$500 vs $5000 suit

Difference Between A $500 Custom Suit & $5,000 Bespoke Suit

Recently, we showed you the difference between a $100 vs. $1,000 suit. Today’s post continues in that fashion and highlights the main differences between a $500 custom suit and a $5000 bespoke suit. We share secrets and quality hallmarks so you will get the best value for your money, no matter how much you spend.

Video

For this guide, it is essential to watch the videos, because I show fit issues that cannot be shown in pictures alone.

Most men assume custom is custom and that a $500 online custom suit can fit just as well as a $5,000 suit — or that’s the theory at least.

In my experience even an inexpensive custom suit can look great when you stand still but it often looks terrible and feels uncomfortable once you try to walk, sit, or move like a regular person.

For example, I had a bad suit and when I just wanted to eat with my right hand, it pulled back  on my left shoulder, the collar gapped and my right arm was restricted because the sleeves were too tight. Everything was uncomfortable but it was a custom suit that used my measurements.

$500 custom suits have become very popular in the last few years because of online supply chain management. It’s very easy to order something online with just your measurements and receive something in the mail four weeks after. On the other hand, a traditional bespoke suit costs a lot more and takes longer to produce. So what’s the difference?

Handmade, neat buttonholes are obligatory on a $5000 bespoke suit

Handmade, neat buttonholes are obligatory on a $5000 bespoke suit

Order Process

$5000 Bespoke Suit

If you commission something at a custom or bespoke tailor, that means it’s an in-person relationship — you go there, they measure you, they look at how you move. They have a very educated eye, they can see right away that you have a sloping shoulder, a bigger thigh, and they confirm their assumptions, what they see, they take with their measurements

Once you’ve picked out all the fabric, the trimmings, and the lining, the tailor can start to work on your suit. But he doesn’t just create it, he has a loosely fitting garment for a first fitting, a second fitting, and a third fitting. These fittings ensure that you get a great fit and that you don’t have bad surprises once you put on the garment and you can’t make changes anymore. Depending on the tailor you choose, it can take anywhere from one month to one year to get your suit, as it also depends on how many tailors they have on, and how much time they have, and how many orders they have to process.

Handsewn details on a $5000 bespoke suit

Handsewn details on a $5000 bespoke suit

You can get bespoke suits for as little as $1500 to $2000, and it’s the same process as it is for $5000 suits. The difference is with the $5000 suit you also get expert style advice. Usually these high-end bespoke tailors are well-known and revered for their taste and style, and that’s part of what you buy. Because you’re the customer, you don’t have to do anything.

The True Cost Of Bespoke = Time + Travel + Suit Cost

Unless you’re 100% happy with the suit, you don’t have to accept it. Bespoke suits are very popular; they come from Savile Row or from Naples, and so a lot of men travel to those destinations to have a suit made for them. The problem is that that’s an additional cost, and it can cause a lot of pain in the process to get it right, especially if more fittings are needed.

So keep that into consideration when you decide to work with a tailor who is not in your city.

Collar is machine stitched on a $500 custom suit

Collar is machine stitched on a $500 custom suit

$500 Custom Suit

With a $500 custom suite, you usually have to measure yourself — especially if you do it online — and there’s no personal relationship. Sure, you may be able to ask questions or send an email, but at the end of the day, you have to find an untrained friend or acquaintance that can measure you and you have to rely on their videos to work.

They will sometimes also promise that if you just send in a picture with a credit card that you hold up their algorithm will determine the size. However, in my experience, it never works, simply because it’s too far off.

Big department stores sometimes offer a 3D measurement technique, and while that sounds good in theory, it never really works in practice because the results are not 100% accurate. A human eye and an understanding of what a person needs is just not something that you can translate into a machine measurement. The turnaround time for these suits is usually 4-8 weeks because they’re factory made. Usually, they’re sewn together in Asia because it’s less expensive.

The decorative stitching is machine-made even though it is made to look like handwork - typical of a $500 suit

The decorative stitching is machine-made even though it is made to look like handwork – typical of a $500 suit

All you do is take your measurements, put them on their system, choose the fabric, and you get a suit back. No fittings involved and no real trained tailor with an experienced eye that can guide you and help you — and that’s why you pay a lower price. If you have an unusual body shape or strong, sloping shoulders that are different from one side to the other, the $500 custom suit can be very difficult to accommodate whereas a $5000 bespoke suit easily can do that because the tailor can look at you, and with the fittings, adjust so it looks perfect on you.

