How to Choose a Tailor
Introduction - How to Choose a Tailor
1. Educate Yourself
2. Tailor Recommendations
3. Tailor’s Communication Skills?
4. When is the Tailor satisfied?
5. Does the Tailor Understand Style?
6. Samples of the Tailor’s Work
7. Is the Tailor available?
Introduction as to How to Choose a Tailor
Choosing a tailor used to be easy; you either went with the tailor who had been servicing your father or you headed to the knowledgeable suit salesman who would make the proper introduction. Today unfortunately, the task is harder – good tailors are hard to come by, and the average menswear salesman does not have the knowledge to point you in the right direction. In this article, I equip you with the tools to find a reputable men’s tailor whose services can transform you and your clothing.
The below steps are in order of action to be taken, and are meant to be used in conjunction with one another to select a competent tailor. The first point is very important, and should not be skipped.
1. Educate Yourself before looking for a Tailor
Before you talk with a tailor or seamstress, you need to have a foundation in the basics of men’s style. The hardest thing for most men to do is to find a few hours to sit down and read about suits, shirts, and other menswear; however most men find once they start reading the material they become enthralled. Reading about the intricacies of quality menswear you start noticing men’s clothing details you never saw before; you pay attention to the fit of suit jackets, working sleeve buttonholes, and the break on a pair of trousers.
Stepping into the world of menswear, you’ll realize just how important your clothing is in sending messages about who you are. Most people you pass by everyday know you only by the clothing you wear; your appearance is the only way they can make any sense of who you are and what you do in this world. The suit, shirt, and tie combination you put on in the morning covers 90% of your body, and before you open your mouth this garment combination and the way it fits on your body announces who you are and signals to others whether or not you deserve attention.
To build a solid foundation in the basics of men’s style, I recommend reading any book by Alan Flusser, Nicholas Antongiavanni’s “The Suit”, or Bernhard Roetzel’s “Gentleman” and spending time in A Tailored Suit's Style Guide. Once you have a foundation, you should then seek clarification and interact with knowledgeable people at places like Style Forum, an online community of men’s clothing enthusiasts. When you find you can speak the tongue of custom menswear, you are ready to start interviewing tailors.
2. Tailor Recommendations
Be careful here – most men are not selective in choosing their tailor, and stay with their current tailor only because they are unaware of a better option. Combined with the fact most men do not understand what proper fit is, it is very possible that a tailor who receives high praise only does so because of the cluelessness of his patrons. Do not assume because someone calls themselves a tailor or seamstress that they know anything about men’s style or can assess proper fit.
Take a critical look at your friends – who among them are smart dressers? These are the people you want to ask for tailor recommendations. You can broaden your search by asking women as well, but be careful. The way clothes fit on a man versus the way they should fit on a woman is very different. A skilled woman’s tailor does not necessarily have the right skills to tailor men’s clothing.
3. A Tailor’s Communication Skills
You now have a list of tailors – next you need to start talking with them. You can do this over the phone or even email, but your goal is to see if this is a person you can work with. Do they have good communication skills? Do they actually listen to you, or are they trying to push in a direction you know you don’t want to go down? Do they have time to talk, or are they in a rush? To be fair, you shouldn’t hold the last one against them if you call their office out of the blue – but any professional should be willing to put aside 20 minutes to speak with a potential client at a set time within a few days of calling.
You want to work with a tailor whom you feel confident in – this decision is very personal and should be based off the tailor’s knowledge and communication skills – ideally you find a tailor with strong skills in both areas. Unfortunately, a combination of the two is rare except in larger cities. You can have a very skilled tailor, but if he does not understand you or feels he should ignore your wishes and do what he thinks is right, both parties are going to be disappointed. Communication is vital, and making certain that both sides clearly understand and respect each other is key to a long term partnership.
4. When is the Tailor satisfied?
There is one answer here; the tailor should not be satisfied until you are satisfied. This doesn’t mean that a skilled tailor or seamstress always gives you what you want or doesn’t make mistakes – no, a tailor really worth keeping is one who learns what your idea of the perfect fit is and constantly works to achieve this.
5. Does the Tailor understand style and timeless fashion?
I mentioned this earlier, but do not assume a tailor or seamstress understands classic men’s style. Although many skilled tailors are experts at building anything you can imagine, their eye for what color fabric or style of jacket suits a man is often at odds with reality. Culture differences can also play a factor here, as that many of the most skilled tailors today are native Chinese, Thai, or Indian – what worked in Mumbai in 1970 may not be applicable today. With your foundation in classic men’s style (see point 1), you should be able to figure out quickly if the tailor possess an eye for timeless fashion.
6. Samples of the Tailor’s work – Custom Suits and Tailored Shirts.
Pictures, example pieces, alteration miracles – you are looking for samples of their work that validate the tailor’s claims of greatness. If the overall garment looks good, spend a few minutes studying the details – does the stitching look secure and clean, is the build and silhouette something you want in your clothing. Be wary of a tailor who doesn’t have anything to show or happy customers to refer you to.
7. Tailoring turnaround times? Is the Tailor available?
The best tailors out there are very busy people. They have more work than they can handle, and unfortunately wait times of more than a month are not unheard of. Ideally you want a tailor who can attend to your needs quickly, especially when you need a quick fix before an important appointment. Be upfront about your needs here, as that most tailors will accommodate emergencies knowing it creates loyalty and goodwill.
Notice I didn’t mention Price – this is the least important factor and should be a minor consideration even for those tight on money. You want to find a skilled tailor who can help you realize your vision of the perfect custom fit. Saving twenty dollars and not getting what you want is a waste of money – spend a little more and getting exactly what you pictured is always worth it.
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