After discovering the world of bespoke clothing, I sought out a reputable place who could do my sartorial bidding. Well, that’s a little nefarious-sounding. Really, I was looking for a place to develop my personal image and to hone my sartorial skills. Ultimately, I settled in at Michael Andrews Bespoke. Ever since late 2009, when I donned my very first bespoke suit ever, I have yet to step foot out onto the streets of New York City without wearing my bespoke clothing. Yes, that is a fact. Not a single day. No, this is not a joke.
A little more than half way into February, I decided that if I were to wear at the very least a waistcoat and trousers for each and every single day of my life, I would need more than black and gray. For one, black was too formal. And if I took off my black jacket, I risked looking like a waiter or something because the herringbone stripes were just too subtle.
My gray suit, made in a nice English worsted wool, would be the only garments I could wear in the summer time. Sure, I could technically wear black. But I’d much rather not. As I’ve since learned from such fine gentleman as Alan Flusser and Frank Sinatra, black is a color best kept for the most formal of events; or at the very least, it should be worn only after the sun has set, if one can help it. And so I found some time in my busy schedule to trek my way to Michael Andrews Bespoke to order my third suit.
After noticing the new receptionist and a new lady stylist, I went through the long arduous process of ordering a new suit with the help of another new face, a young man by the name of Adam. The customary extensive browsing through many books of fabric swatches led me to choose the Thomas Fisher Cape Breeze wool-mohair blend in deep navy. Depending on the lighting, one might actually mistake it for black. I chose it partially because it was the same familiar blue found in the NYPD uniform: it was nearly black in lightness, with a medium amount of blue that was neither too rich nor too pale.
One detail that I’d seen somewhere and wanted on my own suit was called, as I learned from Michael, top stitching. Adam, who wasn’t sure about the particular detail, had brought Michael up from downstairs. This was a good thing because I would have missed out on another very important detail without Michael’s knowledge: deconstruction.
As I discussed my thermal requirements with the two gentlemen, Michael brought up the option of having the jacket made deconstructed. Also referred to as ‘unconstructed’ or ‘unstructured’, it essentially meant that the jacket would have very little in the way of a canvas. He showed me an example, and I was absolutely thrilled and instantly sold: it was light and pliable, the sort of jacket you could just sort of throw around. It was exactly the sort of quality I wanted in a new suit, given my desire to dress down as much as I could while still wearing a suit.
With an unconstructed suit, I would feel cooler. Considering that I run a little on the hot side and that I am impervious to the cold (perhaps I have some Russian blood in me), I decided that this would become my new standard: I would have all my suits made this way from now on.
Michael soon left to attend to things, leaving me with Adam to choose the other more familiar details. For the lining, I chose an off-white—almost cream color, really—that was dotted sparsely. It was my idea of expressing a bit of individuality in my suit. But it was not enough.
You see, I had begun to develop a taste for what some might call ostentation: I wished to proudly proclaim my suit’s bespoke nature. As such, I selected as a badge of pride a palish sky blue thread for my lapel buttonhole, as well as the last buttonhole (or is it the first? I suppose it depends on where you start counting; I mean the one closest to the wrist). The grosgrain placket would be a similar blue, and the felting underneath my collar would be cream-colored, just like my lining. While an undereducated passerby might not notice the handsome cut of a suit or even the contrasting buttonhole on the sleeve—after all, your arms are usually down at your side—a contrasting buttonhole on the lapel would be unmistakable. The detail would immediately grab one’s visual attention.
I felt that these highly visible displays of bright color would serve a dual purpose. Firstly, it was a way to tell the world that my suit is bespoke. Secondly, and arguably more importantly, it was a way for me to bring a certain playfulness to the serious darkness of a deep navy blue, especially important because of the plain texture of the cloth. Finally, the top stitching was another way, however subtle, to bring a more casual feel to the jacket.
