I’ve grown accustomed to the few taunts and sneers of passers-by who mock my insatiable appetite for beautiful craftsmanship and tailor-made clothes. I would like to entertain my readers with some thoughts on the paradoxical nature of this passion of mine.
Those who fell into it at one point or the other will know what I am talking about.
Naysayers might whisper behind my well dressed back that my passion conceals nothing but a mere narcissistic and superficial impetus (doesn’t the very idea of “inner beauty” suggest that an interest in one’s own looks is the fare of superficial egocentrics?), or even a need to dress to impress. If I may try to prove them wrong, I would say that bespoke, at the contrary, belongs to a realm of discretion, humility and modesty.
I am well aware that the average price of investing in a bespoke suit might make such a dichotomy appear grotesque to some. But it is the truth. Here is how it goes.
First and foremost, I have NEVER, in any of the bespoke ateliers that I have visited in Paris, Naples, London or Rome, encountered anyone superficial or flashy. Of course, such people exist, but they much rather invest in high-end ready-to-wear labels. They choose very expensive items – sometimes even more so than a bespoke suit – that bears blatantly visible details, easily recognizable thanks to the brilliant and persistent marketing efforts such as those undertaken to brand Hermes’ H or the Vuitton logo. Both are overly and purposely exposed by those aiming at presenting themselves as supposed members of a so-called financial elite. Which is both pathetic and vulgar.
A bespoke salon is the complete opposite. It is understated, filled with a sense of discretion and reservation. True politeness and courtesy are de rigueur, while patience is elevated to an art de vivre. Indeed: it takes patience to wait for the tailor while he fits another gentleman. It also takes patience to wait for weeks between fittings to finally take possession of your suit, several months later.
Bespoke is a particularly paradoxical world in which the investment and self-projection ratio are inversely proportional. There are no visible labels on a bespoke suit (it is most often invisible: tucked away inside a pocket). The bespoke suit, impeccably cut yet never obviously so, can only be recognized as such by an expert. The hand stitches run, of course, a slightly irregular course. Invisible micro details are the quiet trademark of bespoke suits. This inversion between image and cost is quite unique.
For instance, gentlemen who drive luxury cars effortlessly project an undeniable air of wealth at the wheel of a GT car – Ferrari, Bentley, Aston Martin and especially a Maybach or a Rolls. Traditional timepieces might be the only other example of an industry that presents a disconnection between wealth possessed and wealth shown. Patek Philippe and Blancpain offer pieces that can be particularly streamlined and understated. And then there is the paradox of walking into a bespoke salon, because of the humility that it demands.
Indeed, even though the bespoke aficionado almost always has an above-average sartorial culture, he rarely wears it on his shoulder and often views the tailor as a master and a guide, more than likely heir to an ancestral know-how, passed down from generation to generation.
Another feeling that all bespoke amateurs can relate to in the contiguity of the fitting room is the great feeling of equality in the face of the tailor. Everyone feels humble, stripped to their socks and underwear, wether prince, pauper, celebrity, former trader or simply stylish mortal. All will be equally surrendered to the tailor’s swift gestures to measure, adjust, correct and remember every last detail of their anatomy (even around the beltline).
In some cases, the tailor might even unlock some of its secrets (like a left shoulder that hangs lower than the right, or a leg longer than the other). Constructing a sophisticated bespoke suit requires a true heuristic dialogue between the tailor (the artist) and you. Sailing together through undeniably unpredictable waters, tailor and client often develop a very special bond around a common humility in the face of the work to accomplish. But the core of the process is elsewhere: in the deep and intense satisfaction to wear, for the first time in your life, a unique and understated piece that you have contributed to create and that nobody else might ever notice as such.
Only YOU, know the outrageous amount of dedicated work that it stems from, the supernatural attention to detail and the hundreds of hours clicked in by highly trained craftsmen who have joined forces to create the suit of a lifetime. For all of these reasons, the bespoke experience is a lesson in discretion and humility. It also speaks of setting personal standards: both physical and intellectual.
And gentlemen, never forget that elegance only stretches as far as it goes unnoticed.