A quality custom made suit will not only fit much better than most suits found at a local warehouse or department store but also give you complete control during the design process.
As great (and convenient) that online suit shopping can be, there is understandably a lot of apprehension from men.
Even the CEO of Suitsupply, one of the companies mentioned in this article, stated in this recent interview that men still want to ‘try things on’ when purchasing suits.
But here’s the deal:
Going to the suit store can be a chore.
Not only can it eat up an entire afternoon, but you will likely walk away with something that is less than desirable.
After all, who can resist a ‘Buy One Suit, Get Three Free’ deal that they always offer?!
But even if you do skip the department stores, you might not live within a few miles of a quality suit store…
And if you do, you probably don’t want to deal with the high-pressure sales tactics anyways.
This is where online custom made suits make perfect sense.
But I know what you must be thinking:
How can I really trust an online store in making a custom suit without ever measuring me?
You’re not alone…
…I had that same exact thought as well.
Even when doing research on many of the popular online custom made suit stores, I kept finding one bad interaction after another…
But as I dug deeper – I found a consistent theme:
Nearly every time, the problem wasn’t with the quality of the suits, but rather the it was around the fit of the suit (no big surprise there).
So, this got me wondering:
If these men and online retailers just got a little bit better at determining their right size, could the online suit market be the next big thing?
Well, I’ll get to that in just a minute…
…but before I do, I want to cover a few quick things:
Custom made suits require work from you
As we eluded to above, one of the most important aspects to ordering a custom made suit online is going to get the right fit for your body.
Most men’s fashion experts agree that if you had to decide between a poor quality suit with the right fit vs. a several thousand dollar suit with a poor fit, you should always opt for the poor quality but proper fit…
…and that makes complete sense.
The finest fabrics in the world along with the details in the suit mean will mean absolutely nothing if you are swimming in your suit or have fabric bunching up in all the wrong places.
So, what should you do to ensure a great shopping experience?
Pay close attention to the retailers fit advice.
When checking out custom made suit shops like Indochino, you will find an in-depth tutorial on the required steps you need to follow in order to get the right fit:
While the measuring steps (18 in total) might seem a bit overkill – it will take no more than 15 minutes of your time.
Of course this should go without saying, but in the spirt of full coverage of this article – you need to make sure you have a proper tape measure on hand.
If you don’t you can usually pick one up from a local craft store, drugstore, or even on here on Amazon for a couple of bucks.
Indochino even offers up one for $1 – not bad.
Beyond fit, you need to also have an idea of what you want in terms of fabric choice and color.
We dive into this a whole lot deeper at the end of the article…
But if you want the cliff notes, then just know this:
If this is your first suit, don’t go too trendy.
Keep the colors conservative so it can be worn in several settings.
For fabric weight, get a moderate weight fabric (250 – 280 GSM) for all season use.
Some of the best online custom suit companies
It takes a lot of work to try and compare all the custom made suit offerings that are available online.
However, in order to make things clear and as easy for you as possible, we broke down each retailer on various metrics.
Taking this approach allowed us to have an unbiased look at each of the most popular online custom suit stores.
Here’s what we found out:
Founded in 2007, Indochino is one of the more seasoned veterans when it comes to the online suit world.
Offering a wide array of options that can serve just about any need, they have undoubtedly set the standard when it comes to both product quality and offerings.
With an ever-expanding physical location presence in both USA & Canada (47 at time of publication), Indochino is quickly making their way as a respected name in the men’s fashion world.
Here’s a few things that make them pretty special when it comes to suits:
Whether you are looking for a full suit (the focus of today’s article) or simply a blazer or dress pants, Indochino has a compelling offering that can serve you in just about any formal capacity imaginable.
But what really puts them apart from every other online custom made suit offering is their huge selection of suits at affordable prices.
From tuxedos, luxury, premium, and more, they have suits that can fit just about any budget imaginable.
If you are only comfortable paying a few hundred bucks for a suit to $799, Indochino can work virtually into any budget.
