NOT ALL SUITS ARE CREATED EQUAL
From the beginning we set out to build the highest quality suit possible, using only cloth from the world’s greatest European mills, at as low of a price as possible. We believe that a world-class suit shouldn’t cost $8,000. We spent years deconstructing our industry, comparing brands, construction techniques, cloth mills, and every level of the supply chain. Our research, extensive travel, and ability to work directly with cloth mills and manufacturers have paid off: by cutting out all of the middle men we can offer some of the finest custom suits on Earth at extremely aggressive prices.
As we built our production program we sourced the finest materials, the most skilled master tailors, and the latest in pattern and cutting technology. Most people think a nice suit is nothing more than a good fit and nice cloth. While these are very important, there are many other areas where we can provide value to our clients. It’s an unfortunate reality that in the suit business – particularly in the world of custom suits – there exists a great deal of deceit. Many companies prey on the ignorant with misleading information about cloth composition, country of origin, and construction techniques. We believe in being 100% transparent. We want to educate our clients and help them make informed decisions as they invest in their business wardrobe. In this business it's difficult to get a true apples-to-apples comparison from one suit maker to another. We think consumers need to know what questions to ask. We hope the guide below helps you make informed decisions.
VALUE IN A CUSTOM SUIT COMES FROM 4 AREAS:
Below we break down each of these categories in detail to help explain what goes into a Beckett & Robb suit. We invite you to better understand what we do. We hope you appreciate our commitment to creating the best suits and dress shirts anywhere.
1) Composition - What a suit is made of is the most basic component of cost or value. The most common suit cloth is made from 100% wool. Suits made of cotton, linen, cashmere, silk are also common. Less expensive suits are often made of polyester or other synthetics. Exotic (expensive) cloth, such as lambswool or vicuna are also available. Suit cloth may be a blend of 2 or 3 of these different types of material, which gives the cloth the benefits of each of the blended materials. There are an infinite number of variations on the market. Any suit costing more than $300 should not be made of polyester, but beware of even more expensive suits that are made from polyester or a polyester blend (often euphemistically called wool blends). Avoid polyester if possible. For a classic all-season business suit seek wool or wool/cashmere blends. Cotton, silk, and linen are typically reserved for warmer months. Corduroy, flannel, and tweed suits are typically colder weather suiting. For shirts, 100% cotton is generally most desirable. Polyester, while wrinkle resistant, is of lower quality and has significant drawbacks. Read more about our cloth offering here.
2) Fineness - This category should be called "The Trade-off Between Durability vs. Fineness." Often referred to as a “super” count, such as “Super 130’s,” the fineness of a cloth determines just how soft and silky it feels. The higher the number, the finer the cloth. The number is essentially a measure of how small and fine the yarn is twisted before it is woven. Most suits range from Super 100’s to Super 200’s. It is possible to go below 100’s but is not advisable because of the rough hand. Super 180’s and higher are available but are not advisable for every day suiting because it is very fine, delicate, and won’t last as long. This is trade-off between fineness and durability. Be aware that the Super count isn’t a regulated number and different brands or mills may state a number that may differ from another brand. The finer a cloth, the more expensive it is to mill, and is therefore a contributing factor to cost. For everyday suits, Super 100’s to 130’s is typically best. For shirts, the gold standard is expressed as “100/2” which means a 100 thread count and a double twist. Lesser quality shirts can be 30/1 or 60/1. More expensive (and finer) shirtings can be found as 150/2 or even 200/3.
3) Weight - The weight of the cloth is expressed in grams or ounces. Most cloth weighs in the 7-12 ounce or 200-350 gram range. The heavier the cloth, the more of it (thickness) there is, and therefore the more expensive it (usually) is. This is compounded if the composition of the cloth contains more expensive material such as cashmere. The weight of the cloth will contribute to how warm the suit is. Summer weights are between 7-8 ounces, all season cloth ranges from 8-12 ounces and 12 ounces and heavier can be considered winter weight cloth. Weight isn’t a factor in fine shirtings. Casual shirt cloth may get heavier, but for dress shirts all weights are essentially the same with the variation being inconsequential to value or performance.
4) Twist - Before cloth is woven together it starts as long spools of yarn. At this stage most luxury mills take 2 spools of yarn and twists them together, creating what is known as “2-ply” or “double twist.” This results in a cloth that is essentially twice as dense. That density will make the suit last much longer, will be stronger in the seams, and will feel more consistent to the touch. All luxury brands, like Beckett & Robb, only use double twist cloth. In fact, it’s such a standard practice that it isn’t really discussed when cloth is being purchased from a quality mill. However it requires mentioning because lower cost / lower quality suit makers may use single twist cloth purchased from inferior mills. Informed consumers should know the difference and ask their tailor about it. Occasionally a mill will make a triple twist cloth, though it’s usually for outerwear. For shirts a 2-ply cloth is most common and is considered standard among fine shirt makers. Like in suitings a 3-ply exists but is extremely expensive and is, frankly, too fine and usually wrinkles very badly.
