I attended a wedding last weekend, and at the reception was introduced (amongst many delightful people) to a gentleman with whom I predictably began to talk tailoring. We were talking about what makes brands (particularly menswear brands) feel truly special to us, and one of the many interesting points made by the other party, is that he likes to be dressed (and I gather have suits made) by some friends of his at Hackett, because the staff there are confident enough to say 'no' to his requests when they don't think he's right.
Image courtesy of Cad & the Dandy
This is something we agree is extremely special, and it leads me to a shopping recommendation - when you first visit a tailor or a menswear shop, do not be afraid to pose questions and make suggestions specifically in order to test how the staff react. Every salesman aims to accommodate his customer and ultimately to sell their product, but should a salesman advise against certain things - this often is an indicator of real expertise and integrity - a sure sign that you'll receive the best service by staff who really understand what works for their customers.
This is hugely important with menswear, because, as the gentleman I was chatting too put it 'it gives you the confidence to walk out in style, knowing what you're wearing is right' and I don't believe that you can put a price on that. With the best will in the world, even the most obsessive customers (myself included) can come up with a wealth of ideas and inspirations for how we would like to dress, but barely any customer can claim to be an expert. Finding a service which can offer true expertise, and the confidence to say 'no' to a customer when something isn't right, rather than just make an easy sale, is therefore a real boon.
The basted fitting of my latest suit, review coming soon...
For the gentleman I was chatting with, the latest 'no' was a refusal by his tailor at Hackett to slim down his trousers more so than he already had. The tailor did not wish to spoil the line of the trousers by making them too skinny, and the trousers had already been slimmed down (and rightly so - take a look at my latest Mensflair column for a view on this) by him already. I myself find that my tailors politely say 'no' and direct me to alternative ideas on a frequent basis, and it has helped me to learn about what works and what doesn't.
The first time I walked in there, I ordered a three piece, and requested that the waistcoat have full-darts - the answer came back that I didn't need them, as full-darts are a means to enable waistcoat to sit on fuller figures, and so half darts it was. Similarly, the trouser pleats I asked for would look better as twin pleats, rather than single. On my latest suit (a review is coming soon to here and Mensflair.com) I requested 5" lapels - thankfully I was beaten down to 4.5". It seems then, that luxury menswear is one of those few remaining industries, where you really can't put a price on expert advice, and it is a real privilege to find an outfitter who is prepared to say 'no' in order to offer a service with true integrity and get things right.