Ok, lovely people, it’s time to have a difficult discussion about cheap suits.
We have this conversation almost every day at Only One Tailoring where people are unhappy with their purchase and lament the fact that they purchased a suit that needs substantial alterations to make it fit. When approached about custom clothing the reply is nearly always the same. “I don’t wear a suit enough to invest in a custom suit, I just need a cheap suit to get me through.”
That answer is, unfortunately, wrong on many fronts. The Knot conducted a study about the average cost people spend on weddings per year back in 2016. One of the key points we took away from this is that, on average, people go to roughly two weddings per year, and attire is by our calculations about 1/3 of the cost. If you’re buying a suit for $300 that doesn’t fit, then taking it to alterations and spending an additional $100-$200 on making it look close to right the cost of that rack suit isn’t that much of a deal. Imagine repeating that once a year? It’s akin to buying non-rechargeable batteries instead of rechargeable ones. Sure the investment is more expensive at the beginning, but the return is incredible!
But consider that there will be job interviews, formal events, business events, business meetings, and more places that we could name where a suit is suggested and/or required.
Also, today’s person wants to understand the cost of ingredients more so than generations before. The reason for that is because since we live in a world of outsourced everything, the above-average consumer is looking for “Handmade,” “Craft,” “Small Batch,” or some similar overused marketing phrase. The search now is less about price and more about quality and sustainability. “Where are my dollars going?” The primary question people want to have answered is if they can support the company’s business practices whose product they purchase.
So what does that have to do with custom suits? Well, I’ll tell you! $300-$700 suits (including custom suits!) just aren’t going to cut it any longer. The main reason is that old saying, “You get what you pay for.”
AN INVESTMENT TO THINK ABOUT
It’s that time in your life where the transition from t-shirts and polos with khaki pants is happening, and you need a new suit. Whether that be for a wedding, interview, or other events, every person requires at least one go-to suit in their closet. No matter what line of work you’re in or what type of events you attend, a suit is something that cannot be replaced. This is an investment that can either last you a year at most or stay with you for a lifetime of style. Your goal should be to outfit yourself for clothing before the need arises so you don’t have to waste money on quick purchases.
With quick purchases in mind, the majority of us will go to a big box store where we can walk out with a garment in hand. What you’ll generally find when going into a place that sells readymade suits is a staff of people that will push sizes and styles on you that either doesn’t fit or won’t look good on you. How are you to know that all brands are sized differently and that there is no universally accepted standard for making a suit slim, regular, long, or short, or even a 38, 40, 42, or 43? What even is a size 43? Not many places can tell you, even if they do have a 43 in stock.
The point is that the “clothiers” they have in each of those stores have their style and opinion that inevitably bleeds into what they help you find. Most of them can only wear things they can purchase inside the store they work in and could be anyone with a mind for selling suits. That means you may not even be dressing in the way you genuinely want to look because no one has explicitly listened to what you desire or given you advice on which suit or sport coat to buy. Instead, they’ve only been attempting to fulfill a quota they have to meet daily/weekly/monthly to stay employed. One of the other significant issues with ready to wear suits is that cheap suits almost always mean alterations are necessary.
“…you have to ask yourself why it never fits right and why the pants rip when you bend down.”
Those “buy one get two free” suit deals seem like a steal. Still, when you factor in time spent shopping and getting alterations, your time invested goes up exponentially. What’s worse is the jacket never fits right, the pants rip at the seams, the rise isn’t correct, and the suit as a whole feels horrible. If you usually shop at the Big & Tall stores, you’ll have even more issues getting a suit that fits you properly. Plus, you have to ask yourself why it never fits right and why the pants rip when you bend down. The problem is that they’re all made with cheaper ingredients to cut costs.
RACK LINE: QUALITY VS PRICE
We spoke about this briefly at the beginning of this post, and I’ll quickly touch on it. Here is a list of the major components of a two-piece suit required to create one from start to finish:
- Twill Tape
“A truly bespoke suit has roughly 60 hours invested in it”
Each of those items has a price involved in them. When you buy cheap, you can sell for less and gain a larger market share. It’s simple economics. But what happens when you buy so cheaply and in such large quantities that you start cutting corners with quality? That’s the main reason why rack stores and some custom suit companies can sell for so cheap.
Regarding production, you’ll notice that I added “Time” as one of the major components. A truly bespoke suit has roughly 60 hours invested in it and less than three sets of hands involved. Compare that to a rack suit or cheaply made custom suit that has only 1-2 hours invested in it in total and has had the hands of twenty different production members in a sweatshop producing it.
CUSTOM CLOTHING AND IT’S PLACE IN YOUR LIFE
So the main takeaway from this is that a cheap suit isn’t worth it. They will only last a small amount of time before breaking down and your investment tanking. The great thing about custom suits is you don’t have to spend thousands to get something that lasts a very long time.
“you’ll be able to customize your suit to your style preferences.”
Custom clothing such as suits come at a higher premium than something off the rack, just as bespoke is more costly than custom, but what you’ll realize is that even though your custom suit is double or triple the cost of something off the rack, you’ll not need alterations. Even better, you’ll be able to customize your suit to your style preferences.
Once people enter the realm of custom clothing, not many go back. Most of our clients no longer even shop for suits, shirts, pants, or jeans off the rack because they’ve found (like you will) that all they have to do is call us and say what they want.
Yes, we know that spending $900-$1500 for a custom suit seems scary at first, especially for a person fresh out of college, but the investment you make in a custom suit pays dividends throughout the decades. When you slide on a custom jacket, you’ll immediately be able to feel the difference, and that alone is worth the investment!
“two good custom suits in your closet are worth so much more than five cheap suits you feel horrible in.”
The majority of our clients range in the 20-50 year range, and some have had trouble swallowing the higher price, but each of them came back for a second and third. Understandably, people take time to think about their investments since a suit is no different than investing in anything else of value. Always remember you’ll get what you pay for and then some with a quality custom suit.
The consensus with our clients at Fior Bespoke is that no matter what we build them, it fits better than any item they’ve ever had on before. That means the clothing that you could buy at a rack store and the custom suits and shirts you could buy from us will have separate places in your closet. Eventually, that will lead to a purge of your rack suits to your local donation store and a lighter wallet because of it. Remember that two good custom suits in your closet are worth so much more than five cheap suits you feel horrible in.
A CALL TO ACTION AGAINST UNSUSTAINABLE CLOTHING
Hopefully, you’ve found us before you hit up one of the “Buy one suit, get one free!” big box stores. Even if you didn’t find us until after you’ve purchased a suit from one of the large national brands, there’s still hope! We have countless clients who buy a custom suit and shirt from us with a closet already filled with readymade suits and shirts. There’s no reason why countless garments need to go into the donation pile per year. Sure the idea of a donation pile is amazing, but if we only bought more responsibly and invested our dollars better, we’d all be happier in the end.
I’ve spent my entire life making clothing for people, including myself. I genuinely love what I do and can’t wait to start a project with you. Fortunately for me, I was able to build my first suits from scratch – but what about you, dear reader? Which road are you going to take?