Ask A Tailor: Made-To-Order Shirts, Good Tailors vs Bad Ones, and more

In addition to helping you look your best, the right tailor can guide you with a wealth of important information, and knowing exactly what to ask your tailor can mean the difference between an ok garment and an exceptional one.  So, we’re back with one of our favorite tailors, Manny, a master of his craft. Manny’s got 40+ years of experience and is ready to be your new tailoring yoda.  This time around we’re talking shirts, good tailors and bad, and the importance of cuffs.

Q:  I’m seeing made-to-order shirts a lot of places these days, what’s the deal and are they worth it?
Before we go any further, let’s answer a simple question, are you like, say, 98% of us and aren’t a model-perfect, off-the-rack fit?  Yeah, we thought so.  The key with a made to order shirt program is it’s going to give you both a custom-like fit and options to personalize the details without running into so-expensive-I-need-to-rob-a-bank territory.  So, whether you’re a suit, shirt, and tie every day kind of guy or a business casual guy, the benefits of dialling in a better fit and being able to choose options like collars, cuffs, and details are pretty awesome.  You’re going to get a precise collar fit, the proper sleeve length, and the ability to put your own spin on it too.

A few things to consider as you’re wading into this jacuzzi, what’s your end use?  The day-to-day grind?  A special occasion like a wedding, or, hell, your wedding?  If you’re stocking your closet for the work week and you work in a fairly conservative business environment timeless essentials like forward point and semi-spread collars paired with basic barrel cuffs are the way to go.  But, if you’re looking for a bit more personality, you can definitely have that too.  Wider spread or cutaway collars will give your shirts a rakish feel and cuffs options like french cuffs are perfect for formal occasions like a tux shirt.  Then again, if you want to go full-on Harvey Specter swag with your business shirts, by all means, go for it.  In the end, that’s the beauty of these programs, whether your goals are basic or stuntin’, you can have it.

Q: What separates a good tailor from a bad one?
A great question.  First let’s assume they have the requisite skills, training, and have produced good results for you (and if not, what the hell are you doing?), from there it really comes down to three things: accommodation, honesty, and communication skills.

Initially, you want to find a tailor who is happy to accommodate your requests and needs; someone who’s invested in helping you look good and feel confident.  They should be able to take reasonable directions and requests just in the same way any great customer service professional does.  If they take pride in their work, it translates naturally.  Secondly, accommodation goes hand in hand with honesty.  A great tailor won’t bullshit you, and it’s important to respect his skills and experience.  He should be open to doing things how you want them, but also gently suggest otherwise when it’s not in your best interest.  Finally, having the type of communication skills necessary to foster a great relationship is key.  And yeah, this is a relationship and hopefully one you can maintain for years to come.

Q:  Cuffs or no cuffs on my suit pants and slacks?
Like many things in the suiting and alteration universe, most of it really comes down to personal preference.  Traditionally-speaking, pleated dress or suit pants should have cuffs whereas flat-front styles should be done with no cuffs.  Generally, I’d endorse this as basic advice for you as a standard suit-wearing guy with flat-front pants.  But sometimes you gotta say to hell with tradition and mix it up.  If you’re down with a more unique/fashionable look (especially if the fabric of your pants or suits has some weight to it) and a slightly higher hem, throw a cuff on there.  Keep the cuff width in the 1.5” to 2” range and you’ll be good to go, anything more is probably too aggressive.

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