I was quite nervous about the suit. You see, in my idleness and my quest for deeper and more extensive knowledge of my bespoke clothing, I examined my previous two suits and discovered something I didn’t quite expect to: the button stance on my gray jacket was a good deal higher, by up to three of four inches. I was upset that I didn’t catch it way back when I first got fitted. I was also a little upset that Michael and company didn’t catch the error. And so, my nerves were frayed—more so than normal—as I waited the belabored six to eight weeks before my new suit would be completed
After a basted fitting in mid-April, a forward fitting during the last week of May, and after waiting a week for my final fitting (also known as the ‘fin bar fin’), I received my much anticipated midnight blue suit. And although they had forgotten to add the chest pockets to my waistcoat, a request that I’d emailed them a few days after my basted fitting, I was most pleased.
I was not especially pleased when trying it on at the studio though. And through experience, I realized that it was because I was in a relatively unnatural environment. I was seeing the suit under artificial lighting, and in a place that was not my natural habitat. In order for me to gauge how good the suit really was, I would need to see it in a more familiar environment.
So it was only when I got home and tried on the suit that I again started cackling giddily like a mad man, the same way I do every time I come home with a new bespoke suit.
After wearing it around the house for a while, I appreciated just how light the jacket was. It was, quite literally, a weight off my shoulders. The unstructured construction of it made it much less restrictive. I also immediately noticed how much better the arms felt: we’d finally corrected the armhole during the basted fitting. My only regret is that it took two previous suits to fix the issue. If it were not for my self-imposed necessity of wearing nothing less than a waistcoat and trousers everywhere, I would have held them to their satisfaction guarantee and demanded perfection for the second suit.
I’d also ordered a spring overcoat that was made from suiting fabric. Although I wished that Adam had shown me the Dormeuil AquaPlan fabrics, which are supposedly good for wet weather, my charcoal gray overcoat that was made from a lightweight Dormeuil Amadeus suiting wool turned out just as beautifully as I’d imagined it would. I had requested that it be made to be worn on its own instead of over a jacket. As such, it cuts an incredibly flattering figure on me. The long garment lengthens my silhouette and creates a pleasingly svelte image with the gently suppressed waist that I requested. The fabric itself, which has a light sheen to it, is sumptuous, a quality that is elevated by the pale golden taupe plaid lining I chose. I had it made with a chest pocket so that I could add some flair with a pocket square, which I will be doing with one from Armstrong & Wilson. Called ‘The Tooth’, it is a beautiful black-and-white houndstooth cotton, with an interesting burgundy trim and an even more interesting wooden button. I imagine that the coat itself is a relatively unique piece on its own, as one doesn’t usually see dress overcoats made in anything but heavy winter wools; the A&W pocket square will only serve to bring attention to the uncommonness the overcoat itself.
All in all, I am, again, pleased with my latest suit from Michael Andrews Bespoke. And to be honest, this time I was a harsher critic. Considering that I had two suits to rotate, I was no longer in dire need with this latest order, and thus I was able to find more patience and even more choosiness this time than with the last. Despite my increased knowledge of suits and greater demands, they made for me a suit that I found satisfactory in all nearly all aspects.
There is a caveat though. At other custom tailors, one usually has more access to the man in charge of designing the garment. Mr Michael Andrews, said man in charge at this custom clothier in the same name, usually only appears for a client’s first visit; subsequent visits will usually be handled by his staff. And while they are knowledgable to a certain extent, one gets the feeling that they could stand to learn a lot from Michael himself. Unlike Bruno Cosentino of Dunhill, who apparently has a ‘sixth sense’ about sussing out a client’s sartorial vision, Michael’s staff does not have the extensive knowledge and experience in the actual construction of a suit or the specific qualities of a given fabric that you may see in a swatch book. The unknowing customer, then, may turn out to order a garment that does not come out as expected. For example, my second suit made of an English wool is one such garment. I did not detect any particular stiffness in the fabric when examined in a single-ply six inch square, but had I known about the stiffness of the fabric as it is made into a suit, I would have chosen a different fabric. A second example is my overcoat: the fabric came out shinier than I expected. In fact, one might consider a bespoke tailor that carries the fabrics on bolts in order to get a far more accurate sense of what the final product will be like: it is difficult to extrapolate the sheen, texture, and drape of a fabric from such a small sample. One should keep these details in mind and ask about them; and should you feel the need for more clarification, I would suggest that you insist upon speaking with Mr Andrews himself.
