The beauty of the internet for enthusiasts of classic menswear is that it lets us discover ateliers and artisans around the globe who produce the finest sartorial items. But which sartorial destinations are worth visiting in person?
The benefits of online shopping are many, but they’re not absolute. We may find a link to something that delights, but we may also learn that a particular shop doesn’t ship worldwide, or that the cost is prohibitive with higher overall prices due to import duties. Moreover, when it comes to assessing the quality, color, and texture of fabrics, nothing beats seeing things (and trying them on) in person. And, if we’re true connoisseurs, we even like to see firsthand how specific items of menswear are made. This is where sartorial travel comes in.
Sartorial travel involves taking a vacation to destinations with production facilities or shops for classic menswear. This doesn’t usually include department stores or corporate brands that can be found in most major cities throughout the world, like Isaia or Canali, though you could certainly mix them into a sartorial journey. Rather, true sartorial travel involves visiting small specialty stores–run by tailors, cordwainers, leather workers, and other artisans–that are unique to the place. The worldly gentleman is well-served by paying a visit to ateliers who do high-quality artisanal work, and who therefore deserve our interest and patronage.
Sartorial travel can involve side visits as part of a more general holiday or, especially for the destinations on our list, can be the purpose of an entire trip, whether solo or with an indulgent partner and family members. The sartorial destinations below represent a ranking of our favorite destinations, some of which our contributors have visited. The criteria used are largely objective, in that the list is based chiefly on places having a high concentration of menswear offerings, reputation, and other available activities. In general, this means that the article will mostly discuss major cities. One can certainly take sartorial trips to shirtmaker G. Inglese in Ginosa, Italy, or visit shoe factories in Northampton, England, but these places are off the beaten path. The list is also admittedly subjective in terms of the individual style preferences of its author, Dr. Christopher Lee (who is, for example, not a cigar or wristwatch aficionado), so the reader’s hypothetical list may differ in some respects. Indeed, the organization by ranking could even be omitted, but there’s something undeniably satisfying about a “top ten” countdown. Take it as a set of recommendations or as a starter guide. With that, let’s get into our…
Top 10 Sartorial Travel Destinations
When one considers the principal tailoring firms of Japan, two names come to mind: Ring Jacket in ready-to-wear and “Ciccio” (the nickname for Noriyuki Ueki) for bespoke. Ciccio is one of a number of Japanese tailors and shoemakers trained in Italy. The beauty of Ciccio’s suits, and of Japanese tailoring in general, is in how it skillfully hybridizes Italian style with Japanese attention to detail. Ciccio’s work is neither too rigid nor too over-the-top. Ciccio doesn’t usually conduct trunk shows (which is to say, traveling “direct-presentation” sales events) outside Asia, so the potential customer must usually travel to them.
Meanwhile, in the world of ready-to-wear, Ring Jacket produces a wide variety of garments, and offers them in various other locations in addition to Tokyo. For example, having tried and been very satisfied by the quality and fit of Ring Jacket shirts and trousers purchased in the US, I have been looking forward to trying their sports coats and suits, which sell for more than $1500. In Japan, however, they are less expensive and available in a larger selection of fabrics. Yes, you can buy from Ring Jacket on the Japanese online sales site Rakuten, but you may not be secure in the choice of size, as Japanese tailoring is often undersized for Western (and particularly American) physiques. Do you size up? Does the brand suit your body at all? Travel to Tokyo at least once to find out. Bring back a bunch of garments purchased for less than you would spend at home.
For reasons like these, Tokyo is a great example of why you should engage in sartorial travel if you are in love with a particular brand. The Japanese do denim and chambray particularly well, and are also masters of American Ivy style. As you tour the capital, keep your eyes peeled for what’s available–and swing by the famous department store Beams F, too, which carries a range of interesting tailoring. Bear in mind that you will experience the culture as a whole–its sights, its foods, its people–so you aren’t just flying halfway around the world for a jacket.
