By Martin Montagio, Montagio Custom Tailoring. Published 24 Oct 2011
Section: Men's Style
It's all about the perfect Fit. The fit of your suit is arguably the most important aspect to a good quality men's suit. It's also the aspect that most effects the way your suit will look and feel on you. Ask yourself - if the suit doesn't fit you perfectly why spend $$$ on it?
After all, it's not exactly a cheap purchase. Off-the-rack suits use a “standard sizing” which is a sort of one-size-fits-all approach to suiting which uses only chest size and jacket length to determine your “ideal” fit.
But what about length of the sleeves? What about the sleeve and trouser circumferences? What about the crotch length? What about your posture, and the shape of your shoulders? The list goes on. Your body is a unique shape and size and even if you think Off-the-rack sizing is ok for you, there will always be one area of fit that's not quite right.
Getting the perfect suit fit is a game of inches… well 1/4 inches actually! A good quality men's suit is one that's made to your exact body measurements. Period.
Never underestimate the importance of fit. What a difference a perfectly fitted suit can make to your appearance.
Make sure that the Outer Fabric of the suit's shell is a good quality Pure Wool. Australian and New Zealand wool are very popular for their consistent quality. Using Pure Wool is important because it is a natural, durable fabric which is also breathable during the hotter spring and summer months. Pure Wool has heat resistant properties and so won't some back with press marks or that “shiny” look after you take it to the dry cleaners.
You can't go wrong with Super 100s to Super 130s Pure Wool for the workplace. The Super count refers to the thickness of the wool thread and the higher the count the finer, lighter (and more expensive) the fabric will be.
But there's usually no need to go too high, as while wool marked as Super 180s and above is extremely luxurious and soft to the touch, it is susceptible to snagging and durability is generally not as good. Super 150s and above is the realm of executive business suits and suits for special occasions like wedding suits, dinner suits and tuxedos.
If you want more of a fashion look, then Wool Blends are generally OK. Wool Blends are cheaper and can offer that metallic finish that many younger men want. However, depending on the percentage of wool in the blend, the suit may not be too breathable and susceptible to damage during dry cleaning.
At the end of the day you've just got to know what you're paying for.
A lot of the suits on the market today are advertised as “100% Pure Wool.” This is sometimes far from the truth. For example, we have Chinese made wool blend fabric in our showroom that comes labelled as "Pure Wool Super 150s made in Italy." We know that it's not pure Italian wool and sell it as what it is. But if your tailor doesn't buy their fabric direct from the overseas mills they might not even know that what they're selling isn't real!
Always be on the lookout - if the price sounds to good to be true, it usually is. Super 150s pure wool for sub $500 and tailor made - seriously??
Some of our Super Super 120s range Pure Wool and Cashmere fabrics
The Inner Lining you choose is very important as non-natural polyester blends will not breath. Cheaper suits often skimp on the lining - but what's the point of having a breathable woollen outer shell, if the lining is not also breathable?
A good option is to select rayon (made from natural cellulose fibre) and if you can afford it, ask for Cupra (Bemberg) - steer well clear from anything that has a high percentage of polyester or acetate in it. Silk, while seeming like a luxurious option, is impractical and creates friction against your shirt and can often tear or snag.
Your trousers should also be lined back and front for durability. Most trousers manufactured today only use lining on the front – but it's the back that takes the most wear! While lining the back adds a small amount of weight to the trouser, the extra durability is usually worth it.
Some of our premium Bemberg lining fabrics
The Stitching of the suit should be “Fully Hand Stitched” as opposed to “Half Hand Stitched” or “Machine Stitched.” This ensures that your suit will be constructed with a web of stitches that build a curvature into the chest where a Machine Stitched suit would hang flat. This greatly improves shape, fit and the silhouette of your suit.
Only the most highly skilled tailors are able to fully hand stitch a suit. It goes without saying that fully hand stitched suits also cost a lot more to manufacture. If your suit is fully hand stitched, then you're dealing with some seriously good quality construction.
The Construction of your suit should be “Half Canvassed” or “Fully Canvassed,” and not “Fused.” One of the key differences between premium and low quality suit jackets is their construction. The chest of any jacket should be constructed of three (3) layers of material - the fabric on the outside of the coat, the lining that makes up its inside, and a layer of canvassing in between that gives the coat its shape.
Some like to consider this inner layer of canvas as the chassis of your suit jacket. Like the chassis of a car, the canvas gives your suit jacket shape (form), structure, and strength. While you can't see it, this all-important layer not only shapes your suit from the start, but also has a memory for your body shape.
If you want to know more about the “Canvass” of your suit, read on…
This means that the entire top and bottom of the jacket's front is built around an internal layer of “Canvas.” This canvas can be made from different fibres. The premium choices are Horse hair and Camel hair which are often used in suits costing $3,000 and more. Horse hair takes and holds a shape, but is stiff in texture. Camel hair is better than horsehair because it's softer and more comfortable, but is a lot more expensive.
Some people also argue that in warmer climates like Australia, full canvassing adds unnecessary weight to the jacket.
Fully Canvassed suit construction – notice how the canvas is positioned all the way from the top to the bottom of the jacket and also on the lapel.
The all-important top half (front) of the jacket is properly canvassed, while the bottom half of the jacket is fused. This provides shape, stiffness and some memory qualities. As the bottom half of the jacket is less susceptible to moisture and sweat (and thus doesn't need to be as breathable), fusing this area is fine – and importantly, it keeps the suit in an affordable range.
Half Canvassed suit construction – notice how the canvas is positioned only at the top half of the jacket.
Fusing uses a waterproof glue that binds the entire jacket front (top and bottom) together. The glue is applied to the fabric to stiffen it, giving a simulation of a canvas. However, because of the “hydrophobic” waterproof qualities of the glue, Fully Fusing makes the jacket unbreathable and also susceptible to “bubbling” after dry cleaning. Fully Fusing also reduces the comfort of the suit, disallowing it from moving properly with your body.
In short steer well clear of Fully Fused suits! And beware, many designer suits like Armani and HUGO BOSS use fusing in some of their product lines – yet they still charge a premium price.
It's easy to check whether the suit jacket you're looking at is fused or canvassed. Simply pinch the chest fabric and lining between the fingers of each hand and pull them apart slightly. If it's canvassed, you should be able to feel three distinct layers - the outside fabric, the canvas, and the lining. If it's fused, you'll only feel two layers. To distinguish between Full and Half Canvassing, perform the same pinch test down by the buttons.
In this article you have learned about the finer details of what makes up a good quality men's suit. We hope that next time you're shopping for a new suit that you take these lessons on board to ensure that you can spot quality... and to ensure that what you're paying is a fair price.
Hats off to the team at Montagio Custom Tailoring Sydney. I was immediately impressed once I stepped into their boutique showroom... more »
The suit and shirts I received were terrific and much better quality than ones I've found in stores off the rack. I would absolutely recommend them... more »
I would highly recommend Montagio for anyone else planning a wedding or looking for a trendy tailor made suit... more »