5) Country - The country of origin of a cloth matters. The suit making tradition originated in Europe and nobody does it better than the Italians and the British. For hundreds of years they have been refining the practice of weaving incredible cloth from every conceivable material, trying new things, learning how to make things softer, warmer, lighter, cheaper, more breathable, wrinkle resistant, and so on. Most of the world’s wool comes from sheep that are raised in Australia and New Zealand. And more than 80% of the world’s wool is controlled by 2 Italian mills (Loro Piana and Ermenigildo Zegna). 4 out of 5 mills that create wool cloth are buying their raw material from Loro Piana or Zegna. Many of the Scotland and Northampton, England based mills source their wool from local sheep farms. The British and Italians do it best, which is why luxury brands from all over the world attend the cloth buying shows in Europe rather than purchasing from the low end mills available in other parts of the world. In our sourcing experience we have seen innumerable counterfeit cloth makers and sellers, particularly in China, India, and Thailand, making and selling polyester cloth marked as Italian wool. Buyer beware! At B&R we only purchase cloth from Italian and English mills. Never has the statement “you get what you pay for” been more true than when it comes to the sourcing of suit cloth.
6) Brand - What’s in a brand? To some it’s everything; to other’s it’s irrelevant. We understand this and try to strike a balance between well-known brands and lesser known, but deeply respected cloth mills. Luxury mills do charge a premium, because their name justifies it. There is a confidence that comes in knowing you are buying and wearing a brand that has a century’s old reputation built on quality and craftsmanship. To be consistent with our own ideals at Beckett & Robb, we stock only reputable cloth where the country, mill, and sometimes even the origin of the wool itself right down to the farm that raised the sheep, can be accurately and honestly identified. Read more about our cloth offering here.
2) Trimmings - The quality of the materials doesn’t end with the cloth. Linings, for example, require a significant amount of cloth and can enhance or detract from the performance of a suit. A fine suit is made with cupro, a regenerated cotton material that is silk-like to the touch. It’s breathable, durable, and drapes nicely. Inferior linings made from polyester on the inside of the suit hold heat in, negating some of the best properties of the wool on the outside of the suit. Cupro is commonly known by the brand name “Bemberg.” Buttons should not be plastic; they should be horn, corozo, mother of pearl, wood, metal, leather, or some other interesting material. The under collar should be wool felt. The chest piece should be canvas (synthetic or natural). At Beckett & Robb we only use all of the superior materials described above.
3) Design - The look of a suit is a personal thing, and tastes vary widely. We acknowledge this and realize that our aesthetic won’t appeal to everyone. We unabashedly embrace a particular look that our designers and founders love and tend to not deviate from it. By definition a custom suit takes on a bit of the personality and taste of each client. That’s part of the charm of designing your own suit. However our design standards remain the foundation on which a B&R custom suit is created. Beckett & Robb suits tend to have a bit of a British aesthetic in terms of the pocketing, venting, and collar. We borrow from the Italians when it comes to slanted cuffs, shoulder style, higher armholes, and the curved breast pocket. Historically, suits began as military uniforms that incorporated a significant amount of structure to create strong shoulders and a stiff chest. The modern suit retains much of the look of its military predecessors, but has largely gone in a different direction in terms of construction. As technology and materials have gotten better it’s possible to have a great fit and silhouette without all of the structure. At B&R we prefer a soft chest and shoulders. We encourage many of our clients to try an unstructured jacket and see how it compares to a normal jacket.
4) Country - Like cloth origin, the country and region where a suit is made matters. It comes down to tailoring tradition, skill, and local technique. Ask someone with a trained eye and they will be able to easily identify the differences between a suit made in Europe, USA, the Middle East, or Asia. Though the average consumer doesn’t have to know those differences, they will be wearing them. We believe that the tailoring techniques that have been refined over centuries in Europe are the finest techniques on Earth. We’ve tested factories in numerous countries, including the USA, and decided to make our home in Portugal and Spain where we get the benefit of the European tailoring traditions while not paying the prices commanded in England or Italy. We were disappointed in many of the factories we’ve looked at in Asia, for their use of machines, counterfeit fabric and trimmings, fusing, and for unsophisticated tailoring techniques and quality standards. The cost to produce in Asia is very attractive but the trade off is worth it to produce a product we can truly stand behind.
