There is plenty of online snobbery when it comes to men’s clothing, especially suit brands. There are those who boast about the little details that separate high-priced bespoke tailored suits from the off-the-rack brands worn by your ‘huddled masses.’ What features of men’s suit construction are largely superfluous and unnecessary, adding to cost but not quality? Here’s a list of highly touted cosmetic details that add nothing to the overall fit, quality, and longevity of your suit and can be ignored if you have a limited budget.
Let’s start with what some menswear enthusiasts consider the ‘Holy Grail” of suit construction, surgeon’s cuffs. Functioning buttons on a suit jacket sleeve are known as surgeon’s cuffs. This suit feature dates back to the 19th century when Saville Row, London, England’s famed street of bespoke tailors, was dominated by surgeons before tailors took over. The working buttons allowed the jacket sleeves to be rolled up. This was presumably so surgeons could attend to patients without having to remove their coats and having their jacket sleeves stained by blood. Whatever the exact origin, the idea was later adopted by the swankiest of Saville Row tailors as a mark of the highest quality bespoke suits.
Do surgeon’s cuffs add to the quality of a suit in any meaningful way? No. It is at present purely a cosmetic touch intended to give its owner bragging rights. It quietly boasts about how much you spent on your suit. That’s all. The modern suit does not need or benefit from surgeon’s cuffs in any qualitative way. In fact, it makes the cost of altering the sleeve length of a jacket much more expensive. If you need the sleeves altered by more than a half inch, it probably best to avoid a suit with surgeon’s cuffs. Impress your friends with Grey Poupon, not surgeon’s cuffs if you want the best value from your suit purchase.
Pick stitching is when a continuous thread is stitched into the jacket, usually on the lapel edge, cuffs or trouser pockets, by catching a bit of the fabric. It’s intended to showcase the handiwork and craft of the tailor and to signify the quality of the garment. It is a cosmetic touch that signifies that the suit is more expensive by reason of its hand-tailored touches. It’s like a non-functioning hood scoop on a muscle car. It looks impressive, but that’s all.
Go on any online men’s wear forum and you will find endless debates on how to tell the difference between suit buttons made of plastic and genuine horn buttons. A horn button is exactly what it sounds like: a button made of horn material. They are typically made from cow and buffalo horns. Typically, they are ground and mixed with a composite to create buttons. Again, this is a stylistic touch that is meaningful only to people who pay attention to that sort of thing. Bespoke suit makers boast about using expensive horn buttons. Most ‘off-the-rack’ suits use plastic buttons. The difference is apparent only to those who love to fuss about such things. The quality of modern plastic buttons makes them very reliable. You are far more likely to lose a suit button than break one. Horn buttons, typically found on the most expensive suits, add to the price but not the longevity of a suit. Horn buttons is another one of those superfluous details that give its owner bragging rights. No one else will ever notice unless you insist that they do.
There is often a big difference between a menswear brand known for quality and a line of suits that carries a designer label. When you buy a suit for its popular designer label you pay a hefty premium for the privilege of bearing that name. A suit that should retail for only $500.00 may sell for $1,200.00 just because of the popular designer label. You’re not getting a higher quality suit. Here is where a bit of self-education can help you to get more suit for your money. Choose a brand that is known for quality. The label may be boring but you will get more suit for less money.
Extreme Slim Fit Tailoring
A popular fad in men’s wear today is extreme slim fit tailoring. Grown men are wearing suits that are too small and too tight in the name of fashion. A well-tailored suit should drape the body, not fit like a girdle. These body-hugging suits are the bad taste equivalent of the leisure suit of the 1970s. In a few years, you will be too ashamed to wear these suits (if they still fit) and will wonder why you ever bought them. Clothing designers will be laughing all the way to the bank. They won’t be laughing with you, they’ll be laughing at you.
What should you look for when buying a quality suit?
If you are looking for the best value, you can bypass these suit construction features without compromising suit quality. Spend your limited budget on suit construction features that contribute to quality and longevity.
Check out my guide to buying suits online for some great suggestions and ways to save money.