At the time of this article’s first publishing, Singapore is in the public eye because of the 2018 film, Crazy Rich Asians. It has also been making noise for the growth of the menswear sector in the city. Kevin Seah Bespoke may be the most celebrated, as well as the largest, menswear destination in the city, and his grand space is something to behold whether you are interested in made-to-measure and bespoke suits (3000-5000 SGD or approximately $2200 to $3700 US) or in other accessories. The menswear press has widely lauded Seah’s selection of cloth and the quality of its tailoring.
At a more accessible price range is Q Menswear (whose bespoke suits start at $870), worn by Singaporean celebrities and #menswear personalities male and female. Shirts and trousers are quite affordable custom-made, both ranging from $170 to over $200, though their website lacks global shipping as of this writing. Also of interest are various complete wardrobe packages. If you fancy visiting an atelier where you can observe ties, pocket squares, scarves, and hatbands being made before your eyes, Vanda Fine Clothing is worth a visit. Partners Diana Chen and Gerald Shen meticulously cut and assemble individual ties and other accessories in a truly artisanal way.
Singapore’s shoe game is also particularly strong. You can find cordwainers from Alden to Edward Green represented, and Spanish shoemaker Carmina has a branch there. Lastly, for the full haberdashery experience, check out Last & Lapel, a recent (2016) addition to the Singaporean menswear landscape, featuring brands like Bresciani, G. Inglese, and Ring Jacket. All of the stores mentioned are young, having been established only within the last ten years, which testifies to the vibrant growth of the menswear industry in the city. Singapore could rise higher on this list as the sector becomes more established.
8. Hong Kong
Hong Kong has long been a destination for those looking to get a bespoke suit quickly and affordably, and the city still has this reputation. For decades, businessmen, celebrities, politicians and royals have been coming to the likes of Sam’s Tailor in the Kowloon district for a suit made to fit in a few days or even 24 hours. However, in many cases, the maxim “you get what you pay for” will usually prove true. Phrased another way, anyone who can churn out a custom suit for you in a few days is not likely to create a garment of the absolute highest quality. At best, you’ll get a standard suit, similar to what you’d find in an American department store, yet slightly more expensive ($500+), perhaps with a better fit, but with nothing interesting or exciting about it. With that said, Sam’s does have numerous good reviews and a celebrity clientele–not that the famous are good judges of what being well-dressed means. Success with a firm of this nature is likely only if you go above $1000 for your suit choice, which offsets the bargain you’re seeking. A better option may be the long-established W.W. Chan, where you can get a bespoke suit in 9 days for around $1500. Keep in mind that anyone offering a custom suit in a week will never provide the quality of an Italian or British tailoring house (which will, by contrast, take months).
No matter what, cheap suits with quick turnaround shouldn’t be your reason to take a sartorial trip to Hong Kong. Instead, check out the original Armoury locations in the Pedder Building and Landmark Central, across the street from each other. In addition to displaying a full range of products, you will also find trunk shows with brands from around the world, including some that do not travel outside Asia (see “Tokyo” above). Other target destinations are Ascot Chang, for custom shirting, and Prologue, a recently established tailor with an interesting house style that combines soft, unpadded shoulders, a low gorge, and open quarters. Like The Armoury, Prologue is a multi-brand shop, also selling Yanko shoes and shirts from Sartoria Formosa among others.
As with contemporary design and furnishings, the Swedes have also made their mark on classic men’s style. For proof, just take a look at Andreas Weinas. Three must-visit destinations are Rose & Born, Lund & Lund, and Gabucci. The first is popular on social media and embodies a Nordic use of earth tones like greens, browns, and beiges in their full range of menswear. Gabucci and Lund & Lund are generally more high-end and feature an Italian emphasis, selling Loro Piana, Cesare Attolini, Salvatore Ambrosi, and Orazio Luciano.
An intriguing company based in Stockholm is Blugiallo, named for the colors of the Swedish flag: blue and yellow. The company offers a tailored wardrobe made to measure, but before you can do your ordering online, you first need to make a physical appointment for measurements and a consultation, which is only possible if you’re in town. Those who relish fine footwear will want to stop into Skoaktiebolaget, a premium shoemaker which also carries high-end brands like John Lobb and made-to-order offerings from St. Crispin’s, along with other accessories. A fun event that takes place in the city each September is the Super Trunk show, facilitated by the Shoegazing blog; it includes major international shoe brands (Gaziano & Girling, Yanko, and Vass among others), and features a shoe-shining championship competition.
