke tailoring suit can run up to 50 man hours in addition to the basic materials used, the labour costs of one or more experienced tailors as well as overheads all play a part in the price tag.

Daring to be different can be pricey, a fully handmade bespoke tailored suit can cost anywhere between £750 to £3,000, will involve and initial consultation, 6-8 weeks for production and a final touches consultation. So, it may be pricey in terms of time, money and patience, but some would argue that it’s well worth it, because once you go to bespoke tailoring, you will never go back to off-the-rack.

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