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For a Feel-Good Suit, Visit a Tailor, Create a Suit
– Business in Vancouver

August 5-11, 2003
Michell Gahagan – Business in Vancouver Newspaper
For a feel-good fall, visit a tailor, create a suit

Even though it is full raging summer right now, it’s time to start to at least to reflect a little on the fast approaching fall. After labor day we all, at our own speeds, get back into the mix of day-to-day life, and that obviously needs to include our chosen look. Like our kids and their new socks and lunchbox and gym shoes, we need to do the same. Turf the tired old suits and worn out shirts and pull yourself together. In fashion, New Year’s resolution happens in September, not January.

One of the things we consistently talk about in this column is getting a look together that reads both professional and knowing. For most men, that means suits. And for suits, nothing says knowing like a real-life, old-school tailor.

I crossed paths with Steve Samson, a tailor within the traditional meaning of the word. You know, giant scissors, bolts of fabric, huge cutting tables. We talked about suits and how getting oneself sorted in this area is truly a ritual. As some men know or vaguely remember seeing in a Cary Grant movie, seeing the tailor is truly a male rite of passage. It used to be the case, and it is quickly becoming the case again in London, the city that all Canadian men ought to emulate for a look that is both sophisticated and fashion-informed. There, men take their sons for their first true suit fitting. Maybe it is a bit Dickensian to long for such long-passed rituals here in thoroughly modern Vancouver. But how about every guy gets himself to the tailor?

You don’t have to wait for your dad to take you with some sort of secret handshake, cigar and brandy vibe. The essence of ritual remains. Establish a long-lasting relationship with “your” tailor who knows exactly what you like in terms of fabric and fit. There is something classic and knowing about the process. And in the mix you get to look great. Kind of like the barber in a more George Clooney-fabulous sort of way.

So, what modern miracles can a tailor perform? Like a cocktail, it all starts with how strong you like your tipple. The scale goes from inexpensive to the moon, and from altered for you to designed specially for you.

Suits can be off the peg. Everyone knows what that means. Walk in the door, look for the plastic ring on the rack that has your size written on it, find the least objectionable color and you’re done.

The next step up is the made-to-measure suit. It is a factory-made suit which is then tailored to fit you specifically, even if it requires fairly significant changes such as adjustment to the armholes in the jacket or rise in the pants.

Finally, the bespoke suit. This is the true piece the resistance in suiting. From the paper pattern to the finished product, it’s all about you and only you. You can pick the fabric, the lining, the fit. Every bespoke customer says there is no experience in the world like the feeling of a suit made specifically for you. It fits like you favorite weekend jeans and jacket combination. Nothing binds, nothing pulls. The perfect tool for the 12-hour workday. (Sorry, it is still summer, I shouldn’t be talking like that).

Some more basic pieces of information. Your first bespoke suit should be grey or navy with the second suit being entirely a function of the individual. Creative guy? The initial visual impact will be very important. The cut and color can then be a statement of personality. More corporate? The suit needs to read more conservative, assured.

I asked Samson what these little dream wardrobe would cost. Much to my amazement, he can start you on the tailor ritual for as little as $500 for an entry-level customized suit. For about $1000 you can start your own little bespoke addiction.
The cost from there is a function of how expensive the cloth is that you use. But suffice it to say that at $1000 you are getting the quality of fabric that Canali would use, and that’s saying something.

Samson, a guy who just can’t resist the classics in conversation, paraphrases Plato: While a life unexamined is not worth living, a wardrobe unexamined in not worth wearing. So there.

It’s something to think about for fall. Make the September resolution to treat yourself to a suit that actually fits and does all those things that properly fitted clothing does.
It’s slimming, handsome, comfortable. It makes you want to get back at it, just a little. Suit for you, lunch box for the kid.

Michelle Gahagan is a Vancouver lawyer who deals with all manner of entrepreneurial issues. She writes the column 604Inc, and the style counsel in BIV monthly. She can be reached at [email protected]

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