All in all, I have learned that the lack of knowledge results in a greater price of tuition when it comes to bespoke suits. I only wish that I had known about all the different subtleties about suits in the first place. A less generous man than I would say that the staff at Michael Andrews Bespoke should have been educated and helpful enough to offer such knowledge. But to be honest, I have since come to understand that the world of bespoke tailoring is, like most other worthy pursuits, a world that rewards self-education. In the world of bespoke clothing, it behooves one to do one’s homework. Deep thinking and careful research can result in the development of a magnificent sartorial image borne from one’s own self-knowledge and expression, if one chooses to take care and pay attention to the smallest of details. Although the Michael Andrews Bespoke blog bestows the title of ‘in-house stylist’ to the sales staff, it is in a man’s best interest to educate himself about style if he demands excellence. After all, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. A man’s personal style is his own responsibility, and if he places such responsibility in the hands of another, he has nobody to blame but himself if things do not turn out in his favor.
And so ends my journey finding my bespoke tailor. I have learned many lessons in my quest for the perfect suit, and it was a costly tuition to reach near-perfection. Where I was once concerned for the home of my sartorial promised land, my confidence has since been restored. Michael Andrews Bespoke has locked in my business for the foreseeable future, where I will continue to develop and refine my personal image using unique bespoke garments. ¶
Four Days Later…
I’ve broken in the jacket a bit, and I must say that it is indeed the best jacket that Michael Andrews Bespoke has made for me. As an added bonus, the pockets are now roomier and plentiful, with a coin pocket in the right pocket. The jacket feels a little roomier, without making me look any bigger. For some reason, my very first impression about the jacket was that it was a little big on me, a sentiment shared by a third party when I modeled it the first day I took it home. However, it somehow seems to have conformed to me a little better now, namely around the waist where the illusion of bulkiness evidenced itself in the looseness. It’s better now, but I feel that the jacket is still just a touch loose for my tastes. It’s far from being baggy, and maybe I’m used to my suits being a little tighter; but I think I could stand to take the waist in by about half an inch. My only fear is that this alteration may affect the rest of the suit and actually make things worse. The looseness around the waist isn’t a huge deal: I usually jam my hands in the pockets with the thumbs hooked outside, thus pulling the waist in towards me anyway. It’s something to contemplate though.
The fabric I chose is a delight to wear. Although it’s a little rough to the touch, it looks rather elegant while remaining plenty tough. It’s a fabric that appears as though it should be very well taken care of, but it is in fact a very hardy fabric. In fact, it’s not something I’m afraid of getting dirty. Kneeling in dry grass (only a fool would expose his clothes to wet soil), sitting on stone steps and wooden fences, playing with my three-year old cousin; I can do it all in this suit. All I needed was a stiff brush or a rough lint-free cloth and a spritz of water and I easily cleaned out the dirty footprints of my little cousin’s haphazard steps. Not only that, the fabric also seems to be quite wrinkle resistant. I actually went to sleep with the trousers still on. The next morning, I discovered that there were wrinkles (mostly behind the knee) as I expected, but not enough wrinkles to make it unwearable or unpresentable. By the time I got home that night, after a long car ride and a day at the zoo, all I had to do was hang the trousers upside down overnight; the wrinkles mostly vanished the next morning, the trousers easily wearable and presentable. I didn’t even need to steam them.
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