Milan is known internationally as a fashion center, as well as for its Fashion Weeks. However, in terms of Italian cities, it often gets short shrift in guidebooks. Personally, Milan is my favorite city in Italy in terms of its feeling of immersion in everyday life. Specifically regarding menswear, there are budget brands like Gutteridge and Lanificio Angelico, whose products are priced around the same level as American chain stores, but with distinctive Italian style and a history that goes back to the 19th century. A walk down Via Dante from the San Babila metro to the Duomo, with stops into each of these shops, makes for a lovely day. Though likewise not unique to Milan, stores like Boggi Milano, Sartoria Rossi, and even SuitSupply are easy to access when you’re in town; you can try on items and purchase them at a much lower cost than if you had to ship outside the EU. Among unique brands, these are headlined by the representatives of the Caraceni tailoring dynasty, and one can dedicate an entire walking tour to places with connections to the family. Though the familial ties are quite complex to unravel, in Milan you can find the sartorias of A. Caraceni and Ferdinando Caraceni, with the closest ties to the original founding family, and D. Caraceni, which is now a brand name and owned by the Campagna tailoring family in Milan.
Yet another tailor with Caraceni connections is Musella-Dembech, whose patriarch, Francesco Musella, was a cutter for Augusto Caraceni. Musella-Dembech has garnered considerable online praise from Simon Crompton and others for its synthesis of Northern and Southern Italian suit styles. Bespoke suits at the Caraceni showrooms run around $6000, while those at Musella-Dembech start just over $5000. For those daring individuals who like to stand out, an appointment with Sciamat may be in the cards. Valentino and Nicola Ricci’s tailoring features strong lapels and an even more distinctive shoulder.
For a different (and more affordable) sort of bespoke, you can make an appointment to meet with Gianni Cerutti of Passagio Cravatte, a small operation that fashions four- and seven-fold ties out of vintage fabrics. Cerutti’s girlfriend Marta Passaggio sews the ties while he meets clients individually at the Four Seasons hotel. For something unique, stop by the workshop of Francesco Maglia, one of the two most famous umbrella makers in Italy, whose family has been making gorgeous umbrellas since 1854.
Lino Ieluzzi is renowned for his influence in the early days of #menswear and his appearances at Pitti Uomo, and his boutique, Al Bazar, is worth a stop if only for its iconic status. Ieluzzi’s style, like his neckties embroidered with the number 7, is bolder, more Southern Italian, and more fashion-forward than other Milanese offerings. Finally, for ready-to-wear with a strong online following, check out the Lardini flagship store on Via Gesù for a full range of menswear, from sports coats to sweaters and overcoats. If you are so inclined, conclude your visit with an easy trip to Lake Como for some relaxation and perhaps an arranged visit with a silk factory.
5. New York
In the US, no other city will offer the wealth of culture, entertainment, and culinary experiences that New York boasts, so a visit is always worthwhile. If a European menswear brand has one location in the United States, said location will most likely be in NYC, and the same generally trunk shows, as well. Florentine shirtmaker Simone Abbarchi can meet you once or twice a year at a hotel in the city to measure you and pick out fabrics. Japanese bespoke eyeglass makers Nackymade hold shows at The Armoury. Drake’s of London, Turnbull & Asser and Stefano Bemer have their only American outposts in New York. Therefore, if you’re in the States, you can time your visits to New York to coincide with trunk shows or visit well-known menswear boutiques anytime, for much less than a flight overseas. Of course, all the major corporate brands are also represented.
