“You can only be brought up with taste” a professional acquaintance of mine opined “despite what people think, you can’t buy it and you can’t learn it quickly. It takes so long.”
His opinion is worth respecting. He is mature of year and very well thought of in luxury circles.
“You see so many people copying something, but they always make a mistake, or they focus on the wrong thing.”
It was these words that stayed with me when thinking about how easy, to some degree, copying something is.
Arguments can be had till the cows come home about the differing quality of tailors, whether off-the-rack is better than cheap made-to-measure and which bespoke tailor produces the finest Milanese buttonholes.
The reality is, for the vast majority of those who aren’t Tumblr-addicted forumites that the co-creative process in menswear has experienced a renaissance. Not since before the turn of the 20th century have we seen such a capability to add our own touches, accents and identity to the pieces we buy.
Personalisation is now all the rage.
Of course, for some, personalisation is, and always has been, the name of the game. Tailors have long traded on it; something made for you, with your preferred cut, in your preferred cloth, with your preferred details. It has always been the great ego-rub, the only solution for a man who has conquered everything else. Chiefs, Kings and Sultans would only ever have something made to their specifications. Tailors are there to do their bidding.
However, personalisation is, ultimately, rather dangerous.
Which Chief, King or Sultan could be accused of being a ‘perfect ruler’?
For personalisation to be ‘perfect’ it assumes perfection in those making the command. Of course, a fawning tailoring brand, desperate for public exposure, would say that the pink stitching on your lapel is daring, inventive and brilliant on social media; secretly they think it’s hideous, and they kind of resent you associating their brand with your appalling taste.
“You can have thinner lapels” says the tailor to the client with square-toed shoes and an earring, but under his breath he is fuming that his far superior sense of design and taste is being ignored. An angry tailor is not a happy sight. And you’d wish to goodness they’d just send the non-conforming clients away with a flea in their ear, but they can only do this when they can do without the business. Otherwise the flattery must continue.
In order to provide clarity on my own views of ‘taste’, I have listed out some fads of personalisation that I have seen but will be avoiding.
Coloured buttonhole stitching
One of the laziest customization options from e-tailors is that of coloured buttonhole stitching.
It’s ‘personalisation’ for the sake of it. It doesn’t work and it looks cheap and, arguably, like the tailor ran out of thread of the correct tone.
How is having yellow buttonhole stitching on a charcoal suit ‘showing your identity and personality’?
One of the fads that came about through fashion’s adoption of 1960s tailoring (think Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme) is the demand for skinny lapels.
This rarely works. You usually have to be skinny and tall. It’s somewhat androgynous, and therefore won’t work with classic menswear, which is structured and masculine.
Double buttonhole on the lapel
This is one of those ‘just to be different’ BS ‘personalisations’ that has no heritage and no purpose. Like coloured buttonhole stitching, it’s distracting and looks like a blind tailor made a mistake.
Piping on the lining
This has long been controversial. The lining of a suit has been sold to those new to tailoring as the one place in which their taste and personality can be really expressed.
The problem is that vast multitudes seem to have absolutely no taste and a personality that suggests an aging portrait in the attic.
Most tailors that offered you the chance to choose your lining colour and piping to match – “Allowing you amazing colour combinations!” – have now retreated and only offer a select number of linings, due to the repeated horrors of aligning vomit yellow with toilet cleaner pink.