A Brief History of Custom Made Suits and Bespoke Tailoring

In today’s world, where billboards, magazines, television, websites and mobile apps inundate us with ads for clothing year-round, it is easy to see the state of modern dress and fashion as something that has always existed in its current form. But as with everything else, the history of clothing, and in particular its role in Western culture, has changed over the centuries. Coinciding with those changes are the rise of new institutions, jobs, and industries, including the craft of custom made suits in San Francisco and around the world. Despite the spread of online shopping, where customers can return clothes if they don't fit, demand for custom fit tailoring has grown in recent years, which warrants an excavation into its origins.

The term bespoke literally means “spoken for,” and refers to the fact that since each article of clothing is made to fit a specific individual, that clothing is already reserved or “spoken for” by that individual. However, the trade of tailoring did not always orient itself toward the individual; in fact, before the Renaissance, tailoring was largely a one-size-fits-all, mass-production affair that served primarily to outfit soldiers with undershirts for their armor. Taking measurements for each individual soldier would not only be a waste of time, but the results would not even be visible. That soon changed with the explosion in arts, and emphasis on human self-expression that swept through Europe during the Renaissance in the 14th - 17th centuries.

With the cultural rebirth, clothing became a symbol of status and wealth more than ever, and the rise of the middle class meant more people could afford to pay for fitted clothes; this included men and women. The relative status of tailors within communities rose, and the craft gained respect as both a trade and an art form. The idea of fashion took root, and bastians of fashion sprouted in France and Italy, where colorful, flamboyant styles reigned supreme. However, as the Renaissance eventually gave way to the Industrial Revolution, people - especially men - gravitated toward a subtler look that prioritized fit and economy over extravagance. Thus, the modern gentleman was born.


In the time since then leading up to the modern day, and tailoring has largely remained a local endeavor. As department stores and big brand clothing businesses cropped up and split all body types across the globe into small, medium, large, and a few x’s, the appeal of custom fitted shirts throughout the 19th and 20th centuries remained intact, albeit confined to formal business attire. The newest wrinkle in the story of bespoke tailoring is the blurring of lines between work and leisure attire: men are wearing jeans to the office and fitted slacks to the bar for a drink. And that’s where we’ve found our niche - creating custom made suit in San Francisco that allow the man or woman wearing it the confidence and comfortability to stay suited up wherever they go. As more young professionals move to cities, demand for fitted attire is no longer restricted to the realm of the corporate executive or investment banker - it is bleeding into all types of professions, and driving a wave of new tailoring services, introducing custom made suits in San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, and New York and other markets around the world. 

To experience bespoke tailoring yourself, visit our brick and mortar shop in Downtown San Francisco for a custom wedding suit, the perfect luxury necktie, or a custom shirt made in San Francisco.