Mass-market internet start-ups that broke onto the scene with the 2010s resurgence of interest in menswear, such as Indochino, Knot Standard, and Black Lapel, all have their brick-and-mortar storefronts in the city, as does Acustom Apparel, which pioneered 3D body scanning as a means of custom sizing. These exist alongside numerous storefronts offering inexpensive made-to-measure or bespoke options of varying quality–so many, in fact, that a Google search for “custom tailors NYC” will turn up new results for pages and pages. These include a number of recognizable names from Instagram stalwart Angel Bespoke to Brooklyn’s old-school tailor Martin Greenfield, who has dressed six US Presidents. Two stand-outs among newer establishments are J. Mueser and Manolo Costa, the latter located in a beautiful space dominated by a massive antique fireplace.
Quality varies, of course. As with Hong Kong, you may end up with a workmanlike garment, something inexpensive and passable to wear to the office; in other cases, you may take home an article of clothing that will delight you. For items that will give you a lifetime of use or a beautiful fit using high-quality cloth, do your preliminary research online, then get out to the city itself and visit places to judge quality firsthand. Several places that deserve visits are Proper Cloth, Kent Wang, and Articles of Style. Proper Cloth’s custom shirts are well made with a good fit. Visit their upstairs showroom in Soho to verify sizing and have a firsthand look at their fabric choices. Do the same at the Articles of Style’s only physical storefront; Dan Trepanier’s company produces meticulously fitted tailoring, made in America. Kent Wang is known online for fairly priced quality items and individualized customer service. Their only US location (by appointment) is in Manhattan, where you can put on a trial suit and shoes. Speaking of shoes, Leffot is the place to be for Alden, Edward Green and other high-end brands. Wrap up your trip with a visit to the iconic Barneys.
World-renowned for its combination of cultural events, museums, and food, Paris (like Milan) is undoubtedly thought of as a fashion city. While its primary focus will likely always be womenswear, there is still much to be found in the area of traditional men’s style. The big name in town is probably Cifonelli, known worldwide for the elegant sweep of its suit jacket shoulder, culminating in a “roped” sleevehead. There are two separate boutiques in Paris–one for bespoke and the other for ready-to-wear. The latter seems to lean toward haute couture, but the traditional bespoke offerings (running at approximately €6000 for a suit) are nothing to scoff at. Other bespoke tailors to check out are Camps de Luca, a French, Italian and Spanish amalgamation ($7500 for a suit); Francesco Smalto; and Jean-Manuel Moreau, whose boutique brings Neapolitan style to Paris through relationships with Orazio Luciano and Dalcuore for made-to-measure and bespoke projects.
Just as extravagant as Cifonelli is the renowned Charvet, whose shirts run over $500 apiece and who are exclusive enough not to have a true website. Their multi-story location on Place Vendôme is something to behold, and the attention they pay to each individual client is legendary. A visit at the very least is an essential life experience for anyone who appreciates shirt fabrics. Continuing the luxury trend in an often overlooked area of menswear is Heurtault umbrellas, each handmade by Michel Heurtault, out of silk for the canopy, vintage steel from 1900-1970 for the ribs, a single piece of wood for the handle, and a horn tip. These umbrellas are true works of art, meant to last a lifetime at around €500 and up. More budget-inclined gents may seek out Pep’s Umbrellas, located on the beautiful and historic Passage de l’Ancre in Paris.
It may seem strange to find fine umbrella makers (perhaps more associated with the UK) in Paris, but a number of British brands–Loake, Crockett & Jones, and Edward Green among them–have outposts in Paris as well. Thus, you can have crepes and a visit to the Louvre with your British goods, all without crossing the Channel. In terms of French shoe brands, LodinG, located on the stylish Boulevard Saint-Germain, is worth checking out. The brand is affordable ($300 for all shoes) and positively reviewed. The shop also sells sweaters, knitwear, and accessories. Speaking of accessories: for quick and portable souvenirs, bring back a pocket square from Simonnot Godard, a family business that has been making handkerchiefs since 1787, before the French Revolution. You can find them at any of the tailors mentioned above, and at a number of other boutiques listed on the Simonnot Godard website. Lastly, we’ll also include a newcomer to the Parisian menswear scene, Pini Parma. Prices and quality are mid-range, but appealing overall. I have a denim shirt from them that is incredibly versatile, as well as a pair of blue calfskin tassel loafers with a unique hand-painted patina; their Soragna capsule collection of pleated trousers is interesting as well.
