Greetings, Borderstanis. Hope you’ve recovered from your Thanksgiving/Black Friday binges. Full disclosure time: I broke five out of six of my own rules. I’ll let you guess which ones.
Anyways, back to this week’s topic. Buying a suit is easily one of the most stressful sartorial decisions a gentleman can make. You’re ready to shell out (at least) hundreds of dollars of your hard earned cash, and often you’re left to your own devices with unhelpful sales people, badly organized department stores, pushy customers and suits that don’t quite fit your body. Don’t get me wrong; there are times when I look forward to, and expect, shopping to be a full contact sport. But not when I’m making this sort of investment. And, while buying in bulk is okay for items like toilet paper from Costco, please never, ever do the three-suits-for-the-price-of-two-deals.
So, what’s a guy to do?
Custom-made Suits, Shirts
Well, fellas, we’re in luck. Savile Row has come to our neighborhood. Okay, I exaggerate a bit… but not by much. Alton Lane, a modern Bespoke suit and shirt maker, recently opened their doors in Dupont, right above the Starbucks on the Circle at 1506 19th Street NW (their only other location is in Manhattan). I know I may be rushing into things… I mean I’ve only been in there the one time, but I think, maybe, just maybe, I’m in love. Seriously, the layout and the aesthetic of the showroom is warm and inviting (thank you, Morgan Bradley Interior Design and Decoration) while the suit and shirt samples clearly give off a luxurious and expensive vibe. Yet, for the quality you’re getting, the cost is quite reasonable.
Bespoke, you say? “The term bespoke in fashion is reserved for individually patterned and crafted men’s clothing, analogous to women’s haute couture, in contrast with mass manufactured ready-to-wear (also called off-the-peg or off-the-rack). While widespread in the United Kingdom, the term is rarely employed in the United States, although it may be used by some in the high-end tailoring business. Bespoke clothing is traditionally cut from a pattern drafted from scratch for the customer…” (Wikipedia)
I had the pleasure of chatting with Alton Lane’s co-founder and VP of Customer Experience, Peyton Jenkins, who gave me a little bit of a background on why he and co-founder, Colin Hunter, got into this game. Starting with their first showroom in NYC, they wanted to create an experience that would offer high quality, personalized menswear at about half the price of off-the-rack clothing from comparable designers, e.g., Ralph Lauren, Zegna, Boss, etc.
Suits start at about $525, blazers at $425, trousers at $125 and shirts at $89. Of course, these are all baseline prices and can go up, depending on your specifications. They even make tuxedos, topcoats and overcoats.
So how does this all work? Well, the good people at Alton Lane strongly suggest you make an appointment. As you can see, they’re open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 9 pm. Once you book a date, they’ll send you a confirmation with tips on what to wear, e.g., a collared shirt, maybe your favorite blazer or suit jacket to get a sense of your style.
What to Expect at Your Appointment
At your appointment, you’ll get to experience their modern Bespoke approach, which has three major components:
- Traditional Hand Measurements. This includes about a dozen measurements including neck size, chest size, inseam, neck etc. For someone like me, who’s a 14.5″ neck, 38″ chest and a 35″ arm, made to measure is not only preferred, it’s downright necessary.
- The 3-D Body Scanner. Here’s where it gets all kinds of sci-fi. Basically, you step into a body scanner like you would at National Airport, except no radiation or handsy TSA agent. The scanner gives the tailors an idea of your posture, the ways your shoulders rest, the curve of your back, any asymmetries etc. Basically, your body type since, like snowflakes, no two body types are identical.
- The Details. Or, as I like to call it, the really fun part. After all the measurements are taken, you get choose the fit, fabric, buttons, lapels etc. And you get to do all of this while enjoying a glass of scotch or wine. It’s so civilized! (FYI, there’s the Capulet fit that’s more traditional and American, there’s the Montague fit that’s more fitted and European and the in-between that’s… well… self-explanatory.)
About six weeks after you’ve done the measurements and had glass of scotch or three, you’ll get your brand new suit shipped directly to you (it’s about four weeks for a shirt, BTW). Keeping with the theme of modern Bespoke, you get to do a virtual fitting with one of their fit specialists in NYC. If you don’t have a webcam on your computer, relax. They’ll mail you one with your suit or shirt. If you have any adjustments that need to be made, they’ve partnered with a few local tailors to help you with that perfect fit.
So, what’re you waiting for? Go make an appointment!
Did I mention they make tuxedos, too?