Handmade pattern for a bespoke suit

Handmade pattern for a bespoke suit

Fit & Pattern

$5000 Bespoke Suit

A $5000 is based on a paper pattern that is unique to you, that is made from scratch just for you, and it will really show in the final end result and fit. Not only will it look great, but you will also be comfortable, you can move around, you can eat, you can ask for a cab, and everything stays in place and looks good.

Lining is machine stitched on a $500 custom suit

Lining is machine stitched on a $500 custom suit

$500 Custom Suit

A $500 custom suit has a made to measure pattern. If you want to learn more about the term, watch the video here. What happens is that a standard pattern is used and then modified with your measurements, so it supposedly fits you better. The entire process of the pattern making is computer processed, and it’s based on just the measurements — so if the measurements are off, the entire thing will be off. Oftentimes, these suits are very slim and they look great when you stand, but as we saw before, andas you can see here, it’s really terrible when it’s too tight and you can’t move in your suit because it’s so uncomfortable.

Sleeve should be handsewn on a bespoke suit

Sleeve should be handsewn on a bespoke suit

Construction

Basically, you can have a suit with a glued interlining, a sewn interlining, and something that is a mix between the two. To learn more about the differences, please check out our video between a $1000 and a $100 suit.

$5000 Bespoke Suit

Usually fully canvassed and you can even decide if you want a stiffer canvas or a soft one.

$500 Custom Suit

Usually either have a glued interlining or a partially sewn interlining but usually never have fully sewn interlining.

Details

$5000 Bespoke Suit

Now, when it comes to details, a $5000 suit has more handwork. You can see that on the buttonhole, it’s handmade, looks very nice, the edges are nicely rounded even on the sleeves and the linings, and the little details on the inside really show you that it’s a quality garment. Moreover, a $5000 suit is usually padded by hand and when you flip open your lapel, you can see irregular stitches made by hand. In this case, it shows that there is soft interlining so it’s very comfortable and feels more like a sweater.

$500 Custom Suit

On the other hand, a $500 suit will not have those hallmarks. Even if it’s a full or half canvas construction, it’s machine made and it lacks the sophistication. The same is true for things like the pick stitching, which is done by hand, they’re very subtle on a bespoke garment, you can see it along the edges and for a $500 custom suit, it’s usually a machine made stitch, that is made to look like a hand stitch but isn’t.

Years ago, only bespoke garments had surgeon cuffs, which means that you could open the buttonholes on your jacket. Today, online custom makers have copied that feature, and so it’s no longer a way to determine whether you have a quality garment or an inexpensive, factory-made garment from China.

Bespoke Coats in Interesting Fabrics

Bespoke Coats in Interesting Fabrics

Choice of Fabric

An inexpensive or cheap suit will only have a very limited bandwidth. Usually, they’re made in Asia, even if they have big names on that or India. They’re usually thin, flimsy, and just the usual business colors — gray, navy, with some patterns. On the other hand, a bespoke tailor will usually be able to offer any fabric that you could want; they may even have vintage fabrics, a Solaro, a Fresco, really unusual things that make your suits special and ideally suited to the environment you’ll be in.

CONCLUSION

So at the end of the day, you really get what you pay for. A $5000 bespoke suit gives you a great fabric choice, a superior fit, a personal experience on a trained tailor’s eye, on the other hand, $500 custom suit is much cheaper, costs a fraction of the price but you’ll usually have to compromise on fit. It’s often not as comfortable, the fabric choice is limited, and the details are limited as well. So you simply have to decide what works best for you. That being said, I have a mix of everything in my closet, I have some ready to wear items, I’ve some made to measure items and some bespoke items. It’s just important to be aware that a $500 custom suit is not the same as a $5000 bespoke suit.

