Bespoke Suits vs. Off the Rack: Key Differences

Is one suit as good as the next? Are all suits more or less the same? Understandably, guys who are new to buying suits often view them as being basically alike. Once you really start comparing them and trying them on, however, it’s amazing how their distinctions become apparent. Small changes in fit, cut, fabric and detail can mean an entirely different look and experience.

Perhaps the most extreme contrast lies between bespoke and off-the-rack suits. A bespoke suit is crafted to flatter your body and it can be made to include every detail that you request. In contrast, its off-the-rack counterpart is just what it sounds like: a mass-produced item.

Off-the-rack suits do have benefits. They’re cost-effective and easily accessible. If your time is limited ― maybe your cousin’s getting married tomorrow and you’ve been doing some major procrastinating ― you can head to a store and pick one up quickly. If you don’t know or don’t have strong opinions about what you want from a suit, something off-the-rack will suit your needs for a range of different formal occasions.

Consider the major elements that make or break the bespoke vs. off-the-rack debate: fit, style, materials and custom details.

Fit: Generic vs. Perfect

An off-the-rack suit will probably fit you well here and there. The waist might be comfortable, and each sleeve may be about the right length. However, all kinds of subtle measurements could change how a suit feels. For example, how much longer is one of your legs than the other? (That’s probably not a question you ponder often.)

There are also the width and sloping of the shoulders, the proportions of the chest and stomach, and the circumferences of the wrists, thighs and hips.

A bespoke suit is constructed to boost the appearance of your overall physique. When you order a custom suit, your tailor will take numerous measurements and use them to design a unique pattern. Afterwards, as the canvas and various other pieces are being crafted, you’ll return to your tailor for a series of fittings so tiny adjustments can be completed.

Your bespoke suit could even accommodate more of your activities. For instance, if you wear it to the office, it might have stronger elbows. After all, it’s easy for fabric to wear out if you’re often bending your elbows to type. Attention to detail is definitive when it comes to bespoke suits.

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Style: Limited Choices vs. Anything’s Possible

Obviously, suits come in various styles. There are contemporary looks, which tend to be slimmer and have straighter legs and narrow lapels. There are also more traditional suits, which are usually roomier, with somewhat wide lapels and pant legs that have breaks. Naturally, many suits fall somewhere between those two categories. The style of the suit you buy will depend on the place where you’ll be wearing it and your own taste.

When it comes to style, off-the-rack suits come in basic categories. With a bespoke suit, you can select the elements you like best and create a personal style. In the bespoke suits vs. off the rack discussion, freedom to choose vs. clear restrictions is something to consider.

To develop your own style, for example, you might want a suit that’s generally conservative for work. You may also want to include one or two modern touches, such as narrower lapels, simply because you prefer them. The right tailor can accommodate those wishes.

Additionally, you could try to find some international style features that appeal to you. Perhaps you’re drawn to the shoulders of British suits, which are often narrow, padded and a little stiff. If so, you could request this detail from your tailor. Italy and other nations have their own distinct suit features as well and your tailor can review them with you.

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Materials: Standard vs. Sublime

Off-the-rack suits come in a limited choice of fabrics. The manufacturers of those products typically stick to the most popular materials of the past several decades, such as cotton, linen and polyester.

With a bespoke suit, you can select from an extensive range of fabrics from renowned mills. You have all the old favorites at your disposal, including linen, cotton and silk. Alternatively, you could choose a luxurious and less common option, such as angora or alpaca. You could also decide to have different parts of your suit made from different materials.

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Small Stuff: What You See is What You Get vs. Customize It

When you leave a store with an off-the-rack suit in your hands, you’re stuck with all its facets. You could have the suit altered and you could order different pockets or buttons, but it’s unlikely that doing so would be worth the time or expense.

Naturally, the bespoke process lets you pick out every last detail. What kind of lining would you like? What will your buttons be made of, and what color will they be? Do you want pockets inside your jacket that are designed to carry certain items? The list goes on and on. When you consider all those minor characteristics together, they have an enormous impact on the way a suit looks, drapes and moves.

The bespoke suits vs. off the rack conversation ultimately comes down to two issues: comfort and confidence. If you know that an interior pocket will secure your phone or another valuable item, you need not worry that it will fall out. If you know that the lengths of your sleeves are exactly correct, you won’t have to fidget with them. When every inch of your suit has been carefully planned, built, sewn, stitched and hemmed with your particular body in mind, you can feel great about the way you look. Your self-assurance will generate positive energy and that can be highly contagious.


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