5) Consistency - In the custom suit business, consistency is everything. If a company cannot have total consistency with fit, they will frustrate and lose long-term clients who expect to receive a new suit that fits exactly the same as their last suit. Some companies tout the benefit of “hand cut” suits. Unless the person cutting the cloth is the same person that took the client’s measurements (true “bespoke”) the term “hand cut” is really just a nice way to say that they don’t have a CAD program in place to ensure precision and consistency. The only exception to this is if the tailor creates and maintains a paper pattern, making changes to the pattern after fittings. This old world practice normally only accompanies a bespoke operation. Without a paper pattern or a laser cutter the suit will be redrawn each time and is therefore subject to the inconsistencies of a human hand and a ruler. They may be similar but they won’t be identical. As with all of these topics, consumers have the right to know. At Beckett & Robb we have embraced amazing new technologies that make this part of our operation really easy. First, once we have your measurements, we keep them in our database indefinitely. Even a small tweak between orders is maintained in your order history. Each set of measurements is inputted into our CAD (Computer Aided Design) system and is then plotted and cut by laser, ensuring that the cutting is identical forever. We take the consistency of our design just as seriously, having created specific patterns for our unique design elements such as our various lapel, collar, cuff, and pocket options. All of this results in a client being able to reorder with confidence, even from by phone, email, or online.
3) Peculiarities - Every body has its unique characteristics. Beyond just size, which we address like any good custom clothier, we take it a step further. We learned through experience that a great fit needs to accommodate other, more subtle, variations in the body. We account for shoulder slope, posture, how weight is carried though the midsection, neck length, prominent shoulder blades and collar bones, arms of different lengths, legs of different lengths, and the pitch of the shoulder socket. An experienced tailor should be able to spot these things and account for them in the cut of the suit. We believe this is one of the things that sets us apart from the competition. It’s also a reason why the face-to-face experience can never fully be duplicated online.
2) Mentorship - A core competency of our service is providing the advice on style and dress many of our clients are seeking. We have found that most of our clients have style related questions. Questions about how to color or pattern match, which shoes are appropriate for a particular look, how to dress down a suit jacket, and hundreds of others. Our Style Consultants are experts in menswear and style and are always available to offer their ideas and insights. At the end of the day we believe that wearing a suit is about making the right impression and feeling confident. We help our clients do this every day. It’s a fundamental part of our mission as a brand. Many of our clients become repeat customers and eventually friends. We encourage them to contact us at anytime to help them. If our assistance can help someone achieve their career goals, we want to do all we can to help, even if they aren’t in the market at the moment for a new suit or shirt. You can always call; we’re here to help.
3) Fittings - One of the most important skills that our Style Consultants possess is the ability to provide a great consultation and fitting. The process is key to a great outcome. Our normal process is a first fitting, at the time of the order creation, when the client is measured for the first time. The suit or shirt is then built in Europe and shipped to the location where the client made their order. The client is then contacted to schedule a final fitting where they come into the shop to try the suit on. It’s in everyone’s best interests to get it right the first time, and we try hard to do so. 95% of the time no additional alterations are required. However, in custom clothing making tweaks is part of the game and we always happily make adjustments for our clients as quickly as possible. In a truly bespoke process, forward fittings may take months to conclude, with changes to the pattern happening between fittings. The cost and time required are very significant. Instead of imposing extra costs and unnecessary fittings on our clients, we strive to get outstanding results without laborious and often unnecessary additional fittings by being very thorough during the measurement and initial fitting process. In the event that alterations are necessary, an additional fitting is scheduled, which should conclude the transaction assuming everyone is satisfied. We are dedicated to the total satisfaction of our clients. See the Guarantee section below.
4) Face-to-face - We believe that our business is, at it’s heart, a relationship business. Traditionally a gentleman’s tailor became an important part of any businessman’s life. We aspire to that and believe that the face-to-face part of our business will always outshine any online equivalent. We love technology and willingly embrace it company wide. We have a company website from which clients can order clothing. However we prefer the in-person transactions and feel that it’s a much better service and experience to our clients.
5) Guarantee - We’re not satisfied until you are satisfied. We’re so confident that you will love your new suit or shirt that we stake our reputation on it. If you aren’t pleased with your suit, we’ll work on it until you are. How important is a reputation? We think it’s a pretty big deal. This is why our 100% satisfaction guarantee has teeth. If you aren’t happy, neither are we. And we won’t rest until you are. More than 95% of the time no final alterations are even necessary. In this business we expect to make tweaks. And in the rare event that we still haven’t gotten it right, we’ll remake your suit or shirt from scratch. It’s that important to us. Because we know that if you have a great experience with B&R you are likely to tell your family and friends. And that can only mean good things for our business and reputation in the long run. The fine print: Within two weeks of receiving your finished order, if you are not thrilled with your clothing, simply return with your garment and we’ll alter it or remake it once from scratch if alterations aren’t enough. Why the two week restriction? Because while good style is timeless, an individual’s tastes may not be. Fashions change, trends change, and our clients’ desires can change. Even their weight can fluctuate. So we ask that you work with us to finalize any alterations within two weeks of delivery. Because our clothing is specially made for our clients we cannot offer cash refunds. Our policy page is here.