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Summary
Article Name
500 Dollar Custom Suit Vs. 5,000 Dollar Bespoke Suit
Description
Discover the differences & secrets between a cheap, inexpensive $500 online custom suit and a $5000 bespoke suit.
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Publisher
Gentleman's Gazette
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13 replies
  1. Kamenko Kesar says:

    Dear Raphael,

    This is one of rare moments for me feeling as I should say something. Internet is full of stories and information and it’s easy to be silent and just change the website.
    You are comparing $500 suit with $5.000 one. I know you are right about everything you say. I know it from my own experience with $1.000+ suits.
    However.
    By showing the benefits of having 5k suit you unnecessarily exaggerate. You do hand acrobatics with $500 suit but just “calling a cab” with one hand with $5K suit. Why? You speak about easy movements in $5K suit and you don’t move at all. You are mentioning Asia as a bad place to buy suits from but I have seen Asia businessmen wearing top suits and shoes, all made locally.

    Bottom line, I think you can do better then that.

    Looking forward to read more stories from you.
    Kamenko Kesar

    (I apologise for my English, I am aware it’s not perfect)

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      I lift my arms up as well and the $5,000 suit has not issues when I move my arms to eat. The collar doesn’t gap and our editor chose to mix things up and I am fine with it.
      That being said, I will make something where I compare everything side by side.

  2. Tony Chow says:

    Raphael, thanks for this episode!

    To me, the biggest difference that a $5000 suit makes is the *cut*. This gives you two things: a distinct silhouette, and great comfort and freedom of movement.

    $500 suits tend to all look alike. With bespoke, tailors have a wide range of house styles and you can choose one that best suits your body type–Anderson Shepard for drape cut, Huntsman for a military look, Caraceni for an Italian take on drape, and Neapolitan for soft-shouldered, relaxed look.

    The cut of a high end bespoke garment is also comfortable. This is make possible by the following features:
    – High armholes
    – Ample ease in the chest
    – Very large sleeve heads

    In theory, a company that puts out $500 suits can also design a suit that has high end features, but *they don’t*. Good luck trying to find a $500 drape cut suit; nobody makes them.

    This is because of the clientele that each segment targets. $500 suits are marketed to an unsophisticated audience who are ecstatic to have any custom suit at all. $5000 bespoke tailors, by contrast, deal with a much more demanding, knowledgable set of customers, who hang around well dressed people all the time (or around English Lounge) and know what a good suit looks like and how it should feel.

    Much of this also applies to low-end Asian bespoke in the $1000 to $2000 range. It will fit better, but the silhouette and comfort level will still be no match to what reputable English and Italian tailors offer. These tailors simply don’t know how to cut a Saville Row suit.

  3. Joe says:

    I can’t say what it’s like commissioning a bespoke suit on the Row, but I have a tailor here in Los Angeles, where I live, with a British house style and it is exactly as you say. He is an expert on what works for me, what fabrics I look best in and what to do with my narrow shoulders and big belly to look my best. If I go with his recommendations, I’m always happier than when I insist on picking things myself. But it goes far beyond that. Fit is paramount but fit changes over time. In my relationship with my tailor, I can take anything back for those minor alterations we all need over time. I can also take any wear and tear issues back for repair… so far he has never charged me for these things, though I always offer to pay. So like most anything at the high end, you pay for quality and handwork and many other things but you are also paying for service and convenience that will last many, many years. Compare that to the $500 suit that lasts a few years and you are constantly paying for anything that needs to be fixed or altered, then you donate it and start over. I’ll still be wearing these works of art a long time after a $500 suit is trashed because it will still fit, still be in great shape and, because of its timeless styling, will still be elegant and in good taste.

  4. tootone says:

    Good video! However, not all of us can afford $5,000 Saville Row bespoke suits. Even if I could afford one, they don’t travel well to the international business destinations I travel (Russia, China, Mexico, etc.). I’d only wear it for special local occasions. My business travel suits are well under $1,000.

    With “only” $500 to spend on a suit, I’d go with a reputable OTR suit (Brooks Brothers, etc.) and have it tailored. Looking at the “Custom” Asian tailor results on various men’s fashion websites, I seen some horrid stuff. With about $2,000 to spend, I’d suggest several of the NYC custom/bespoke tailors.

