Why Pay for Canvas?

As many readers know, suit jackets and sport coats mainly come in three types of construction: fused, half-canvassed, and fully-canvassed. A fused jacket will have a lightweight fusible interlining sandwiched in-between the two outer shell fabrics, and a canvassed one will have a canvas made from animal hair (usually horse or camel) mixed with either cotton or wool. Generally speaking, canvassed jackets will cost considerably more than fused ones. So why pay for them?

Well, one of the reasons is that a canvassed jacket will have a lot more three-dimensional shape. Animal hair can be molded using steam, heat, and pressure, much like how a woman’s hair can be shaped using a hot curling iron. With that shape, you get a much more beautiful garment. 

Take a look above. The top most photo is of Alan See with his lovely wife at the menswear trade show Pitti Uomo. He’s seen here wearing a three-piece suit by Liverano & Liverano, a bespoke tailoring house in Florence, Italy. Notice how his lapel line “blooms” as it moves from the buttoning point to his shoulders? It has a “roll” to it, rather than being pressed flat against his chest. Similarly, just below him are JefferyD and MostExerent, both of which also have nice, shapely lapels that “roll” near their buttoning points.

To understand how this is achieved, look at the bottommost photo above (also taken from JefferyD). Moving from left to right, the first material is haircloth, which is made from wiry horsetail strands. This is used to add shape to the chest and shoulders (ever put on a Tom Ford suit and feel like you’re wearing a prosthetic chest? This is because he puts in a ton of haircloth into his suits). The second material is wrapped haircloth, which is a softer, more affordable alternative. Next, we have a wool canvas (the brown material) and a fusible (the black material). These are added on top of the haircloth and extend from the shoulders to the hem (the haircloth is only in the chest). Notice that the brown wool canvas has a natural roll to it while the black fusible is limp. This natural roll is what gives those lapels their “bloom.” 

Of course, this isn’t to say that fused garments aren’t worth buying. They’re considerably more affordable, which is nice if you’re on a budget or if your tastes are still developing. It can take a long, long time for your tastes to settle and for you to develop an eye for what truly fits and flatters you the most. It would be a shame if you had to make your mistakes on much more expensive garments. 

If you have the money, however, and you feel confident in your choices, canvassed garments can be much more handsome. And once you own some, know how to best preserve their shape (after all, that’s what you paid for). Make sure your jackets aren’t smashed against each other in your closet and use hangers with wide, flared out shoulders. Our advertiser The Hanger Project sells some really nice ones, but if you want something more affordable, check out Wooden Hangers USA. Also, stay away from bad dry cleaners, as they can really press the life out of your jackets’ lapels, shoulders, and chests. I ship my stuff to RAVE FabriCare, but you can look for someone more local. Finally, be careful with garment steamers, and don’t hang your jackets in the bathroom while taking a shower. Steam will take out the wrinkles, it’s true, but it’ll also take out the shape. If that ever happens, you can send your jacket to a place that gives a good handpressing. That should be done every once in a while anyway, just so your jackets can maintain their form. 

(Photos via NY Mag, JefferyD, and MostExerent)



