Being incorrigibly vain and disillusioned with mass production, I’m pleased to see that bespoke tailoring is winning its battle with extinction. Unlike made-to-measure, which alters the fit of a preexisting suit, the bespoke buyer chooses the cloth and the cut. Considered the apex of male style, these suits are one-of-a-kind. It takes at least four years of apprenticing to become a tailor and about seven to become a cutter. Not everyone makes the grade. These craftsmen must have technical knowledge and possess the rare “rock of eye” that allows them to know what will look right. Bespoke’s return might be driven by television, but I can forgive that. I can forgive anything that allows a future with tailors.
Ryan Oakley’s first novel hits the stands in October 2011. He keeps a blog, The Grumpy Owl, and offends people on Twitter @thegrumpyowl. He wears bespoke when at leisure and a navy blue work uniform when not.
Ryan’s five links
This article is a history of the modern suit. It spans from origins in austerity Britain, through development in revolutionary and military circles, the innovations created by dandies and its current iteration as capitalist battle dress. As much a study in sociology as one in suits, this article is an informative and surprising read for anyone interested in either.
In a post for those who wish to apprentice, Savile Row tailor Thomas Mahon describes the main people in the tailoring business. This link gives one an idea of the dedication, talent and work that goes into becoming a tailor. Though Mahon warns of the pitfalls, he also discusses the many upsides of the craft. It’s an informative piece from someone deeply in the know.
Shows like Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men and movies like Wall Street have made suiting a crucial component of their appeal. In this interview, the Boardwalk Empire costume designer discusses the process of creating the bespoke look and how the suits reflect the geography and social status of the characters. It’s a fascinating read as it deals with the subtle semiotics of the suit and what yours may say about you.
Timothy Everest apprenticed under the legendary Tommy Nutter, who dressed The Beatles and Rolling Stones in the sixties and forever changed the face of Savile Row. Just as innovative as his master, Everest is a leading figure in the New Bespoke Movement. He recently created a bespoke casual line that includes a water-repelling suit for bicycling. Everest is the sharp edge of bespoke individuality and will shape the way we all dress.
Deeply informed by the traditions of shoemaking craft, John Lobb has been making bespoke shoes since 1866, and the craft has been passed down through the family. The shop remains a place where the founder would feel at home. The Guardian spent a day at the shop and the resulting video shows some of the 190 steps in making a bespoke shoe.