As great as their suit selection may be, their customization process has just about every other online retailer beat (with perhaps the only exception being Black Lapel).
Let’s look closer:
For the Howden Birdseye Navy Suit that caught our attention, you have the following customizations available to you:
Four different lapel options (go with either a notch or peak – notch slim is a bit too contemporary and the peak wide is a bit too formal):
Three different vent options (one, two, and none – no vent is best for tuxedos):
Buttons to compliment your notch or peak lapel (we would recommend one – three for notch lapel and double breasted for peak lapel):
Five different pocket options (pocket flaps are the most popular – slanted or no pocket flaps for more formal setting):
One aspect that we loved during the Indochino jacket customization process centered around the extra details.
Without going too overboard (I’m looking at you Black Lapel), Indochino offers some subtle ways to demonstrate your sense of style.
This includes both a custom lining from one of their wide array of patterns along with a monogram:
Which is great as you don’t feel like you are missing out by simply going with a more affordable suit.
When looking with a pair of pants to go with your suit, the options are limited.
As you will see in a minute where Black Lapel allows you to choose between countless pocket configurations, the Indochino trouser customization process is straight forward.
For pleats you have two choices (we recommend going with no pleats):
Suspenders, Cuffs, Belt Loops, and Side Tabs
Furthermore, you can add in a few details if you plan on wearing suspenders or prefer cuffs:
On the waist band, you can go decide between side tabs and belt loops. Generally, belt loops will be a bit more versatile.
While never a staple but for the most formal of occasions (i.e. weddings), you do have the option to add a vest when customizing your suit.
This is largely a personal choice and one you may want to think about if you want to add more choice in your wardrobe.
Finding your fit
In order to make sure that your suit fits well upon arrival (remember it still will need to get tailored), Indochino has a great online tutorial on finding the perfect size.
Composed of 14 different videos (each about 15 seconds in length), Indochino will guide you through the entire process to finding the perfect measurement:
Furthermore, they will go over 4 additional body posture/form questions as well:
After everything is set, you can save the info to your account so you don’t have to worry about doing this again should you decide to purchase and additional suit down the road.
Like many custom made suits, once they have been cut from the fabric to fit your body measurements, they can’t be resold.
Indochino’s return policy is pretty standard within the custom made suit market.
As stated on their return page, they don’t offer refunds based on measurement and customizations.
So be sure you think about your purchase before you hit that Buy Now button.
Once you receive your suit in the mail, you will have available to you a $75 tailoring credit for additional alterations.
Should you decide to take it into one of the Indochino showrooms or your personal tailor, the choice is up to you.
If you elect for a personal tailor, you will need to follow the 3 steps on this page in order to ensure that you receive your full credit back.
Indochino suits in action
Now it’s one thing to talk about suit customizations, return policies, and alteration credits but it’s a completely other thing to see how the suits look on real men.
Here are a few pics we found on Instagram of some men sporting their new Indochino threads that we thought looked great:
Final thoughts on Indochino
When it comes to custom made suits, Indochino is one of the best in the business. Their customization process is extremely easy to get through (as we talked in full detail of our review of Indochino) and their lower than average prices are great for budget-minded men.
If you are looking to add a new suit to your wardrobe or are looking for a new suit that isn’t from a department store, then we would recommend that you take some time to look at Indochino – you will be happy you did.
Known for both controversy (particularly around their print ads)…
…and extremely well-crafted suits, Suitsupply have been serving men around the world.
But they aren’t some venture-backed company that just sprung out of a WeWork or Silicon Valley…
…no, in fact they have been at the menswear game since 2000 when it was started by Fokke de Jong in his dorm room (source).
Since then, Suitsupply have won countless accolades from respected men’s fashion magazines and were even responsible for dressing the 2012 Dutch Olympic Team (the company is headquartered in Netherlands).
