Bespoke vs Off-the-rack vs Rental

At some point in his life, every man should own a decent, well-fitted suit. And an impending wedding is as good a moment as any to consider investing in one.

A classic design with timeless detailing transcends trends, providing enough versatility for business, weddings, parties and funerals for many a year. A good suit can be altered to accommodate a steadily evolving physique. A tuxedo is a trickier investment: being more formal, the opportunities to wear one are limited, but if black tie invitations come your way a couple of times a year, the outlay may be worth it.

First, a distinction: a made-to-measure suit is not bespoke. A bespoke suit is made from a pattern for you and you alone—made-to-measure alters a standard-size pattern to accomodate your stats. The obvious advantage of bespoke is a suit of superior quality with an incomparable fit, custom-made for your shape and proportions. Tailors are adept at using fabric to make men seem taller, trimmer or broader.

Made-to-measure provides better fit than off-the-rack. Of course, the world's finest fit can't compensate for shoddy workmanship or fabrics (insist on quailty, natural textiles: wool, cashmere). A cheap $99 suit will compromise one or both. You get what you pay for.

Store-bought sizing is more difficult to get just so. It's advisable to find the best fit and fine tune it with alterations. Good department and menswear stores will offer such a service with the purchase or for a nominal charge. Should you need to arrange your own alterations, remember: they are only as good as the tailor. Rather than go with the first one you find, seek recommendations from others. Always request a no-obligation consultation and quote before committing, to assess how their service meets your needs and budget. If you feel pressured, uncomfortable or unsure, keep looking.

Even if the fit of an off-the-rack suit can be perfected, the construction can be a compromise. Glue is often used for mass-produced lapels lieu of hand stitching, for example, which may cause it to lose shape after a few trips to the dry-cleaner. Should you choose to buy, it’s important to clean, store and maintain your suit in an appropriate manner. Doing so helps extend its life and retain the shape long term. A reputable tailor or sales assistant should be able to easily provide detailed instructions.

The rental
A rental can make a lot of sense for many men. Minor adjustments to fit are possible and it can be a wallet-friendly solution for the man who’ll have little need for a suit post-wedding day. The downside is that fabrics tend to be sturdier and harder wearing which compromises the style and comfort level. Pants often come with an adjustable waistband to accommodate a range of shapes.

Outfitting groomsmen in matching rentals may sometimes prove a challenge and it always pays to shop around and compare degree of wear and suitability of fit. The earlier you get in, the better the chance of reserving the best pieces. Give it three months, minimum. If the ceremony is at a remote location, renting and returning might not be physically or economically feasible.

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