For the sheer density of menswear shops packed into a small city (in other words, the most bang for your buck), Florence takes the cake. As far as bespoke tailoring goes, Liverano & Liverano is the dominant presence. Indeed, the Florentine cut of suit–full chest, slightly extended shoulder, clean lines–is embodied by Liverano’s house style, around $7000 bespoke. For more affordable fare, there’s Sartoria Vanni (made-to-measure) and Shibumi-Firenze, who send out their bespoke projects to a tailor in Naples (€2800 for a suit). Shibumi is also known online for its accessories, and you can find other small shops selling ties, pocket squares, and scarves as you wend your way up and down side streets. Note that in general, quality will be standard for business wear, with the exception of Tie Your Tie, a Florentine mainstay that was acquired by a Japanese company and now reflects the elevated aesthetic of Kenji Kaga.
Florence is also famed for its leather goods; not just jackets and handbags, but small goods like wallets and card holders for the gentleman. Try the Scuola di Cuoio (“Leather School”), or cross to the quieter south side of the Arno (“Oltrarno”) to find various leather stores. Considering its history with leather, it isn’t surprising that Florence is also home to a number of cordwainers (shoemakers), among them Stefano Bemer, Roberto Ugolini, Il Micio, and Mannina. Some offer high-end, ready-to-wear goods(in excess of $1000), while others offer the opportunity to try bespoke shoes for the first time (€1500 and up). All except for the more experimental Il Micio ply their trade in the Oltrarno.
Sometimes overlooked is the fact that Florence actually has an iconic department store of classic menswear since 1894–Eredi Chiarini–with a large range of European brands on offer. If you prefer a small boutique environment with a diversity of offerings, check out Bernardo (selling Cucinelli and primarily Italian brands) or Frasi, run by Simone Righi, who is a well-known figure in the #menswear world. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re looking for a single article of clothing done well, you can visit Simone Abbarchi, who makes made-to-measure and bespoke shirts at quite a reasonable price (less than €200). Of course, Florence is also where Pitti Uomo takes place twice a year, giving you two chances to bask in its delightful eccentricity or even get onto the actual convention floor, where you can preview what’s slated for the coming year. January provides a great chance to get away from colder climes to a milder Italian winter, whereas the June show gives you the typical experience of summer in Italy. Gelato, anyone?
Florence and Naples could easily exchange places on this list, but Naples gets the slight edge; this is due to its tremendous influence in shaping not only Italian tailoring, but also global style, as the place where “la bella figura” originated. Some travelers avoid Naples, giving the city a wide berth on their way to the Amalfi Coast, because it is perceived as being somehow dirty or dangerous, but those who have traveled there before understand that this stereotype is false. The personality of the city and its people, as well as its numerous menswear offerings, merit an extended visit. Just avoid driving!
Tailors, and very good ones at that, are present in a very high concentration. Some of the most famous names are Mariano Rubinacci (most widely known for the flamboyant style of son Luca) and Orazio Luciano, both of whom run the gamut from ready-to-wear to bespoke, and Dalcuore. Other names of note are Ciardi, Edesim, Sartoria Formosa, Peluso, Panico, Sartoria Napoletana, and Solito. On a past visit to the city, Sven Raphael Schneider profiled the young tailor Enzo Canfora. Thankfully, a new generation of tailors like Enzo, Luca, and Salvatore of Grassia is poised to continue the established sartorial traditions. Before visiting Naples to commission or purchase clothes, do your research online in terms of what you want, what you can afford, and which house style(s) you prefer. When you have your feet on the ground, be on the lookout for other sartorie that you haven’t seen online. Often, a less-established operation or a young tailor will charge less, but will still do a fantastic job in creating a garment for you; the result may not be perfect, but it can beat store-bought ready-to-wear by a mile in terms of style and fit. If you’re on a budget or relish the possibility of discovering a steal, try a local flea market.