Since starting off as primarily an online storefront and a pioneer in the custom made suit business, Suitsupply has since established over 100 locations across the world (35 in the USA) where men can get a more of a hands-on shopping experience.
To take things even further, Suitsupply also supports several non-profits around both AIDS initiatives (TWO x TWO, amfAR) along with eco-conscious business organization (Fair Wear, I:CO) that further demonstrates their commitment to their manufacturing process.
But as any one will tell you, it’s the product that counts.
When you plan on dropping north of $1,000 on a suit, will Suitsupply be your company of choice?
Check out our review:
Similar to many other retailers in in the custom-made category, Suitsupply not only offers up suits, but also several different formal clothing options:
Along with a wide array of Accessories as well:
But their custom made suit section is something else…
Unlike Indochino that has all their suits laid out for you to browse, the build process for Suitsupply is completely unique in its own right.
Let’s take a look:
Before you worry about lapels and pleats, Suitsupply gets you started by deciding on what type of fabric you want from their 90+ offerings:
What’s intriguing about this approach is not only the filtering (of which you can slice and dice based on color or design), but also you can see that some of the more luxurious fabrics have a +$40 USD surcharge added.
We can definitely see both the merits and potential pitfalls to this approach.
Unless you know your fabrics rather well (if not, read the appendix of this guide), then you will want to make full use of info window to learn more:
Here you can see the GSM (gr/m2) and the suggested season that you should wear the suit.
Just be sure you are aware of this when building a suit so you aren’t stuck with the wrong fabric for the season.
According to their site, fabrics are offered as either a Super 110 or Super 120.
After your fabric of your suit has been decided upon, you then move forward with the lapel and pocket selection.
While Suitsupply seems to have a limited lapel, button, and pocket selection when compared to other stores – it’s for a pretty good reason:
So, you don’t commit a fashion faux pas.
There are reasons that you normally don’t see wide peak lapels with single breasted designs along with flap pockets – it simply doesn’t look that great together and will be distracting to the viewer.
When browsing Suitsupply, you will have 5 different pocket and lapel options (dark blue line indicates customization points):
If it’s your first suit, we would recommend going with the Napoli – Single Breasted simply due to versatility and its timeless design.
But within the next section, you do have the choice to add cuffs (turn up) to the bottom of your pants – which can be great for much taller men looking to slightly shorten their stature:
Once you decided on your cuffs, the next part of the trouser build process will be around the waist.
Belt loops need no explanation, however, for the men not familiar with side-adjusters, these are great if you plan on always wearing your pants with suspenders.
So be sure to think about this step before you commit to one over the other:
After the suit and pants have been selected, you can go ahead and decide on whether you want to add a vest (waistcoat) to your order as well.
When completed you can then select your size (more on this in a minute) and go ahead and checkout.
One notable area of the customization process that is missing when compared to other custom made suit offerings is the lack of jacket lining fabric, boutonniere thread, and monogram selection.
So if you do like to add a little extra design flair to your ensemble, you may be a little disappointed.
Finding your fit
Guiding you through how your custom made suit should fit on Suitsupply is incredibly lacking.
Therefore, if you know your size well (and that it doesn’t fluctuate much between brands), then you can probably proceed with purchasing a suit.
However, if you need a bit more guidance, then we would recommend looking elsewhere.
One standout feature that Suitsupply offers is their return policy.
As stated explicitly on their website (and when you are checking out), they state that you have 30 days from the delivery date to return your unaltered and unworn products.
Given that Suitsupply has an ever-expanding retail footprint across the world, they understandably want to have their in-house tailors work on your suit in order to achieve the perfect fit.
But if you live in an area where a Suitsupply store isn’t nearby, then you will need to pay out of pocket for tailoring service.
With 35 stores sprinkled throughout the United States, depending on where you live, you may be able to get a hands-on experience with Suitsupply:
Not only will this allow you to touch and feel the fabrics, but you can work one-on-one with their staff to find the perfect suit that fits within your budget.
You can learn more about their locations here.
