When looking for a new suit to add to your wardrobe, it is crucial that you know these eight visual hallmarks of a bad suit, so you don’t ever waste money on them. I want to provide you with a checklist so you can spot a cheap suit especially when you’re at the store.
8 Visual Hallmarks Of A Bad Suit
You’ll need to flip up the collar and look at the seam underneath. In a cheap suit, this seam will always be machine made. So how can you tell it’s a machine made stitch? Usually, it’s like a very regular triangle versus a handmade stitch is irregular. So take a closer look and see if the stitches are the same or if they’re irregular and handmade. Of course, there are variations, so you have to train your eye, but it’s a very easy way to identify a suit that way. If it has a handmade stitch, it’s not a cheap suit. If it’s machine made, it’s likely cheap.
To most people, a buttonhole is just that it’s functional; but to the connoisseur, a buttonhole tells you a lot about the suit. It can even tell you where a suit was made, so the big distinction is handmade buttonhole or machine sewn buttonhole. If it’s a handmade buttonhole, it’s not a cheap suit. You can identify handmade buttonhole by flipping over the buttonhole from the back, and if it’s irregular, it is handmade. If it’s machine made, it is very regular, and it looks about the same as it does in the front. That being said, you can also have a poorly sewn handmade buttonhole which doesn’t make for a nice suit. A frayed buttonhole is usually a sign of a cheap suit, as well as a closed buttonhole. There are also buttonholes where you can see the fabric on the inside. It’s the cheapest way to sew a buttonhole, and you will likely have a cheap suit in your hand when you see that.
3. Fabric Reserve
Why would you need one? If you want to alter your garment; it’s always good to have extra fabric. Otherwise, you cannot make anything bigger. On a cheap suit, the three and a half yards of fabric is probably the most expensive part of the entire suit, and so manufacturers try to cut corners and minimize use of fabric wherever they can. The easiest way to find out if there’s a fabric reserve is to look at the pants. Take the pants inside out and look at all the side seams as well as the cuffs on the inside. If there is half an inch, an inch, or two inches, that’s great, and chances are, it’s not a cheap suit. If there’s very little fabric left and it’s just an overlock stitch that keeps the fabric from fraying, you’ll likely have a cheap suit in your hand. If the suit has cuffs, you can also take a look at that because a proper cuff is long and folded and in theory, you can take out the stitching and elongate your pants. A cheap cuff is cut and then just attached which saves fabric manufacturer, but it prevents you from elongating the pants at all.
First, I look at how the lining is sewn into the sleeve at the end of the sleeve, if it’s sewn in by hand it’s likely a quality suit, if it’s sewn in by machine, it’s different. There are two kinds; on the one end, you can have it sewn in so there is no flexibility and that’s a very cheap suit. On the other hand, you can sew it in by machine with a stitch it is very loose, and it’s a better way, and it’s also what you get with a handmade stitch. Since handwork can be very different and so can machine work, it may be a little harder for you to determine what is machine made and what is not. In general, if you have a high consistency it always tells you it’s machine sewn. Also, if there’s no flexibility, leave it behind it’s going to be a cheap suit.
Most cheap suits have plastic buttons. Sometimes the buttons look painted, and it’s because they are, on the other hand, I have also seen higher-end plastic buttons that are made to look like horn buttons, and it’s much more difficult to determine the difference. Sometimes you can take two buttons together and look for a specific sound, I find that works quite well with mother-of-pearl for example, but that’s rarely used for suits. Horn is usually a little heavier than plastic and has a nicer, smoother feel and a natural shine. Plastic, on the other hand, is bad because it breaks very easily and then you have to sew on new buttons, and it’s always hard to find any exact matching button, and then you have to do it for all of them which costs a lot of money. Another quality option for buttons are corozo buttons; they come from a palm tree, and they have a slightly inconsistent color, and they’re not regular like a machine made button so you can distinguish them. The big advantage for them is that they could be colored in basically any color so if there’s no natural horn button, that’s what quality manufacturers use. Plastic buttons are always for cheap suits.
Another great way to spot a cheap suit is by identifying if it’s a polyester lining or not. Quality suits have linings made out of sometimes viscose which is less expensive. A higher-end option would be silk, sometimes you also see cotton, but very cheap suits have polyester lining or blends with polyester. By law, manufacturers are required to tell you what material the lining is made of, so look for tags inside the suit to tell you what the lining is made of. Polyester linings are not only cheap but they also make you feel hot and they don’t breathe very well which makes for a very uncomfortable suit wearing experience. On top of that, they wear out quickly. So not only are they bad, but they’re really great in helping you to identify if you have a bad suit in front of you.
7. Outer Fabric Material
Most quality suits are made out of a hundred percent wool, the problem is, manufacturers can sometimes add one or two percent of an artificial fiber and still call it a hundred percent. In that case, you have to rely on the brand and look for a brand label. If you look for Vitale Barberis Canonico, maybe Holland and Sherry, Wain Shiell, Loro Piana, you name it Zegna, if you see a tag like that, chances are you have a higher end suit in front of you. Of course, those tags can be faked and especially if you get suits made out of Asia that may be the case, so buyer beware. Quality suit materials can also be made out of wool and cashmere blends. Sometimes, they have silk, sometimes they have linen, seersucker suit is made out of 100% cotton but overall, you want to make sure that the suit doesn’t have any artificial fibers, no nylon, or polyester, or anything else that is not natural. If it’s unnatural on the tag, chances are it’s a very cheap suit. On top of that, artificial materials often have a tendency to make the suit shiny which is very undesirable unless it’s a sophisticated natural fiber such as mohair.
8. Glued Or Fused Interlining?
Quality suits have a sewed interlining which is either hand sewn or machine sewn, and we talk about the details in our $100 versus $1000 and $500 versus $5000 suit videos. When you have the suit in front of you, what you can do is you can take the upper layer of the fabric and pinch it with your finger. Sometimes, a fused garment is also a lot stiffer especially if it’s a cheaper suit so if something doesn’t drape well and feels very plasticky and thick, it’s probably a cheap suit.
If you follow all of these eight steps and you go to a store, I guarantee you, you’ll be able to spot a cheap suit, and you won’t make a mistake and pay for something that is not worth it. Even if you use those eight hallmarks and you end up with a quality suit, it matters that it fits you. Otherwise, it looks bad and it will reflect poorly on you.