The Almanac of What a Man Needs to know: Saville Row

A Gentleman dresses and no other two word sum this up as much as Saville Row.

The Sanctum(s)

IN the world of men’s attire there is two words which represent the center of men’s sartorial universe: Saville Row.

In London, Westminster to be exact, tucked in a small road east of Hyde Park in London, between Old Burlington Street and the hectic Regent Street, is the Mecca of men’s fashion by way of hand-cut and stitched suits and hand-folded ties.

The uniqueness and fame of Saville Row now is a given, but once this street was the recluse of tailor-craftsmen who perfected their craft through the generations and those who followed them here, scissors in hand,  to learn the craft (namely Jewish, Hungarian and German tailors) and the men who flocked to them in order to patronize their art. Namely English Gentleman.

The Space(s)

Saville Row’s reputation for fine-cut and expertly executed men’s clothes soon spread and Saville Row became the globally synonymous with all things male and sartorial. From royalty and dignitaries, to Hollywood glitterati (indeed, from Cary Grant to George Clooney) and tycoons of industry, all came to Saville Row to get their hands on a unique, one-off, hand-made and stitched garment that was made exclusively for them. This cloth, this suit was “spoken for…” or “Bespoken…” and hence the origin of term ‘bespoke’.

What makes Saville Row, Saville Row?

The Craftsmen

In the Row, it’s not about a designer it’s about an experience and a craftsmanship and skill, now almost extinct, that makes a suit, a work of art. The star of the show is the tailor (although he may well tell you it’s the cloth).

“In the Row,” there are several dozen tailors and each august house, usually more than a century old, bears venerable names like ‘Henry Poole’, ‘Gieves and Hawkes’, and ‘Turnbull & Asser’. There is very little actual clothing inside, instead, reams of cloth, from fine wools to Irish tweed line dark-wooden shelves.

The Choices...

Here a gentleman is at home, here he chooses, from cut, to fit, to drape to color and cloth what his new suit will look like and the magic starts:

The Process

  1. Once you and the tailor (or cutter; as he is the person who will “cut” the cloth out of kraft paper cut-outs based on your measurements) decide on the overall look and feel of a suit (soft shoulders, single-breast, two buttons, etc.) he will begin to measure you.

The Details

  1. This is not just a couple of swift and simple measurements; this is everything; from the angle of your back and shoulders to the exact measurements of both arms (as most people have one arm longer than the other).  Other physical particularities of the gentleman-in-question are also noted down; usually in code like DLS “dropped left shoulder”; FS “forward stomach”; SLH “slight hunch” etc. These are all important, for the tailor’s job is to craft a suit around these physical particularities so that he may camouflage them on the gentleman. This suit, regardless of your body, will fit PERFECTLLY because it is made for you, and only you.
  1. After the tailor/cutter takes your measurements, he begins to draw the shape of the various panels which will make-up the suit, usually on brown-paper; this is where the art comes in for he only has hard measurements to guide him when he draws, for example, the arch of the shoulders. This is the architecture of the suit.

The Pattern

  1. All the panels the cutter drew on the paper are cut out; at this point he may pin this paper-prototype together in order to see the overall shape of the suit. Once satisfied, he will begin to trace the shapes with chalk on the chosen fabric. Craftsmanship here is key; for the tailor needs to make sure that whatever patterns are on the fabric, all match exactly at the seams once the suit is put together.

The Drawing

  1. Now comes the cutting itself, always with sheers, always by hand.

The Cut

  1. After the cutting the various panels are hand-stitched to form the trousers, jacket and wais-coast/vest. Now comes the first fitting.

The Craft

  1. A “Bespoke” suit is an exercise in patience; there may be more than four to five fittings, although usually three- this first one, where the suit is dotted throughout with white thread and barely holding together, let’s the tailor know how the shape, size, and style fit you. Here he may make notes for any adjustments needed; at this point, every single thing on the suit can be altered.

The first fitting (courtesy Freeman's Sporting Club - NYC)


  1. Once the first fitting is finished, the tailor takes the suit apart into its various pieces and begins tweaking the details as per the last fitting. Now it’s time to make the first of the final drafts.

The Final Draft

  1. The suit-maker then begins to give the suit, particularly the jacket, it’s strength, the “adding meat onto the bones” moment; our craftsman meticulously hand-stitches horse-hair, cotton or canvas onto the layers of cloth that make up the suit in order to give it it’s shape, drape, and feel. This is one of the main differences between hand-made and mass-produced, as the latter (even expensive designer brands) are usually hot-glued in place. With horsehair in particular, each wear will help it mold it to the shape of your body.

The 'bones' of the suit

10. Measurements and cutting down, now comes the labor-intensive process of marking the button-holes by stitching around the cut. The suit is lined, cuffs cut, measured and fitted and buttons sown-on. Finally the suit is ironed (one of the few if not the only time a suit jacket should be ironed).