  5. Philip says:

    I find much information from this blog, thanks Sven. I know you did a rating on Hemrajani tailor from Hong Kong. Would they be classified as a bespoke tailor? Or the other tailor, Chang’s from Hong Kong, that you did a write up on. Or, the famous Sam’s of Hong Kong. Very interested to know as I could visit them for fittings, when I’m travelling that part of the world. Thanks for any information from you or other knowledgeable gents on this forum.

  6. Chris says:

    Great comparison … don’t have $5,000 lying around to buy a star suit, but it’s nice to know the difference between better and best.

  7. William G Novak,MD says:

    Raphael,
    Another informative article. I similar to you have a variety of suits. The best fitting,most comfortable and best looking
    are bespoke and were made by a very talented European tailor in Chicago 25-30 years ago for $2000 -$3000 which
    is $5000 or a bit more in constant dollar terms. I wear them all the time when appropriate. All with two pairs of trousers making them last longer and I haven’t expanded in size making them fit as they were when made. Keep up the great articles and thank you very much.

    Best regards,
    William G Novak,MD

  8. Sam says:

    EEEEmmm its really good to know difference of quality of threads we wear. 5,000$ suit !!!!. someday I shall get there…
    Thanks and wish you all the best in your future designs.

    regards
    Sam

  9. Jan van Marwe says:

    Hand made don’t translate to comfort….we have many machine made leather jacket which are comfortable without hand made. The truth is handmade …. translating to comfort is a trade lie. All those who support it are based on so called expert opinion with a vested interest in promoting their products. So far no independent research from reputable institutions like university is there to support that except twisted comparison of a poorly made machine suit and a nice hand tailored suit, however that handmade suit isn’t comfortable than ltalian machine made Zegna suit.

    Discomfort in clothes especially suit is mainly do to poor cuts and inexperienced tailors. Not because they were not given 5000 dollars.
    Poor fitting Chinese suits in the video and pictures is do to lack of tailoring experience even if they are given a million dollar they can’t improve.
    For a good suit isn’t about handmade or being bespoke with high asking price. …but its about (1)where and who made the material …lf its ltaly and may be Zegna you can’t go wrong (2) who did the tailoring and were….if its ltaly and done by big names like Zegna and or any, you will have a nice suit that no any tailor on earth can match even if he is given a billion dollars.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      1. This is not about leather jackets but suit jackets
      2. I have never had a machine made jacket that was more comfortable than a handmade one.
      3. The material alone doesn’t guarantee any comfort at all. The interlining is important and so is the cut.
      We do not sell any jackets, you on the other hand do 😉

    • Burt says:

      Mr. Van Marwe, you’re comparing apples with onions. A leather jacket is not even constructed, it’s intended to be roomy. Originally, a suit jacket made of wool used to be made to the exact measurements of the wearer and always by hand by constructing the foreparts with different layers of cloth: a canvas, horse hair cloth etc. So it’s kind like of an armour that fits you and only you, not your brother, nor your father. The canvas follows your body precisely and it takes hours to get it stitched (if handmade) because the nature of the product is that it has to be precise. An industrial jacket is not made for you but for a bunch of people with different arm lengths, chests etc. AND it is not canvassed to your body size. With a suit jacket or sports jacket a trained tailor’s eye can see immediately if it’s made to your proportions or not, because the collar will come off when you move your hands and it won’t flatter your figure because as much. But obviously, there’s no respect for this tradition nor knowledge about it any longer. Industrialization has made us think that everything can be bought cheaper and cheaper and marketing says that it’s as good. The idea of having clothes made to just 1 person’s proportions is old fashioned, very-very time consuming and it does not meet a lot of understanding in this industrialized world. There’s nothing wrong with a leather jacket nor a machine made suit jacket at all. But if you Mr. Van Marve would know that it takes 60 hours to make a good jacket by hand on Savile Row and almost 100 hours for a suit, well then you can figure out that 5000 USD is not about marketing, on the contrary, margins are very, very low. There’s more marketing involved in your leather jacket. Tailors are not even well paid.
      It’s like comparing a handmade chair with an Ikea chair. You can sit on both, but it’s not the same. If you do not see the esthetics of a hand made chair and are not willing to pay for it, no problem, buy a cheap one. But don’t tell us that a cheap industrial chair is as good as a handmade one.

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