Many Neapolitan tailors have, understandably, formed relationships with other stores to sell their wares. The Neapolitan style has grown in popularity for its reputation of being comfortable, with minimal padding and a relaxed style that is refined but doesn’t look like you’re going to work. The internet has also promoted a sense of panache or sprezzatura in tailoring, and Neapolitan style has that in spades with metal waist adjusters on pleated pants and spalla camicia shoulders on suits. The market has helped Neapolitan tailors to thrive; for example, Sartoria Formosa markets its sports coats through No Man Walks Alone in New York, while trouser makers Lino Pommella and Salvatore Ambrosi have separate relationships with The Armoury in Hong Kong and the US. Of course, you can still visit these artisans directly, all in one place, when in Naples–and then sit outdoors with a pizza fritta and a drink afterward. Much of the joy of sartorial travel is the in-person experience; in Naples, you can visit the tiny space of E. Marinella to peruse their ties, buzz into the private courtyard of E.G. Capelli, or witness the handiwork of Mario Talarico’s umbrellas (since 1860). Individual encounters like these make unforgettable memories, in addition to giving you a tangible item to bring home, and so provide the best of both worlds–definitely better than clicking around on a website.
It’s probably no surprise that London is at the top of this list. If the most influential spot in Italian tailoring is in the second position, the seat of British tailoring must be represented, and it’s at number one. The sheer size of London guarantees a large number of shopping destinations for fans of classic style. The shops on Jermyn Street can occupy you for at least a day (or several days if you take a leisurely pace and go store-to-store), from shirts at Turnbull & Asser or Emma Wills to dressing gowns at New & Lingwood. Frankly, there’s no similar concentration of menswear in the world. Close to Jermyn Street are the Piccadilly Arcade (Budd Shirtmakers, Jean Rousseau luxury watch straps, and others), as well as the lesser Princes Arcade (Barker Shoes, Segun Adelaja), part of the wider St. James menswear district. On the adjoining Piccadilly Street, you can plan for your rural shooting or walking excursion with clothes from Cordings. Complete your ensemble with a Panama hat, fedora or trilby at Lock & Co. Hatters, who outfitted Beau Brummell and first produced the derby hat. Lock is the oldest hat shop in the world, operating since 1676!
A mere five minute walk out to Mayfair, you can check out Drake’s of London or, further afield, their factory outlet. Of course, adjoining Drake’s main shop lies Savile Row, which, though not necessarily as vibrant as it once was, still boasts an impressive slate of long-established tailors such as Anderson & Sheppard, Henry Poole and Huntsman, bespoke shoemaker Gaziano & Girling, and more affordable options in Gieves & Hawkes and Chester Barrie. Should you desire a suit in the classic British style, the Row is your go-to spot.
But just as London is not compressed into Mayfair and St. James, so too can you find disparate menswear gems spread throughout the metropolis. As one might expect in London, you can find some of the finest umbrella makers in the world. Two are James Smith & Sons, who have a beautiful shop, and Fox Umbrellas, the latter of which is not exactly central, though worth a detour. Fox makes a special travel umbrella with a handle and tip that unscrew (to make packing the umbrella into your luggage easier). For a boutique with a full range of menswear available, go north of the core to Trunk Clothiers in Marylebone. Finally, if you like the look of Belgian loafers or slippers, relative newcomers Baudoin & Lange have generated a great deal of praise for their comfortable and elegant designs. They have a workshop, which you can visit for sizing and to see available models in person. Of course, if you are on a budget, “high street” shops (Thomas Pink, Hackett, and others) are abundant, and you can also find SuitSupply and Boggi (three locations of the former and two of the latter). Truly, in terms of the sheer number of high-quality menswear shops, no destination rivals London.
Hopefully, this guide to the top travel destinations for classic menswear enthusiasts has whetted your appetite to visit the locations in person. When the discerning gentleman travels, he looks forward to patronizing shops new and old, to learn about their products and perhaps bring home something to remember the experience. Certainly, this list is limited in terms of what can be covered in the space of a single article, so some places have been omitted–and are therefore all the better for you to discover on your own. So, what are your favorite places for sartorial travel, (in terms of cities or individual stores)? Share with us in the Comments below. Now, don’t forget your passport before you jet off for some new acquisitions!