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What Makes Hand Made Suits Better Than Machine Made Suits?

Hand Made suits vs. Machine Made Suits

We’ve all heard the phrase “hand made” thrown around and with the majority of consumer goods “hand made” usually comes with the implied pretense of quality. From cars to furniture to watches, the priciest and best are often “hand made”. Clothing falls squarely in this category and there aren’t very many things out there that a price gap as large, between a machine made vs. a hand made version, than you can find in men’s suits. The question is, what makes it so and is it worth the extra price.

Whats the difference?

Most of us, at one time or another, have had a snooty department store sales man tell us that the suit was so expensive because it was “hand made” and wondered whats the difference? There is actually more to this line than it seems.For many, a hand made suit is the pinnacle of suit making, with techniques and processes for a truly well made garment having been passed down and taught for generations, every detail is accounted for and one would be hard pressed to find such meticulous work in a machine made version. Its almost like a time warp, as the end product is virtually unchanged in craftsmanship and quality as any of the best suits made in the last 100 years.

It almost seems counter intuitive, as machines should have precision and speed that a skilled tailor would no be able to match, but if you were to go through the suit, point for point, that the machine loses this duel.

Here are some things to look for:

  • Full canvas- Canvas is what gives a suit its shape and a hand made one will feature a full canvas interlining. Most machine made suits will make use a fusing to give the jacket its shape and while it might look great in the beginning, fusing has a tendency to break down and deteriorate overtime with repeated dry cleanings. A full canvas actually gets better with time as the suit breaks in. Canvas will move with you and actually mold to your body. The best way to tell if it is canvased is to flip the lapel over and look for little “pick” marks. This signifies that there is canvas and that it was hand basted.
  • Button holes- A truly well made suit will have clean finished button holes. There will be little to no visible fabric strands on the ends, just a clean key hole shaped button hole.Most suits off the rack, feature a machine made button hole, where the hole is made and then cut leaving some fabric between each stitch, the old world way of making a button hole requires many of that you first cut the hole and then stitch around it. If you go the hand made custom suits route you will find that this extends to the sleeve placket where the buttons themselves will actually be functional.
  • Loop stitching- This is another almost invisible detail that makes a huge difference. Lop stitching resembles a zig zag line through the seams. This allows the seams themselves to flex and move as you move, keeping the jackets lines smooth. A machine made seam uses a chain stitch which has little give and creates puckering along the seams.

The Hand that Makes the Suit

The true tell tale sign of great sartorial quality is pedigree of the master tailor. Many people out there call themselves master tailor because they have years of experience in sewing. This would be the equivalent of a 20 year cook at Denny’s calling him self a chef. If you are going to a custom tailor, ask about the tailors pedigree or if you are looking for a off the peg version, stick with tailoring houses known for their mastery, such as Italian designers Brioni and Kiton or their American and British equivalent in Oxxford and Kilgour.

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