Today, I’m going to be talking about menswear terminology, the difference between bespoke, made-to-measure, and ready-to-wear.
Okay, let me jump right into it. This is a question that comes up. As a custom clothier, it’s something that I’ve heard many times. Occasionally, I get emails and people will ask me, “Are you bespoke?” or “Are you made-to-measure?” or “Do you have anything ready-to-wear?”
So what are these terms and what do they mean?
Why is this important and why should you even care?
Let me use the analogy of beef. There are three common classifications of beef – Prime, Choice and Select.
Now, whenever you go to the grocery store and you want a steak, you’re looking for either a Prime or Select. Most places are going to have Select. You may be able to find Prime in a butcher shop.
In any case, when you are looking at different grades of meat, when you’re expecting to eat a steak, you know that this is going to cost you more. You’re expecting a higher level of quality as defined as a meat-eater.
The point I’m getting though is that you are conditioned to pay a certain amount for this type of beef and you assume that it is higher quality, whatever those standards may be. Now, there’s the lower end stuff. It goes all the way down to canned beef that is only good for canning.
So if you’re going to look at a can of corned beef or a prime steak, you expect that there’d be a price difference. They both come from the same animal and they’re maybe the same exact amount, but one of them has positioned itself as this is luxury and this other one is not; the same with menswear.
Bespoke is the higher end of the market. This is the art. This is individually handmade. This is the craft that’s been passed on from tailor to tailor to tailor.
Made-to-measure is more in the middle.
Off-the-rack is whenever you walk in to Walmart, Target, or most off-the-rack, anything off-the-rack or ready-to-wear which is already pre-made.
So like with the meat analogy though, it’s not necessarily one is better than the other because at the end of the day, you could live off of either of those meals which is the same with the clothing. You could wear any of that and probably get by.
There are men go with ready-to-wear because they fit the actual model and the exact design. And for those men, this is perfect because they get the best of both worlds.
They get a great price and they get something that actually fits them, but for most men, they’re not going to exactly fit in the ready-to-wear or off-the-rack, so they’re going to want to take that to get it altered and adjusted.
And depending on how much they need done and how their body is shaped, it may come to a point that this is just not going to work for them. This suit is never going to look as great.
The options moving up are Made-to-measure. Now, Made-to-measure is different in the sense that you have more control, so that’s a keyword with custom clothing or Ready-to-wear. Ready-to-wear, you really don’t have much control. You’re given something and you’ve got to work with it. With Made-to-measure, which is more in the middle, you do have some control.
Think of it as Legos in a sense that you can attach different arms. They can take different bodies. The jacket is broken apart. The designs are already pre-made and simply based off of your measurements.
Nowadays they can run it with an algorithm and throw these pieces together and boom! So it’s oftentimes it’s a unique piece, but the pattern and everything, it wasn’t made exactly for the individual, so you have a lot of control, but not full control.
When we go to Bespoke, which technically the word means “to be spoken for”, all of a sudden, we have full control.
And with Bespoke, the individual pattern is created for the gentleman. I know with my company, we take over 50 measurements.
We do make an individual paper pattern for every single individual. And also, I consider this part of Bespoke, I take into consideration the contrast of the hair with the skin. I look at their eye color. I look at their body build, so all of this, basically we have full control.
And with that full control, you do oftentimes get better results. Although it’s not guaranteed because like I said, there are many men who find that made-to-measure or off-the-rack would suit them better because they’re going to save more money and it’s going to be a very minute difference.
And you can get bespoke tailors who call themselves bespoke and they’re really not that good and can make mistakes.
At the end of the day, remember bespoke is full control, made-to-measure is partial control, and ready-to-wear is not really too much control and depending on how good your tailor is.
Now, let’s talk a little bit more about these terms.
The reason this is because like with the meat, men throughout the world are conditioned to pay a different amount for each level. So if you are a Made-to-measure tailor and you’re calling yourself Bespoke, in a way that enables you to charge more.
The Bespoke tailors hate this. In fact, over in England, there’s been a lot of stuff drawn up with the laws trying to protect the word. Now, this is going to be something that’s going to be ongoing.
The precedent was set by France. They protect the word “couture” over in France. It has to meet certain specifications. They haven’t had as much luck over in the UK, but it really again comes down to money and trust.
So if a tailor is calling himself Bespoke, he needs to have full control. And if he’s not and he’s calling himself Bespoke, then he’s kind of misusing the term. If it’s Made-to-measure, it allows partial control, and the last one, off-the-rack or ready-to-wear has no control.
Hopefully I didn’t confuse you and I clarified the situation. I’d love to hear from you guys in the comments so if you’ve got something to add, let me see you down there.
And last but not least, don’t forget to check out my new Premium e-book. I’m pretty proud about that. I’ve got 14 hours of audio, over 600 pages, and it’s pretty darn good.