For the international readers, there are 65 additional stores throughout the world.
Suitsupply in action
Here’s some great looks at men sporting their Suitsupply threads:
Final thoughts on Suitsupply
There is a lot to love about Suitsupply (and the reason why we included them in this list). Their favorable return policy and wide fabric selection make them worth checking out in the custom made suit world.
While we wish they extended a tailoring credit like other online retailers and did a bit more hand holding when it comes to determining the right fit for your body, they still are great if you are a seasoned suit shopper that knows your way around.
For novices, we would either recommend going to a physical location (which isn’t always possible) or looking at some of the other options we went over in this guide.
New York based Black Lapel is another strong entry in the custom made suit world. Featuring both competitive pricing and full customization, they are a favored brand by many men.
Able to craft not only custom made suits but also tuxedos, shirts, blazers, vests, and even outerwear (i.e. topcoats), makes Black Lapel a perfect choice for men who demand a perfect fit across their entire wardrobe.
With 71 different custom made suit options that can be filtered based on color, occasion, patterns, seasons, and fabric Black Lapel makes it relatively easy for even the most inexperienced man out there get a decent suit:
So, let’s dive into the customization process that Black Lapel has put together for men looking for a custom made suit:
One suit that caught our attention and what we will be customizing today will be The Traveler Suit In Navy – it’s a fairly moderately priced suit ($799) and can be worn in all seasons:
When customizing the jacket, you have two choices to choose from:
Side note: What we really liked about the Black Lapel process is their black BL icon that recommends choices. This makes it extraordinarily easy for men who aren’t keen on fashion to still look great.
Once you are settled on the button choice, you can then move forward on to the lapels:
The selection for lapels is pretty standard on the Traveler Suit with four options available:
Now if you are shopping for a more formal occasion and want to go with the Peak lapel, you may have noticed that the double breasted suit type wasn’t available on the previous screen.
Should you want a double breasted suit with a peak lapel, you will want to start with a different suit like the Rivington Dusk instead.
Once the jacket lapels are settled, you have your choice of two vents:
Pocket selection for Black Lapel is pretty great.
Whether you are looking for a more contemporary look with the slanted piped or a classic slanted flap pocket – the choice is yours for the customization (we agree with Black Lapel and recommend the straight flapped):
Now on to the fun stuff – jacket lining:
Here you can get pretty creative, whether you want go with a standard block color or a paisley – you can add it to your jacket at no additional charge.
Like Indochino, Black Lapel offers up a free monogram service should you want to add a bit more personalization to your jacket:
Of all the custom make suit options available on the market, Black Lapel options are rather vast when it comes to trousers.
While pleats are typically never recommended on dress pants, for the men with larger legs that need movement the options here can be pretty comfortable – especially if you plan on wearing your suit weekly:
Note: Later on in the suit building process, Black Lapel does provide you with the option to select your back pocket design, suspender buttons, and belt loops or side tabs.
Like pleats, cuffs are rarely recommended in a suit. Should you have double pleats or are rather tall and would like to break up your appearance, then cuffs can be a sound choice.
However, for most men reading this, if you want a contemporary look, go without the cuffs:
A few additional details that Black Lapel has beyond the extra pair of trousers and a vest is pick stitching:
Typically only found in the highest end of suits, pick stitching (also known as stab stitch) is a trademark design aesthetic found in custom made-to-measure suits that can subtlety add an extra bit of design flair.
While a personal choice, we definitely love when this little detail is added to suits.
Beyond pick stitch, another option you can add to your custom made suit is a ticket pocket:
While not really functional today, ticket pockets take root in the olden days as they were a place where men use to store their train tickets.
This style of pocket was in vogue a few years ago and seems to have subsided a bit (at least from our look at the trendsetters on social media) and should be skipped.
Lastly, there are a few additional details that Black Lapel offers including boutonniere lining…
…and button hole lining (last button only):
While complete customization is great, the level of detail here is borderline too much.
