Recently, we showed you the difference between a $100 vs. $1,000 suit. Today’s post continues in that fashion and highlights the main differences between a $500 custom suit and a $5000 bespoke suit. We share secrets and quality hallmarks so you will get the best value for your money, no matter how much you spend.
Most men assume custom is custom and that a $500 online custom suit can fit just as well as a $5,000 suit — or that’s the theory at least.
In my experience even an inexpensive custom suit can look great when you stand still but it often looks terrible and feels uncomfortable once you try to walk, sit, or move like a regular person.
For example, I had a bad suit and when I just wanted to eat with my right hand, it pulled back on my left shoulder, the collar gapped and my right arm was restricted because the sleeves were too tight. Everything was uncomfortable but it was a custom suit that used my measurements.
$500 custom suits have become very popular in the last few years because of online supply chain management. It’s very easy to order something online with just your measurements and receive something in the mail four weeks after. On the other hand, a traditional bespoke suit costs a lot more and takes longer to produce. So what’s the difference?
If you commission something at a custom or bespoke tailor, that means it’s an in-person relationship — you go there, they measure you, they look at how you move. They have a very educated eye, they can see right away that you have a sloping shoulder, a bigger thigh, and they confirm their assumptions, what they see, they take with their measurements
Once you’ve picked out all the fabric, the trimmings, and the lining, the tailor can start to work on your suit. But he doesn’t just create it, he has a loosely fitting garment for a first fitting, a second fitting, and a third fitting. These fittings ensure that you get a great fit and that you don’t have bad surprises once you put on the garment and you can’t make changes anymore. Depending on the tailor you choose, it can take anywhere from one month to one year to get your suit, as it also depends on how many tailors they have on, and how much time they have, and how many orders they have to process.
You can get bespoke suits for as little as $1500 to $2000, and it’s the same process as it is for $5000 suits. The difference is with the $5000 suit you also get expert style advice. Usually these high-end bespoke tailors are well-known and revered for their taste and style, and that’s part of what you buy. Because you’re the customer, you don’t have to do anything.
With a $500 custom suite, you usually have to measure yourself — especially if you do it online — and there’s no personal relationship. Sure, you may be able to ask questions or send an email, but at the end of the day, you have to find an untrained friend or acquaintance that can measure you and you have to rely on their videos to work.
They will sometimes also promise that if you just send in a picture with a credit card that you hold up their algorithm will determine the size. However, in my experience, it never works, simply because it’s too far off.
Big department stores sometimes offer a 3D measurement technique, and while that sounds good in theory, it never really works in practice because the results are not 100% accurate. A human eye and an understanding of what a person needs is just not something that you can translate into a machine measurement. The turnaround time for these suits is usually 4-8 weeks because they’re factory made. Usually, they’re sewn together in Asia because it’s less expensive.
All you do is take your measurements, put them on their system, choose the fabric, and you get a suit back. No fittings involved and no real trained tailor with an experienced eye that can guide you and help you — and that’s why you pay a lower price. If you have an unusual body shape or strong, sloping shoulders that are different from one side to the other, the $500 custom suit can be very difficult to accommodate whereas a $5000 bespoke suit easily can do that because the tailor can look at you, and with the fittings, adjust so it looks perfect on you.
Fit & Pattern
$5000 Bespoke Suit
A $5000 is based on a paper pattern that is unique to you, that is made from scratch just for you, and it will really show in the final end result and fit. Not only will it look great, but you will also be comfortable, you can move around, you can eat, you can ask for a cab, and everything stays in place and looks good.
$500 Custom Suit
A $500 custom suit has a made to measure pattern. If you want to learn more about the term, watch the video here. What happens is that a standard pattern is used and then modified with your measurements, so it supposedly fits you better. The entire process of the pattern making is computer processed, and it’s based on just the measurements — so if the measurements are off, the entire thing will be off. Oftentimes, these suits are very slim and they look great when you stand, but as we saw before, andas you can see here, it’s really terrible when it’s too tight and you can’t move in your suit because it’s so uncomfortable.
Basically, you can have a suit with a glued interlining, a sewn interlining, and something that is a mix between the two. To learn more about the differences, please check out our video between a $1000 and a $100 suit.
$5000 Bespoke Suit
Usually fully canvassed and you can even decide if you want a stiffer canvas or a soft one.
$500 Custom Suit
Usually either have a glued interlining or a partially sewn interlining but usually never have fully sewn interlining.
$5000 Bespoke Suit
On the other hand, a $500 suit will not have those hallmarks. Even if it’s a full or half canvas construction, it’s machine made and it lacks the sophistication. The same is true for things like the pick stitching, which is done by hand, they’re very subtle on a bespoke garment, you can see it along the edges and for a $500 custom suit, it’s usually a machine made stitch, that is made to look like a hand stitch but isn’t.
Years ago, only bespoke garments had surgeon cuffs, which means that you could open the buttonholes on your jacket. Today, online custom makers have copied that feature, and so it’s no longer a way to determine whether you have a quality garment or an inexpensive, factory-made garment from China.
Choice of Fabric
An inexpensive or cheap suit will only have a very limited bandwidth. Usually, they’re made in Asia, even if they have big names on that or India. They’re usually thin, flimsy, and just the usual business colors — gray, navy, with some patterns. On the other hand, a bespoke tailor will usually be able to offer any fabric that you could want; they may even have vintage fabrics, a Solaro, a Fresco, really unusual things that make your suits special and ideally suited to the environment you’ll be in.
So at the end of the day, you really get what you pay for. A $5000 bespoke suit gives you a great fabricchoice, a superior fit, a personal experience on a trained tailor’s eye, on the other hand, $500 custom suit is much cheaper, costs a fraction of the price but you’ll usually have to compromise on fit. It’s often not as comfortable, the fabric choice is limited, and the details are limited as well. So you simply have to decide what works best for you. That being said, I have a mix of everything in my closet, I have some ready to wear items, I’ve some made to measure items and some bespoke items. It’s just important to be aware that a $500 custom suit is not the same as a $5000 bespoke suit.