In his column for the January 31 Newsweek, Nick Foulkes opined that becoming a successful bespoke customer takes almost as much time and instruction as becoming a maker of bespoke items. His thought is that most men require guidance for a bespoke purchase, and lacking that guidance a bespoke garment is not necessarily better than one bought ready-made. Amen brother.
When one first goes to a world-reknown bespoke tailor, the experience can be overwhelming. There is a table with as many as two or three thousand fabric samples (I swear the first one I met with had more). Against this is matched the customer's vague desire for a nine month suit of some sort that may be double breasted if the tailor will deign to entertain such a radical idea. In the face of this timidity, the tailor will throw down a dozen swatches while muttering something to the effect that they "can give you whatever you want."
And that's the problem you see. For god's sake, when a man's previous experience is limited to a choice of the three things that the local department store has on the rack this season how can he be expected to know what he needs, let alone what he wants?
In retrospect, I know I got poor advice from my first tailor. There was no Q&A to establish what level of expertise I might have or what was already in my closet. Instead, the representatives of the firm that is generally considered to have the most American business seemed to be in "wham bam thank you madam" mode. And of course, that was one of the manifold reasons they lost me in less than three years.
Before becoming a bespoke client, it behooves any man to spend some time learning about cloth as well as tailoring. From my perspective, the best first suit is one of conservative cloth in a winter or summer fabric. For it is the in-between cloth that a man tends to regret sooner rather than later.
Fashionable details are equally regrettable. A bespoke suit that lasts decades is the antithesis of fashion. The customer should begin with middle of the road selections and then branch out as his understanding of his tailor and his choices grow into understanding.
For what a man doesn't know can indeed hurt, and is likely to.