We recommend skipping on the small details so you don’t have to worry about color conflicts especially with your tie selection or if you plan on using a pocket square.
Finding your fit
In the same vein as Indochino, Black Lapel provides an extremely easy to use tutorial outlining the process to find your exact measurements:
The whole process shouldn’t take too terribly long – and once completed, your measurements will be saved in your account so you won’t have to do it again.
Beyond the countless (almost too many) customization options that Black Lapel offers when making your next custom made suit, the return policy is among the best in the custom made business.
You have 30 days to return your suit.
While they recommend using alterations and remakes to fix your dissatisfaction with their product, simply eating the cost of the custom suit (that can’t be resold by the way), is an incredibly generous policy.
Just be sure that if you aren’t thrilled with the suit that you don’t wear, alter, or damage it in any way in order to get a full refund.
Given that they have only one showroom in the United States (NYC), Black Lapel relies heavily on the tailoring credit.
As outlined here, Black Lapel will offer up to $75 on additional alterations once your suit arrives in the mail:
Just be sure that you save your receipt so you can be repaid accordingly.
As eluded to earlier, Black Lapel only has one retail outlet in New York City (10 E 38th St) that you can visit – just be sure that you make an appointment ahead of time should you plan on stopping by.
Black Lapel suits in action
Here are a few pics we found on Instagram of other men wearing some fine Black Lapel suits:
Final thoughts on Black Lapel
Black Lapel is a great online custom suit store for both men shopping for their first suit or their 5th. If there was any caveat to Black Lapel it would be their customization options.
Nearly going overboard with options like boutonniere lining and last button lining, it is great that they do counteract this decision making process by providing recommendations.
Sometimes giving someone too much to choose from can be both frustrating and lead to cascading poor decision that make for less than desirable results. But overall, if you are looking for a new custom suit, take a few minutes to check out Black Lapel and all they have to offer.
Key steps to follow to get the best custom made suit for you
Here were a few key pointers you should be on the lookout for when building your new custom suit:
How long you should expect your online custom suit to take
Given that the suits are made to order, they will typically take about 4 to 6 weeks for them to arrive on your doorstep.
Understandably this can be a deal breaker for some.
If you are reading this and preparing to get a suit for a wedding that is only a few weeks out, we wouldn’t recommend going online.
However, if you are purchasing a suit to wear on occasion at the workplace, then the extended wait time shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
Even after your suit has arrived in the mail, it’s important to make sure that you bring it to your local tailor in order to dial it into the exact size preferences.
They give you this tailoring credit for a reason…
Should (and can) you return your suit?
Possibly the stickiest part of the online custom made suit business is going to be around the return policy.
If you follow all the steps and customize the suit to your exact preference, you expect the suit that arrives in the mail to meet those expectations…
…and rightfully so!
But here’s the deal:
If your suit fits well and you aren’t happy with the results for whatever reason, the return process can be difficult for some retailers.
The reason for this is that with a custom made suit, the retailer eats the cost – it effectively will go into the trash since the fabric was cut based on the measurements you provided.
In best case scenario you will receive store credit.
So be sure you are aware of this when purchasing a suit online.
Be realistic with your body
I wish I had perfectly toned abs and a chiseled chest…
…but the harsh reality is that I don’t.
When purchasing a new suit online, it’s important that you have an honest debrief with yourself.
And no, this doesn’t mean asking your significant other ‘Do I look fat in this?’ (they will likely be too kind).
But if you have a bit of a larger mid-section or hips, then a slim fit may not be best…
…and that’s ok.
Remember what we touched on at the beginning:
99% of men’s fashion experts will always recommend a better fitting suit over a more expensive suit that’s ill fitting.
So be sure to follow the measurement recommendations from the company in order to ensure that your next custom made suit works out for you.
Swatches for better understanding
One of the biggest problems when buying any type of clothing online is that you don’t get to feel the fabric.