The Press

11. Fitting time. You, the customer, tries on the suit; does it feel good? Is it too long? How is the rise? Are the cuffs adequate etc. More adjustments are made and the suit finalized and given one last quick steam.

The finishing touches (ala iPad no less...)

12. Now, after weeks, if not months, your suit (and your’s only) is finally finished and ready to wear!

The Classic

Average price of a bespoke-suit: $2,500-$5,000USD

Superfluous? Hardly- A suit is supposed to be a high-quality, high ticket item. It is better to have one GREAT suit than a dozen cheap or mass-produced one.

TGG VIDEO: Saville Row

The Suit

TGG’S Guide to Saville Row:

  1. Anderson & Shepperd
  2. Huntsman
  3. Henry Poole
  4. Gieves & Hawkes
  5. Kilgour

Some terminology:

  • Bespoke: The suit, shirt or other item (shoes) are made to fit your body and all the measurements from your body are used in its cutting and production.
  • Custom-made or Made-to-measure: An existing pattern or pattern is adjusted and or fitted to better suit you.
  • Off-the-peg: Bought; ready to wear a.k.a. a Brooks Brother’s Suit.

IF you, the modern gentleman, works in a law firm, finance sector or any-other industry where your suits speaks for what you do and what you are trying to sell… then to have a Bespoke suit is a no brainer; in the meantime there are a slew of great  haberdasheries that offer Made-to-measure options at a fraction of a Saville Row suit.

At the end of the day, like shoes, suits and jackets are high-ticket items, and for excellence you need to pay but, trust us, it gets noticed more than you think. You can cut a suit in Vietnam our of a sueded-nylon to look good, flashy and sporty; but you can’t fake ‘drape.’

Drape is the way a fabric, namely here a jacket, falls on your body- only masterful construction, great fabric and careful tailoring produces that.

Average Price of a Great “off-the-peg” suit: $800-$1,500

The RL Suit

TGG’s Guide to: great (off-the-peg) suit makers:

  1. Brook’s Brothers. (also has made-to-measure program)
  2. Ralph Lauren (Black and Purple Label).
  3. Paul Stuart / Phineas Cole.
  4. E. Zegna.
  5. Tom Ford

The Tom Ford

TGG’s Guide to: Saville Row Alternatives for Bespoke Suits:

  1. Freeman’s Sporting Club
  2. Tom Brown
  3. Michael Reslan
  4. Duncan Quinn
  5. Kitton

Happy suiting…

Need to Know: Chemical Doom (and it’s all over you…)

While traveling, literally, through most of the world, especially notoriously impoverished South-East Asia and a year’s sting in India a noticed a few things: no allergies, no asthma, better overall skin, less “stomach” issues (like Krohn’s disease, IBS) and far far less ‘dermatological’ disorders and irritations like you see in the first world, especially the US. I asked myself “why is that?” Sure, genetics are involved and for South East Asia certainly a lean diet of mainly vegetables, albeit there is nothing lean about the food in India—so it was that completely.

Then I read a paper called “The Hygiene Paradox” and all of a sudden I think I understood. You can find a line to it here, but in short, it hypothesizes that as nations became wealthier and “cleaner” by means of mostly chemical-based soaps, we not only killed off the bad germs and bugs living amongst us, but we also wiped out the good ones; those that we had, over the course of millions of years of human history, developed a symbiotic relationship with. In other words, we threw the baby out with the bathwater—literally! Read more about it here.

The Realization

There is a whole lot of chemistry in a bottle of shampoo or a bar of soap than is necessary—and that means that not only does it have a harsher effect on your skin and body, but they also leave many trace elements of chemicals whole interaction with humans spans only a couple of generations. What’s more, is our internal chemistry too is changing and hence our battle, especially in the US (where food itself comes loaded with chemicals, hormones, corn-syrup, stabilizers, artificial colors and flavours) we struggle with a multitude of gastro-intestinal issues unheard of in most of the world, especially the third world.

The Paradox

But before I recommend treating IBS, Khron’s, sclerosis, asthma, or allergies with hookworms (see here) the gentleman can start by taking a good hard look at the ingredient list of almost everything he consumes. Think about it: if half ingredients in your favorite snack or breakfast cereal cannot be found in nature (corn syrup, albeit “natural” is processed via a heavily industrialized method) then do you really want to eat it? Do you really want to put it in your body? If a soap or shampoo has several paragraphs worth of ingredients to which you struggle to pronounce your way to the first quarter of the way down, do you want to spread it all over your body? Probably not is my guess neither do you.

In the next several weeks the TGG staff will be beringin to Gentlemen everywhere the leading tips, products and people helping the Modern Gentleman lead a balanced and natural life; without having to eat flax-seed, do yoga, and hug a tree– just good old fashioned hand-crafted products made the world-over that are made by age-old methods and traditions (not that there’s anything wrong with flax-seed, yoga and tree hugging of course).

TGG Presents in the Almanac of What the Modern Man Needs to Know: Balanced and Bespoke. Tune in and sound off.- stay tuned.