Avoiding Buyer’s Regret
When you’re shopping for clothes, there are probably a dozen or more variables to consider before you make a purchase. Unfortunately, most of these considerations can get muddled, and if you don’t parse them out carefully, you can buy something for the wrong reasons. So I thought I’d rank some of the principle considerations: fit, style, construction, and branding, in that order. When deciding whether or not to buy something, go through these considerations in order of importance and you’ll minimize your likelihood of ending up with buyer’s regret. 
Fit
As they say, fit is king. The first thing anyone notices, even before style, is whether your clothes fit well. A man would look better in a well-fitting pair of jeans and a t-shirt before he would in a sloppy suit. 
What fits is what flatters. This point may seem basic, but it’s amazing how rarely you see it practiced. Men who aren’t style conscious tend to wear clothes too big, while men who pay a lot of attention often wear things too small. Proper fitting clothes hit in the right places and give you clean lines, no matter what your movement or position. Shoulder seams should end around the shoulder bone, and clothes shouldn’t be so baggy that they fold, nor be so tight that they pull. 
Style
Always remember that fit comes before style. There’s no quicker way to catch buyer’s regret than to buy something that’s stylish, but doesn’t fit perfectly. Once you find something that fits, however, consider whether the garment has all the design details you’re looking for. If you want something that will last, avoid things that veer too strongly towards one design trend. As a very general rule of thumb, I find simple, classic designs to be best. 
You may also want to consider how versatile the garment is. Basic blues, greys, and browns will help you build in that versatility, as all those colors are easy to incorporate. To be sure, there’s a lot of room for dark greens, burgundies, and other livelier colors. However, make sure you’re not buying something that you can only wear with one pair of trousers or one jacket. You should seek to build a wardrobe, not a collection of outfits.
Construction
Some may be surprised that I rank construction so low on the list of considerations. However, a garment’s design will always be the bigger determinant of its lifespan. Most clothes are made to last at least a couple of years now. If a jacket is made with skinny lapels, for example, its style will give out much sooner than its cloth. Thus, while I strongly believe people should invest in higher quality purchases, I also think that they should prioritize fit and style above quality. If it doesn’t look good on you or work with the rest of your wardrobe, the quality of its construction will mean very little.
Branding
Finally, there is branding. Everyone succumbs to this to some extent. We buy clothes partly to express the person we are, and partly the person we wish to be. We may also buy something because of the lifestyle it represents. It may not be the most “rational” of considerations, but it’s no less real or enjoyable. Clothes in this sense are romantic; they make life less dull. It would be crotchety to deny or condemn it. At the same time, you should be aware of what you’re doing, and only do so if it meets the other criteria above. 
Conclusion
Of course, ideally, you should make purchases that fulfill every one of these categories (with the exception of maybe branding). However, people have limited means, time, and patience for such things, and not everyone is going to spend the next few months searching for the perfect shirt. Thus, for the non-neurotic, you now have neatly parsed considerations that you can prioritize in order to make better buying decisions.
Purchase things for the right reasons. Buy something because it’s well-made before you buy into a brand; buy something well designed before you buy into its quality; most importantly, buy something because it fits well before you consider anything else.

Avoiding Buyer’s Regret

When you’re shopping for clothes, there are probably a dozen or more variables to consider before you make a purchase. Unfortunately, most of these considerations can get muddled, and if you don’t parse them out carefully, you can buy something for the wrong reasons. So I thought I’d rank some of the principle considerations: fit, style, construction, and branding, in that order. When deciding whether or not to buy something, go through these considerations in order of importance and you’ll minimize your likelihood of ending up with buyer’s regret. 

Fit

As they say, fit is king. The first thing anyone notices, even before style, is whether your clothes fit well. A man would look better in a well-fitting pair of jeans and a t-shirt before he would in a sloppy suit. 

What fits is what flatters. This point may seem basic, but it’s amazing how rarely you see it practiced. Men who aren’t style conscious tend to wear clothes too big, while men who pay a lot of attention often wear things too small. Proper fitting clothes hit in the right places and give you clean lines, no matter what your movement or position. Shoulder seams should end around the shoulder bone, and clothes shouldn’t be so baggy that they fold, nor be so tight that they pull. 

Style

Always remember that fit comes before style. There’s no quicker way to catch buyer’s regret than to buy something that’s stylish, but doesn’t fit perfectly. Once you find something that fits, however, consider whether the garment has all the design details you’re looking for. If you want something that will last, avoid things that veer too strongly towards one design trend. As a very general rule of thumb, I find simple, classic designs to be best. 

You may also want to consider how versatile the garment is. Basic blues, greys, and browns will help you build in that versatility, as all those colors are easy to incorporate. To be sure, there’s a lot of room for dark greens, burgundies, and other livelier colors. However, make sure you’re not buying something that you can only wear with one pair of trousers or one jacket. You should seek to build a wardrobe, not a collection of outfits.

Construction

Some may be surprised that I rank construction so low on the list of considerations. However, a garment’s design will always be the bigger determinant of its lifespan. Most clothes are made to last at least a couple of years now. If a jacket is made with skinny lapels, for example, its style will give out much sooner than its cloth. Thus, while I strongly believe people should invest in higher quality purchases, I also think that they should prioritize fit and style above quality. If it doesn’t look good on you or work with the rest of your wardrobe, the quality of its construction will mean very little.

