What are the tell-tale signs of a quality suit. MojehMen speaks with Dubai-based tailors Matthew Benjamin and James Siggers – of Benjamin Siggers – to get their personal take on what you should be looking for.
MM: What would you say is the number one thing to aim for in a quality suit?
BS: First and foremost, the technique used to make a suit will reflect on it’s overall quality. Choosing a fully-canvassed suit over a fused option will ensure comfort and the superior drape when worn. The fusing technique is a low-cost – and low quality – solution used to mass produce garments, using glue to secure the interlining to the outer shell of the suit. Not only does this make the suit more rigid and unable to comfortably take the shape of a man’s body, it is also less breathable and traps moisture. The build-up of moisture along with general wear and tear, leads to the adhesive that attaches the interfacing to the suit to become loose, which creates noticeable rippling of the fabric on the chest, collar and lapels. A fully-canvassed suit, on the other hand, is made to be flexible and allows the suit to take the shape of the body. Traditionally, a fully-canvassed suit includes a layer of malleable wool and horsehair canvas inside the front of the suit. This floating canvas technique is not only far more durable than that of a fused suit, as the glue may erode over time, it also provides the wearer with a more flattering and comfortable fit, as it is noticeably lighter to wear.
MM: This all sounds very expensive. Are there ways of cutting corners?
BS: Constructing a traditional suit canvas is a laborious and time-consuming task, requiring the use of various stitching techniques and the creation of darts to build up the volume and give the garment its final form. For those men on a budget, a good option to consider is the half-canvassed suit, which offers partial-canvas construction in the shoulder and chest areas.
MM: There’s always a lot of talk about the importance of hand-stitching as a means of identifying a quality suit. But just about every suit has some degree of machine stitching in it. So what are your thoughts?
BS: Certainly another element to keep in mind when purchasing a suit is the stitching: is the suit machine or hand stitched? A made-to-measure suit in today’s world, and pretty much anything off the rack, is usually machine-stitched, as it takes less time, requires little craftsmanship, and allows tailors to produce a higher quantity of pieces per day. While machine stitching can look neat, it is less flexible and forgiving than hand stitching, meaning that a hand-stitched garment will always be more elegant and comfortable to wear, maintains its shape overtime, and moulds to your movements. Although hand-sewn buttonholes add to the overall attractiveness of the suit, it’s true that the value they add is aesthetic only. But hand-stitching at the armholes, collar, chest, and hand-padded lapels help to give the suit greater flexibility, vastly improving its wearability and performance. The difference between an entirely machine-stitched suits and one with hand-stitching involved will be apparent to anyone who wears them – there’s a stark difference in the look, particularly through the chest, and feel of the two garments; the latter being a lot more comfortable and flattering to the wearer.
MM: How important is fabric as a consideration?
BS: The fabric you choose is actually secondary to the construction, especially if you are investing in a luxurious fabric. A fabric like this is wasted on a fused garment as eventually it will show ripping, at which stage the garment has to be retired. Choosing a fabric such as a high-performance wool or ‘travel suit’ is ideal for the man on the move, while a super 140s or above would be more suited for someone who isn’t hard wearing on their suits. However, not all fabrics are created equal – so don’t base your decision solely off of the ‘super’ number. So much more goes into making a quality fabric, from the mill that produces it to the way the sheep are treated to the quality of the water used in the process.
MM: Is the lining worth looking at, or is that more just for show?
BS: You should check the lining of the suit. A good-quality suit will likely have a Cupro (also known as Bemberg) lining which not only protects the suit by absorbing moisture but is a natural material that acts as an insulator, keeping you cooler in the heat and warmer if you were travelling to cooler climates.