how to spot a cheap suit

How To Spot A Cheap Suit

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

regular stitches mean machine made

regular stitches mean machine made

1. Collar

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.

fraying buttonholes is usually a sign of an inferior quality suit

fraying buttonholes is usually a sign of an inferior quality suit

2. Buttonholes

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.

fabric reserve

fabric reserve

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.

4. Stitching

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.

cheap plastic buttons

cheap plastic buttons

5. Buttons

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.

polyester lining

polyester lining

6. Lining

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.

cheap interlining

cheap interlining

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.

How To Spot A Cheap Suit
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How To Spot A Cheap Suit
Check out these 8 visual hallmarks of a bad suit so you never end up buying a suit that you don't deserve.
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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24 replies
  1. William Lansbury says:

    I would like to point out that colour is spelt with a u. Using the word crappy and the phrase ” a piece of crap”
    isn’t acceptable and grammatically lazy. The irony here is that you are writing about the difference between
    cheap and expensive suits but your “English” is from the bargain basement.
    Will Lansbury

    • Erik says:


      While I spell it “colour” it’s proper spelling it without the “u” in American English. Also, sometimes “crappy” is the most correct word to describe, e.g. “your post is crappy.”

      • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

        We have a grammar tool that our transcriber usually uses, and he forgot it in this instance. Yes, I agree, ideally we want perfect English 100% of the time in everything we produce. It is just very difficult and prohibitively expensive to get there but we will try nevertheless.

  2. William Lansbury says:

    Dear Sir,
    I would like to point out that colour is spelt with a u. Using the word crappy and the phrase ” a piece of crap”
    isn’t acceptable and grammatically lazy. The irony here is that you are writing about the difference between
    cheap and expensive suits but your “English” is from the bargain basement.
    Will Lansbury

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Dear William, this is not an article but a transcript of a video. Unlike you, I am not a native speaker and so my level of English will never be on par with your’s. We have tried many proof readers in the past, people who do this professionally, agencies etc. and even then there were still mistakes…

  3. Gary E H Dawson says:

    I agree with Mr Lansbury. And would expand the topic to say many articles, while interesting, are gramatically incorrect and poorly constructed. A proof reader could assist.

  4. Dan Hermann says:

    Your button description is complete gibberish. Needs rewriting. Otherwise, some good stuff. And as far as color vs. colour, they can speak their dialect, we’ll speak ours.

    • Simon says:

      Dan wrote: “Your button description is complete gibberish.”.

      That’s a bit of an exaggeration. The article has a few weird English grammar problems but it very understandable. I suspect the writer’s first language is not English.

  5. MG says:

    Very confusing article and not very well written.

    “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 the mistake and pay for something that is not worth it.”

    From the double negative to the run-on sentence to ending in”it,” I could conduct a entire class based on your poor grammar.

  6. Glenn Taylor says:

    One of the most important omissions is understanding how to recognize correct pressing of the jacket lapels and collar. Flat pressed lapels and collar-inexpensive. Rounded, expressive lapels and collar indicate quality under-pressing done by hand. Quality pressing gives the jacket a three dimensional effect, while flat pressing makes it look manufactured.

  7. William Lansbury says:

    My dear colonial friends,
    If any of my comments have offended I would like to offer my most sincere apologies. The paragraph I wrote
    was not meant to be taken seriously and was entirely “tongue in cheek”. I quite enjoyed the article on cheap
    I’ve had a quick look at the article on buying art and must congratulate you on attempting to tackle such a
    complex subject.
    With kind and slightly apologetic wishes

  8. Tootone says:

    Great article!

    If it’s off the rack in a department store = cheap suit. If it’s bespoke in NYC, London or Napoili = expensive suit.

    The suit you are wearing in the video (about an inch too short for me, but to each his own) is a very nice VBC fabric. I would have gone with ox blood/ burgundy shoes — yours are a bit too light for the suit.

    Keep up the good work!

  9. William Flatt says:

    This was a decent article, and it is information such as this that is informing my choices as I expand my wardrobe. Sadly, I cannot afford the high-end suits so I must settle for middle-of-the-road suits that are not cheaply made, but lack some of the hallmarks of finely crafted couture. At least they were custom tailored.

  10. Edmond says:

    I find the videos to be technically lacking in creativity and seems like a cheap and non-advanced compilation.
    I do enjoy the material and i’m a regular reader but having familiarity on video editing myself, i cannot stand the “cheesiness” and laziness of the editor. He/she doesn’t even try to blend the audio cuts.
    Another thing i dislike is the irony that, while you’re speaking of standards and quality or symmetry (eg. in the video about ties) your tie looks actually irregular and loosly tied. Maybe it’s just my perfectionism mania.
    But as always very informative and interesting material !

  11. Andy says:

    What should you look out for when you are looking in the $500 range for a suit. I’m sure you won’t receive high end, but what can you typically expect? I believe this will be helpful, as many of us fall within this range when starting out. Thank you

  12. Tim Cogswell says:

    Well, I probably should not comment as I type poorly and I are a bad spellar. A tailor I use sometimes speaks in broken English (not sure if is the Queen’s, American or inner-city slang); but he does top quality work and articles as these help me to understand his craft and the ‘how and why’ he does certain related stuff. There are other sites that cover grammer, but in my area we are pretty limited on bona fide tailors. However, we are up to our… um, button holes with grammer experts.

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