Branding

Finally, there is branding. Everyone succumbs to this to some extent. We buy clothes partly to express the person we are, and partly the person we wish to be. We may also buy something because of the lifestyle it represents. It may not be the most “rational” of considerations, but it’s no less real or enjoyable. Clothes in this sense are romantic; they make life less dull. It would be crotchety to deny or condemn it. At the same time, you should be aware of what you’re doing, and only do so if it meets the other criteria above. 

Conclusion

Of course, ideally, you should make purchases that fulfill every one of these categories (with the exception of maybe branding). However, people have limited means, time, and patience for such things, and not everyone is going to spend the next few months searching for the perfect shirt. Thus, for the non-neurotic, you now have neatly parsed considerations that you can prioritize in order to make better buying decisions.

Purchase things for the right reasons. Buy something because it’s well-made before you buy into a brand; buy something well designed before you buy into its quality; most importantly, buy something because it fits well before you consider anything else.

Jesse made a comment yesterday about how we shouldn’t conflate heritage and quality, and I completely agree. Too many consumers, I think, use a company’s heritage as a proxy for quality, and then become enchanted with buzz-phrases such as “will last you a lifetime,” even as they go about buying shoes that are essentially glue jobs. In the end, to learn about quality, you really just have to begin developing an understanding of the manufacturing process. 

As such, I thought I’d post this video of Edward Green’s factory - a company that both has incredible heritage and produces amazing quality shoes. Here you can see the incredible craftsmanship that goes into a pair of Edward Greens. These shoes feature more handwork than almost any ready-to-wear shoes on the market. For example, the closing stitches are done by hand, with pig bristles since they’re finer than needles, and polishes are hand applied in order to create a strong sense of depth in the leather. Any machine work done on the shoe is also still guided by hand. This all helps maintain a level of attention to detail, at each stage of the manufacturing process, that machines alone can’t achieve. 

The materials on a pair of Edward Greens are also some of the best in the world. For example, the soles of the shoes are made from oak bark tanned leather, a type of hide that has been tanned exclusively from vegetable agents made from barks and fruits. The process takes place inside of an oak-lined pit that is ten feet deep. The hide sits in the solution for about a year. There are no mechanical movements, no chemical catalysts, and the solution isn’t heated; the hide just sits for a year. It’s a slow process, but the leather that comes out is very lightweight, very hardwearing, and very flexible. It is also highly water-repellent, but very breathable. This makes it perfect for soles.

If this level of quality isn’t enough for you, Edward Green also has their Top Drawer program. In their normal made-to-measure program, the company allows clients to choose the last, leather, and sole for the shoes they want. Top Drawer better than that, however. Here, models feature hand-carved fiddleback waists that have an added piece of leather for additional support. The heel is slightly tapered, the sole’s edge is hand shaped into a spade, and the bottom of the shoe features the client’s initials in the form of a nailhead design. Top Drawer shoes also get more attention at every stage of the manufacturing process. 

Of course, there are still things to quibble about. The welt, for example, is attached to a canvas ribbing (a process called gemming), which is the white thing at you see in the video at around three minutes and twenty seconds in. Canvas, of course, isn’t as sturdy as leather, and can become brittle over time. As well, many say that a cork filled insole isn’t as good as a full leather insole. However, outside of a few manufacturers such as Stefano Bemer and DW Fromer, very few manufacturers offer fully hand welted shoes made in the most traditional manufacturing techniques. That kind of process is very laborious, and thus incredibly expensive. For ready-to-wear shoes, Edward Greens still represent one of the best shoes you can buy on the market.

The key here is to not assume things about quality just from the heritage of a brand, or even the price, but rather understand how things are made, and be serious about appreciating craftsmanship. 

(As an aside, you should thank GW this post. He posted this video over this weekend, and after I laughed about how I was planning to use it this week, he took his down so that I could include it here. The guy is seriously a gentleman - and an owner of Edward Green’s best model, the Dover, I might add. There is a man who knows about quality.)