As great as some of the pictures may be, you still won’t know how the fabric will be until it shows up to your doorstep…
…and for some, that may be too late, especially if they were planning on wearing the suit for an upcoming event.
So, if you have time to spare, and really want to do your due diligence on a company before you click that ‘Buy Now’ button, then we would recommend picking up a tailor’s kit.
Online retailers like Indochino offer up to a selection of 16 different fabric swatches to give you a better idea on what to expect:
Don’t be intimidated by suit terminology
There is no way around it – finding the right suit for you can be tough.
To try and make things a bit easier, here are a few key cuts, fabrics, and weights that you need to be aware of when purchasing your next suit:
Jacket Customizations – Lapels
This becomes especially important with the jacket that you decide to purchase. You will notice that they come in two lapel types*:
* There are more lapel options than the two listed above, but for suits we will stick to just these.
When selecting a lapel, especially if you are getting a suit for the very first time, then we would highly recommend a notch lapel:
It’s less formal and more versatile offering.
Peak lapels on the other hand will be for more formal settings (think high end events) and can’t ever really be dressed down in the same way as a notch lapel:
Jacket Customizations – Single vs Double Breasted
After picking out the lapel type, you will then need to decide whether or not you will go with a single or double breasted suit.
This simply refers to the buttons on the front of the jacket.
Single breasted suits will feature between one and three buttons (in a straight line) whereas a double breasted suit will have six (three on either side).
When making your custom suit, you can mix and match – however, just know that you may incidentally commit a fashion faux pas.
We would recommend playing it safe and go with either one of the two options:
- Notch lapel + single breasted
- Peak lapel + double breasted
This way you will still look great and not garner any confused looks from the more fashionable men out there.
Customizations around trousers (pants) are fairly limited in the custom suit world – but they still do exist.
The most common change that men may consider on a pair of trousers will to decide if they want pleats, suspender buttons, and a button/hook front.
While a front button is purely aesthetic and one that can go either way, pleats will be the largest decision you will need to make here:
In short, we recommend that you don’t select pleats when possible.
As we covered in a fair bit detail in our chinos vs khakis comparison, while pleats do give you a bit more movement in the legs, they aren’t nearly as streamlined as a flat front.
Trousers without pleats will help pull the viewers eye up from your legs towards your face.
While they provide utility in adding a bit more fabric to the end of the trouser in order for it to hang straight from the waist, going without cuffs will be a bit more contemporary look.
There are some fashion experts that do recommend going without cuffs in the event that you are rather tall (think 6’+) as they will help to break up your length.
But for those men who want to play it safe, going sans-cuffs will be a sound choice.
Suit fabric terminology
When shopping wool suits, you will nearly always see an ‘S’ number associated with it (i.e. Super 100s, Super 140s, etc.). This ‘S’ number refers to fineness of the wool that has been used in making the suit.
For the men looking for a more luxurious suit, then a higher ‘S’ number will make for a smoother fabric.
Beyond the ‘S’ number, you will sometimes (although this is a bit more rare) find the GSM of the suit as well.
GSM stands for ‘Grams per Square Meter’.
Typically ranging between 220 and 315, the higher the number, the heavier the fabric
If you are buying a suit for winter months, look to get one with a GSM of at least 285.
Opposite of that, if you plan on wearing your suit in the summer, a GSM less than 250 will be preferred so you don’t sweat immediately when you put on your jacket.
Here is a loose outline of what GSM is great for the season:
Oftentimes you can find great deals before you buy
Like nearly all online fashion retailers, Indochino, Suitsupply, Black Lapel and more often will have deep discounts on their suits on a regular basis.
If you are drawn to a particular suit on any of the retailers websites, just simply sign up for their newsletter and wait for the deals to come in.
When researching for this article, coupon sites often had a pretty low hit rate when it came to valid deals, which indicates to us that direct deals from the retailers will be best
Shawn Burns is the founder and senior editor of Tools of Men. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. Shawn’s expertise includes in-depth product reviews and how-to articles. Shawn was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise.