For Aspiring Tailors
For anyone who wants to become a tailor, Jeffery Diduch recently wrote about a new online training program set up by master tailor Andrew Ramroop: 

There is so little by way of educational material available to the aspiring tailor, and my feelings on this are mixed. I really do think it’s a craft that is best learnt at the hands of an experienced teacher so the few books available should be used as guides for someone undergoing an apprenticeship and not for those who wish to teach themselves. That said, not everyone has access to an experienced tailor and I suppose they have no choice but to turn to the scant material available so the latest arrival to the self-tutelage sphere will be welcome to many.Andrew Ramroop, of the justly famous Maurice Sedwell of Savile Row, has teamed up with Mastered.com to produce an online, self-guided course in tailoring. Video lessons and some very handsome photography are provided along with supporting print material. In a smart move, Mr. Ramroop shows a technique, then his assistant does it. This gives the viewer the benefit of seeing an experienced master do, and then seeing some of the mistakes that he or she is likely to make and the corrections as suggested by the teacher. Of course, not every possible misstep is covered, but students are encouraged to upload photos or other evidence of their work for evaluation by Mr. Ramroop. Certainly not failsafe but better than a book alone.

Coincidentally, I was recently talking to the owner of a custom clothiers shop in NYC last week, and he told me that he’s thinking about shutting down the tailoring side of his business next year (after being in business for about 50 years) because he can’t find people who can make clothes as good as he needs. His current head tailor is 85 years old and won’t be around forever, but finding a replacement has been tough. I hear this a lot from custom clothing shops, although some — such as Rubinacci — seem to be able to attract talent without any issue. 
Not sure if Ramroop’s program is good enough to land you a job somewhere, but it’s nice to see such a training program pop up for people who are passionate about this craft. 

For Aspiring Tailors

For anyone who wants to become a tailor, Jeffery Diduch recently wrote about a new online training program set up by master tailor Andrew Ramroop: 

There is so little by way of educational material available to the aspiring tailor, and my feelings on this are mixed. I really do think it’s a craft that is best learnt at the hands of an experienced teacher so the few books available should be used as guides for someone undergoing an apprenticeship and not for those who wish to teach themselves. That said, not everyone has access to an experienced tailor and I suppose they have no choice but to turn to the scant material available so the latest arrival to the self-tutelage sphere will be welcome to many.

Andrew Ramroop, of the justly famous Maurice Sedwell of Savile Row, has teamed up with Mastered.com to produce an online, self-guided course in tailoring. Video lessons and some very handsome photography are provided along with supporting print material. In a smart move, Mr. Ramroop shows a technique, then his assistant does it. This gives the viewer the benefit of seeing an experienced master do, and then seeing some of the mistakes that he or she is likely to make and the corrections as suggested by the teacher. Of course, not every possible misstep is covered, but students are encouraged to upload photos or other evidence of their work for evaluation by Mr. Ramroop. Certainly not failsafe but better than a book alone.

Coincidentally, I was recently talking to the owner of a custom clothiers shop in NYC last week, and he told me that he’s thinking about shutting down the tailoring side of his business next year (after being in business for about 50 years) because he can’t find people who can make clothes as good as he needs. His current head tailor is 85 years old and won’t be around forever, but finding a replacement has been tough. I hear this a lot from custom clothing shops, although some — such as Rubinacci — seem to be able to attract talent without any issue. 

Not sure if Ramroop’s program is good enough to land you a job somewhere, but it’s nice to see such a training program pop up for people who are passionate about this craft. 

“If it is flattering, then it is a good fit. Good fit does not necessarily mean following every contour of the body.” — Jeffery Diduch (via voxsart)
Technology and Fashion
One of the things that interest me about men’s clothing is not just the clothes themselves, but also the business of fashion - how things are produced, marketed, and even sold. In 2013, there were a couple of interesting stories about how developments in technology might affect the way we interact with and buy clothes.
Online Fitting: Our friend Jeffery Diduch had a post last year about developments that could improve our online shopping experience. The biggest difficulty with online shopping, obviously, is the inability to try things on before you buy, which is why it’s helpful to do business with stores with generous return policies. Companies are coming up with innovative ways to reduce that return-rate, however. True Fit, for example, is creating a database of garment measurements across companies, so that if you’re shopping at, say, Ralph Lauren, you can get a suggestion on which suit you should buy if you already know that the Brooks Brothers suit you have in your closet fits you well. You can already see how this works at places such as Nordstrom. 
The Store is Everywhere: There were a couple of stories last year about potential smart phone developments that would allow people to take pictures of others on the street, and then be able to identify exactly where they can buy the clothes and accessories they saw. This would essentially make the entire world a store where you can instantly purchase almost anything you see. Business of Fashion - a fashion industry trade publication - had some interesting thoughts on what this could mean for traditional retail.
Science Fiction: There were also some more futuristic predictions. Ray Kurzweil predicted that we’ll start to see 3D printing for clothes by 2020 (surprisingly not that far away) and Business of Fashion wrote about how the emerging field of “digital biology” - which enables biologists to not just read, but also write genetic code - could allow companies to design “synthetic life” materials. This could allow us to “grow” things such as self-repairing, self-cleaning garments, or create garments that can reproduce themselves and receive “updates” (new colors, patterns, etc), much like how software updates on our computers. 
Of course, many of the advancements in technology will affect fashion in ways we won’t immediately see or realize. Increasing computing power and the digitization of data has allowed companies such as Zara to react faster to consumer trends, and as companies grow in their ability to marshal "big data," we’ll likely see fast fashion get even faster (a speeding up of trends and a continuing drop in prices). For better or worse, the idea that men’s style moves at a glacial pace might not always hold true. 
(Pictured above: an early prototype of "body scanning" pods used for custom tailoring. This contraption was made in the 1940s)

Technology and Fashion

One of the things that interest me about men’s clothing is not just the clothes themselves, but also the business of fashion - how things are produced, marketed, and even sold. In 2013, there were a couple of interesting stories about how developments in technology might affect the way we interact with and buy clothes.

  • Online Fitting: Our friend Jeffery Diduch had a post last year about developments that could improve our online shopping experience. The biggest difficulty with online shopping, obviously, is the inability to try things on before you buy, which is why it’s helpful to do business with stores with generous return policies. Companies are coming up with innovative ways to reduce that return-rate, however. True Fit, for example, is creating a database of garment measurements across companies, so that if you’re shopping at, say, Ralph Lauren, you can get a suggestion on which suit you should buy if you already know that the Brooks Brothers suit you have in your closet fits you well. You can already see how this works at places such as Nordstrom
  • The Store is Everywhere: There were a couple of stories last year about potential smart phone developments that would allow people to take pictures of others on the street, and then be able to identify exactly where they can buy the clothes and accessories they saw. This would essentially make the entire world a store where you can instantly purchase almost anything you see. Business of Fashion - a fashion industry trade publication - had some interesting thoughts on what this could mean for traditional retail.
  • Science Fiction: There were also some more futuristic predictions. Ray Kurzweil predicted that we’ll start to see 3D printing for clothes by 2020 (surprisingly not that far away) and Business of Fashion wrote about how the emerging field of “digital biology” - which enables biologists to not just read, but also write genetic code - could allow companies to design “synthetic life” materials. This could allow us to “grow” things such as self-repairing, self-cleaning garments, or create garments that can reproduce themselves and receive “updates” (new colors, patterns, etc), much like how software updates on our computers. 

Of course, many of the advancements in technology will affect fashion in ways we won’t immediately see or realize. Increasing computing power and the digitization of data has allowed companies such as Zara to react faster to consumer trends, and as companies grow in their ability to marshal "big data," we’ll likely see fast fashion get even faster (a speeding up of trends and a continuing drop in prices). For better or worse, the idea that men’s style moves at a glacial pace might not always hold true. 

(Pictured above: an early prototype of "body scanning" pods used for custom tailoring. This contraption was made in the 1940s)

Professional tailor and patternmaker Jeffery Diduch created a nice little guide on how to properly measure garments. This is useful if you ever want to purchase made-to-measure clothes online, or if you want to sell clothes on eBay or StyleForum. You can see the full guide here. 
Note, if you’re buying online made-to-measure clothes, sometimes companies will have their own ways they want you to measure, so it’s best to always check with them first. The above is pretty much the convention though, from my experience. 

Professional tailor and patternmaker Jeffery Diduch created a nice little guide on how to properly measure garments. This is useful if you ever want to purchase made-to-measure clothes online, or if you want to sell clothes on eBay or StyleForum. You can see the full guide here

Note, if you’re buying online made-to-measure clothes, sometimes companies will have their own ways they want you to measure, so it’s best to always check with them first. The above is pretty much the convention though, from my experience. 

A Tale of Two Hangers

Over the weekend, I was going through the archives of Tutto Fatto a Mano, a blog about tailoring I really like. It’s maintained by Jeffery Diduch, a professional tailor and pattern maker that’s done work in bespoke and ready-to-wear. Of the people online who talk about garment construction, quality, and tailoring, I find Jeffery’s opinion to be more reliable than most. He has the technical training for it and is impressively fair-minded. Much of his site, in fact, is dedicated to “myth busting” commonly held beliefs about tailored clothing. 

Anyway, in the archive, I found this old post about hangers. As I’ve written before, I’ve always used wooden hangers with wide, flared out shoulders for my suits and sport coats, but remained skeptical of their necessity. That is until last year, when I grabbed drinks with a Savile Row tailor, who confirmed that an improper hanger can indeed ruin the shape of a jacket.

Jeffery has some really nice photos to illustrate this. In the top photo, we see a jacket being hung on a thin, “wishbone” hanger. As he notes, the ends of the hanger are poking through the sleeveheads, where there’s a piece of canvas meant to give support. This is causing the rippling you see at the top of the sleeve, which can be set in over time and require a skilled presser to remove. Worse still, if you pack your jackets too closely together in your closet, these creases can be very difficult to get out, even by an experienced hand. In the second photo, when the same jacket is set on a better hanger, we see the ripples go away and the collar of the jacket sit up a bit more properly. 

My hangers of choice are by The Hanger Project. In full disclosure, they’re our advertiser, but I’ve genuinely become a fan since receiving some of their hangers for review. I have a few new sport coats coming to me by the end of the year and plan on purchasing The Hanger Project’s hangers for all of them. I like that their shoulders are about a half-inch wider than most of their competitors’ and they come in four different sizes. The second part is particularly useful if you have jackets with narrow shoulders like mine. They also come in some beautiful, nicely finished woods. They are, however, a bit expensive. If you can afford them, two other sources to consider are A Suitable Wardrobe and Butler Luxury

If these are all too expensive for your budget, there’s no reason to break the bank. Wooden Hangers USA sells perfectly decent hangers at a very reasonable price. The woods aren’t as nice, and the shoulders aren’t as wide, but the first is a matter of aesthetics and the second could be an advantage if you have a particularly cramped closet. The point here is that good hangers are worth considering, no matter where you get them, and that you ought to take care to not pack your jackets too closely together. Jeffery’s photos nicely demonstrate the reasons why. 