Chest Canvas and the Pinch Test 
I’d been debating whether to hold on to this little tip for a future video episode, but it looks like we’re not doing a thrifting episode in season one, so I’ll let you in on it now. It’s probably the most useful bit of information you can have when you’re shopping for suits and sport coats.
One of the key differences between high and low quality coats is the construction. The chest of any jacket is composed of three layers of material - the fabric on the outside of the coat, the lining that makes up its inside, and a layer of canvassing in between that gives the coat its shape.
What’s the Difference?
In a high-quality jacket, these layers are stitched together, mostly by hand. This allows the coat to drape over the body naturally, and the horsehair canvas used in this process gives the coat an optimal form. This is called a “fully canvassed” coat.
In a lower-quality jacket, the structure of the jacket is provided by fusible interfacing. It’s a sort of combination of fabric and glue. The manufacturer uses heat and chemicals to bond this fusing to the outside fabric layer of the jacket.  This is called a “fused” coat.
Sometimes, a combination of these two processes is used - typically the chest is stitched, which the lower part of the front is fused. This is generally called “half-canvassed.”
In the 60s and 70s, when fusing was new, the technology was awful. It often led to bubbling and stiffness in the chest. These days, the technology has come a long way, and these problems are less common, but it’s generally accepted that full canvas is the way to go.
How Can I Tell?
If you’re in a store, it’s easy to check whether the coat you’re looking at is fused or canvassed. Pinch the chest fabric and lining between your fingers. If it’s canvassed, you should be able to feel three distinct layers - the outside fabric, the canvas, and the lining. If it’s fused, you feel two layers, or (especially if it’s older) you may feel the outside layer tear away from the chest piece. To distinguish between full and half-canvassing, pinch down by the buttons.
Give it a few tries and you’ll get the hang of it. Feel a Brioni coat, and you’ll see that the layers are fully independent. Feel something at H&M, and you’ll feel a stiff outer layer and a lining. Brooks Brothers’ standard suits are half-canvassed; Golden Fleece is fully canvassed.
The Bottom Line
The vast majority of coats these days are fused, and the quality of those can vary widely from awful to pretty decent, but if it’s canvassed, it’s almost certainly a high-quality piece.

Chest Canvas and the Pinch Test

I’d been debating whether to hold on to this little tip for a future video episode, but it looks like we’re not doing a thrifting episode in season one, so I’ll let you in on it now. It’s probably the most useful bit of information you can have when you’re shopping for suits and sport coats.

One of the key differences between high and low quality coats is the construction. The chest of any jacket is composed of three layers of material - the fabric on the outside of the coat, the lining that makes up its inside, and a layer of canvassing in between that gives the coat its shape.

What’s the Difference?

In a high-quality jacket, these layers are stitched together, mostly by hand. This allows the coat to drape over the body naturally, and the horsehair canvas used in this process gives the coat an optimal form. This is called a “fully canvassed” coat.

In a lower-quality jacket, the structure of the jacket is provided by fusible interfacing. It’s a sort of combination of fabric and glue. The manufacturer uses heat and chemicals to bond this fusing to the outside fabric layer of the jacket. This is called a “fused” coat.

Sometimes, a combination of these two processes is used - typically the chest is stitched, which the lower part of the front is fused. This is generally called “half-canvassed.”

In the 60s and 70s, when fusing was new, the technology was awful. It often led to bubbling and stiffness in the chest. These days, the technology has come a long way, and these problems are less common, but it’s generally accepted that full canvas is the way to go.

How Can I Tell?

If you’re in a store, it’s easy to check whether the coat you’re looking at is fused or canvassed. Pinch the chest fabric and lining between your fingers. If it’s canvassed, you should be able to feel three distinct layers - the outside fabric, the canvas, and the lining. If it’s fused, you feel two layers, or (especially if it’s older) you may feel the outside layer tear away from the chest piece. To distinguish between full and half-canvassing, pinch down by the buttons.

Give it a few tries and you’ll get the hang of it. Feel a Brioni coat, and you’ll see that the layers are fully independent. Feel something at H&M, and you’ll feel a stiff outer layer and a lining. Brooks Brothers’ standard suits are half-canvassed; Golden Fleece is fully canvassed.

The Bottom Line

The vast majority of coats these days are fused, and the quality of those can vary widely from awful to pretty decent, but if it’s canvassed, it’s almost certainly a high-quality piece.