Why It’s Hard to Determine Quality
There are probably no fewer than a hundred books about classic men’s clothing, and the majority of them will have sections on how you can determine the quality of an off-the-rack suit. Some advice is reasonable. The most common one recommends that you conduct the pinch test to see if the jacket is canvassed. However, as we covered before, this will only tell you if something is fully canvassed, not whether something is half canvassed or fully fused. That’s because you can only conduct the pinch test on the bottom half of a jacket (since chest pieces are always floating). On a half-canvassed or fused garment, the bottom section will always be fused, so the pinch test will tell you nothing.
Other advice given, however, is a bit more dubious. I’ve read writers suggest you look for certain benchmarks, such as whether the lining has been attached by hand, or if the underside of the lapel shows that there has been any hand padding. The logic is that no maker would invest in such expenditures if the other parts of the garment weren’t also well made. The problem is that most people can’t tell the difference between handsewn stitches and machine-made ones, especially since there are machines nowadays capable of executing stitches that look like they’ve been handsewn. 
Other “benchmarks” are also problematic. Super 100s wools, as we’ve discussed, don’t reveal anything, and the country where the garment was manufactured is more often about marketing than it is about actual quality.
I recently had a chance to talk to Jeffery Diduch, a professional tailor and patternmaker who has extensive experience in the ready-to-wear manufacturing business. When I asked whether any of these “tricks” worked, he had a very good answer: one should think of garment production more like a recipe. There is some golden standard out there, where everything is made from the best materials and everything is done as traditionally as possible. However, most manufacturers have to meet realistic price points, so designers have to decide on what things to put into a garment and what to leave out.
Imagine it like making a dish. You could hire the best chefs in the world and buy the most expensive ingredients. But if you want to sell the dish, you might want to think about what things can be sacrificed in order to make things affordable. Perhaps you hire skilled, but less renowned, chefs. Maybe you use slightly lower-grade olive oil, but decide that the truffle oil must be kept if the dish is to have its signature flavor. This is very much like what designers do. There are hundreds of steps that go into making a garment, and each designer has to decide which steps are most important to him or her. These kinds of calls are going to be very subjective.
Which is to say that quality isn’t linear and you can’t order these things up in hierarchies. It also means that many of the things that go into a suit are internal, and not things a consumer can readily examine. The “benchmarks” that people have written about are sometimes just ways for a company to differentiate its product – either to attract customers who are looking for something that stands out from the crowd, or for the salesperson, who needs a tell-tale sign so he or she can easily grab something off the rack. 
In the end, I think the only true test for a garment is whether or not it makes you look and feel good. The best way to do this is to sample as much as possible – including the stuff at high-end stores. Even if you can’t afford a $3,500 suit or $2,500 sport coat, putting on a dozen or so can help give you a better sense of what details will be important to you. You should also pay close attention to men who look good in their suits. Notice what aspects of their fit and silhouette appeal to you, and try to look for those things when you’re out shopping. You might not be able to tell the quality of a suit based on all these “benchmarks” people have written about, but if you train your eye, you can tell what looks good on you. And in the end, that’s the only test that matters anyway.    
(Photo via The World Bank)

Why It’s Hard to Determine Quality

There are probably no fewer than a hundred books about classic men’s clothing, and the majority of them will have sections on how you can determine the quality of an off-the-rack suit. Some advice is reasonable. The most common one recommends that you conduct the pinch test to see if the jacket is canvassed. However, as we covered before, this will only tell you if something is fully canvassed, not whether something is half canvassed or fully fused. That’s because you can only conduct the pinch test on the bottom half of a jacket (since chest pieces are always floating). On a half-canvassed or fused garment, the bottom section will always be fused, so the pinch test will tell you nothing.

Other advice given, however, is a bit more dubious. I’ve read writers suggest you look for certain benchmarks, such as whether the lining has been attached by hand, or if the underside of the lapel shows that there has been any hand padding. The logic is that no maker would invest in such expenditures if the other parts of the garment weren’t also well made. The problem is that most people can’t tell the difference between handsewn stitches and machine-made ones, especially since there are machines nowadays capable of executing stitches that look like they’ve been handsewn. 

Other “benchmarks” are also problematic. Super 100s wools, as we’ve discussed, don’t reveal anything, and the country where the garment was manufactured is more often about marketing than it is about actual quality.

I recently had a chance to talk to Jeffery Diduch, a professional tailor and patternmaker who has extensive experience in the ready-to-wear manufacturing business. When I asked whether any of these “tricks” worked, he had a very good answer: one should think of garment production more like a recipe. There is some golden standard out there, where everything is made from the best materials and everything is done as traditionally as possible. However, most manufacturers have to meet realistic price points, so designers have to decide on what things to put into a garment and what to leave out.

Imagine it like making a dish. You could hire the best chefs in the world and buy the most expensive ingredients. But if you want to sell the dish, you might want to think about what things can be sacrificed in order to make things affordable. Perhaps you hire skilled, but less renowned, chefs. Maybe you use slightly lower-grade olive oil, but decide that the truffle oil must be kept if the dish is to have its signature flavor. This is very much like what designers do. There are hundreds of steps that go into making a garment, and each designer has to decide which steps are most important to him or her. These kinds of calls are going to be very subjective.

Which is to say that quality isn’t linear and you can’t order these things up in hierarchies. It also means that many of the things that go into a suit are internal, and not things a consumer can readily examine. The “benchmarks” that people have written about are sometimes just ways for a company to differentiate its product – either to attract customers who are looking for something that stands out from the crowd, or for the salesperson, who needs a tell-tale sign so he or she can easily grab something off the rack. 

In the end, I think the only true test for a garment is whether or not it makes you look and feel good. The best way to do this is to sample as much as possible – including the stuff at high-end stores. Even if you can’t afford a $3,500 suit or $2,500 sport coat, putting on a dozen or so can help give you a better sense of what details will be important to you. You should also pay close attention to men who look good in their suits. Notice what aspects of their fit and silhouette appeal to you, and try to look for those things when you’re out shopping. You might not be able to tell the quality of a suit based on all these “benchmarks” people have written about, but if you train your eye, you can tell what looks good on you. And in the end, that’s the only test that matters anyway.    

(Photo via The World Bank)

Beware of Steamers
A garment steamer, like the one you see above, can be useful to take out wrinkles. If you use one, however, you should be aware: what seems to be a rather simple and innocuous device is actually something that can ruin your clothes.
This has been something of a crusade for tailors such as Jeffery Diduch (though he’s certainly not alone in the opinion). The logic here is straightforward: for high-quality garments, a fully canvassed jacket will have been carefully molded and shaped through a lot of hand pressing. As I’ve written before, a well-tailored jacket has a certain three-dimensional shape. You may notice a convex curve at the chest, concave curve at the waist, and maybe even a well-shaped, cylindrical sleeve. These aren’t formed by just cutting pieces of cloth to a certain pattern, but also by shaping the wool with a heavy iron.
A garment steamer can destroy a lot of this work. To understand how, imagine what would happen if you blew hot steam through a woman’s hair after it’s been carefully done up through curlers and ironing. It would go limp – her hair would relax and the shape would fall out. Wool is the same way. Which is why, given how much handwork goes into a well-tailored jacket, and how much value that work imparts, one should reconsider garment steamers.
Another, arguably larger, danger looms for fused jackets. There, hot steam can delaminate the fusible interlining inside, which then can result in bubbling. If you don’t believe this can happen, know that in order to delaminate jackets, factories do exactly this: blow hot steam through a jacket. The only way to prevent delamination is to apply both hot steam and pressure. Without the second ingredient, you risk a separation of the layers.
So then what to do about wrinkles? Jeffery has often recommended that men learn how to press their own jackets, but this isn’t the same as ironing your shirts. In fact, the key here is to not iron, but press, and to learn how to do that properly, you should read Jeffery’s tutorial.
Jeffery’s write is well done and detailed, but I admit I’ll never try doing such a thing. I just don’t have any confidence I’d do it right. So, if you’re in the same boat, I’d recommend sending it to someone who can do it professionally. Note, most dry cleaners will say they offer this service, but what they’re actually doing is putting your jacket over a form and blowing hot steam through it. Not what you want. Make sure you’re getting a true hand press. If you can’t find someone local for this, I recommend RAVE FabriCARE.
But what if you just need something quickly done? Sending your garments in for a professional press after every wear seems excessive. If you have small areas with wrinkles – say at the back of your trousers’ knees or behind the elbows – I think it’s reasonable to carefully and judiciously apply a very light amount of steam for a short period of time. Note, many tailors I know will still wince at this suggestion, but I think it’s the most reasonable “middle road.” Certainly don’t go crazy with your steamer, and don’t steam areas that have been heavily shaped (such as the chest). Try to avoid areas with canvassing, and even sections with seams (as you can blow them out). Just light, gentle, and careful steaming. This, in my opinion, is certainly better than the often passed-around advice of putting your tailored jackets in the bathroom with you while you take a shower. There, the steam won’t be targeted at all, and you can end up wearing the man’s clothing version of a woman’s limp hairdo.
(Photo from Overstock)

Beware of Steamers

A garment steamer, like the one you see above, can be useful to take out wrinkles. If you use one, however, you should be aware: what seems to be a rather simple and innocuous device is actually something that can ruin your clothes.

This has been something of a crusade for tailors such as Jeffery Diduch (though he’s certainly not alone in the opinion). The logic here is straightforward: for high-quality garments, a fully canvassed jacket will have been carefully molded and shaped through a lot of hand pressing. As I’ve written before, a well-tailored jacket has a certain three-dimensional shape. You may notice a convex curve at the chest, concave curve at the waist, and maybe even a well-shaped, cylindrical sleeve. These aren’t formed by just cutting pieces of cloth to a certain pattern, but also by shaping the wool with a heavy iron.

A garment steamer can destroy a lot of this work. To understand how, imagine what would happen if you blew hot steam through a woman’s hair after it’s been carefully done up through curlers and ironing. It would go limp – her hair would relax and the shape would fall out. Wool is the same way. Which is why, given how much handwork goes into a well-tailored jacket, and how much value that work imparts, one should reconsider garment steamers.

Another, arguably larger, danger looms for fused jackets. There, hot steam can delaminate the fusible interlining inside, which then can result in bubbling. If you don’t believe this can happen, know that in order to delaminate jackets, factories do exactly this: blow hot steam through a jacket. The only way to prevent delamination is to apply both hot steam and pressure. Without the second ingredient, you risk a separation of the layers.

So then what to do about wrinkles? Jeffery has often recommended that men learn how to press their own jackets, but this isn’t the same as ironing your shirts. In fact, the key here is to not iron, but press, and to learn how to do that properly, you should read Jeffery’s tutorial.

Jeffery’s write is well done and detailed, but I admit I’ll never try doing such a thing. I just don’t have any confidence I’d do it right. So, if you’re in the same boat, I’d recommend sending it to someone who can do it professionally. Note, most dry cleaners will say they offer this service, but what they’re actually doing is putting your jacket over a form and blowing hot steam through it. Not what you want. Make sure you’re getting a true hand press. If you can’t find someone local for this, I recommend RAVE FabriCARE.

But what if you just need something quickly done? Sending your garments in for a professional press after every wear seems excessive. If you have small areas with wrinkles – say at the back of your trousers’ knees or behind the elbows – I think it’s reasonable to carefully and judiciously apply a very light amount of steam for a short period of time. Note, many tailors I know will still wince at this suggestion, but I think it’s the most reasonable “middle road.” Certainly don’t go crazy with your steamer, and don’t steam areas that have been heavily shaped (such as the chest). Try to avoid areas with canvassing, and even sections with seams (as you can blow them out). Just light, gentle, and careful steaming. This, in my opinion, is certainly better than the often passed-around advice of putting your tailored jackets in the bathroom with you while you take a shower. There, the steam won’t be targeted at all, and you can end up wearing the man’s clothing version of a woman’s limp hairdo.

(Photo from Overstock)

Why You’re Unlikely to Tell Between a Fused and Half-Canvassed Jacket

Tailor Jeffery Diduch, who maintains the rather illuminating blog Tutto Fatto a Mano, was nice enough to contact us a few weeks ago to correct us on the pinch test. Apparently, you can’t use the pinch test to see if a suit jacket or sport coat is half-canvassed, only if it’s fully-canvassed. The pinch test, as many readers know, is when you pinch the two outer layers of a jacket, typically along the lower front near the edge, and pull them apart to see if there’s a distinct, floating piece of material in between. If there is, this is said to be a mark of quality. To understand this, we should first review how suits and sport coats are made.

A Quick Primer on Suit and Sport Coat Construction

Oversimplified, a jacket is made up of distinct layers of fabric. The two outermost layers, which is the cloth we see and feel, make up the “shell.” Sandwiched in-between are layers of haircloth, canvas, felt, and fusible interlining, depending on whether the jacket is fully-canvassed, half-canvassed, or fused.

On a fully-canvassed jacket, you’ll have a canvas – typically made from a blend of wool, often cotton, and animal hair – running down the full length of the garment. Tacked onto this will be the chest piece. As the name implies, this piece is just set at the chest and shoulders, so that it gives this area some shape and support. This chest piece is usually made of haircloth, which is a cloth that has had strands of horse tail hair woven in. Horse tail hair is very stiff and wiry, which is why it’s perfect for lending structure. Add on to this some felt to cover the wiry animal hair, possibly a very lightweight fusible if the outer shell’s material needs some stabilization, and we have the basic ingredients of a full-canvassed jacket.

The upside to this kind of construction is that the canvas will give a nice bloom to the lapels, making the jacket look more three-dimensional, and give some support to the front. The downside is that this type of construction is very expensive, both in terms of the materials and labor required, and if poorly executed, it could cause the fronts to pucker.

So, about forty years ago, a German company came up with a new type of construction: fusibles. A fused jacket is much like a full-canvassed garment in that it still has the two outer shell layers, a chest piece, and some felt. Replacing the floating canvas, however, is a fusible interlining. When heated and pressed, this interlining’s special resin will melt and bond to any cloth, thus adding a similar kind of support that canvas does. The upside to this is that we cut costs. It’s quick, easy, and requires little to no skill on the part of the operator. The downside, as you can imagine, is that it slightly stiffens the cloth and doesn’t provide as nice of a support as animal hair. Lapels don’t “bloom” in the same way, but rather look flat and lifeless. It also used to be the case that fused garments carried a risk of delamination and bubbling over time, but the technology has come far enough where such cases are rare.

Finally, we have half-canvassed garments, which are the compromise. Here, the front of the jacket is fused (since you still need to stabilize the fronts), but the fusible doesn’t extend to the lapel area, where you want that kind of bloom and structure that animal hair gives. Instead, the lapels will have canvas in it like a full-canvas garment. Here, you try to get the benefits of both methods, while minimizing the cons.

The Limits of the Pinch Test

Now, the pinch test is said to be a way for you to tell if a jacket is canvassed or not. Usually, you’ll want to take the fabric a few inches below the lowest button, pinch the two outer layers and pull them apart. If you can feel a distinct, floating layer in-between, that’s the canvas. You know so because below the lowest button, there’s really nothing but the two shell layers and whatever has been used to stabilize the fronts. If it’s floating and distinct, then you’ll know it’s been fully-canvassed. If you can’t feel anything between, that means some fusible has been glued onto one of the shell layers.

The reason why you can’t do this on a half-canvassed garment is because below the second button is always fused, so you don’t know if the garment is half-canvassed or fully-fused. If you go above the second button or so, towards the chest area, you won’t know if you’re just feeling the chest piece. All garments – fully-canvassed, half-canvassed, or fused – will have a floating chest piece, so feeling a distinct layer there means nothing. The only way to know if a garment is either half-canvassed or fused is to ask a knowledgeable salesperson, but from my experience, these are very, very hard to find. Especially, frankly, at places that would sell a fused garment. So, unfortunately, there’s little way to tell if a garment is fused or half-canvassed.

* Thanks to Jeffery for his help with this article. For a more detailed write-up on how suits and sport coats are made, read Jeffery’s post here