Buying a suit is tough (as we recently found out in our review of the best suits for men).
It involves both a ton of time and a substantial cash outlay.
And in most cases, you will get something that is just passable in terms of quality – especially if you go to one of those “warehouse” suit stores…
…you know the ones I am talking about…
Buy 1 suit get 3 free anybody!?!
But what are the alternatives?
Sure, you could go to your local department store and sift through the racks there…
…but then you are going to get something that is mass produced, will need to be altered (typically an additional expense that you have to pay for), will not fit well, and will still cost much more than you are comfortable spending…
…and for what?
To wear it a few times to weddings, funerals, and the occasional interview?
Well guess what…
…all of that changes today.
Today, I want to share with you a company I had the pleasure to test out – Black Lapel.
They are completely turning the retail suit market on its head.
Basically, everything you hate about buying a suit will go away when you experience Black Lapel.
Now I will go over the nitty gritty details in just a minute – but before I do that, I want to cover a bit about the company, what you should expect, and of course the most important part…
…the results (with actual pictures).
Let’s dig in and take a detailed look at Black Lapel:
About Black Lapel
Founded in 2012 by Derek Tian & Warren Liao, this 6-year-old NYC based company has proven the test of time (at least from online standards).
With a single retail location in NYC (10 East 38th Street for the folks who are reading from the NYC area), they largely serve men around the world via their incredibly clear and helpful website.
As you will see in a minute, their measuring and suit selection process is perfect for men who either have no fashion sense at all to those who love control in both customization and bold suit selections.
One of the biggest hanging points that some men (I don’t particularly know why) may have about Black Lapel suits is that they are made in China…
Perhaps it is due to the fact that we are trained with this notion that a quality suit must be hand crafted in some western European country to be considered quality?!
I don’t know…
But as you will see in just a minute, the quality that Black Lapel delivers is second to none and would easily fool even the most fashion savvy of men…
…however, you aren’t likely buying a suit to fool anyone.
After putting on the suit and feeling the fabric, we were (and you soon will be) converts.
As Black Lapel exclaims on their website (and it’s not a fact they are trying to hide in the least), they searched low and high for a decent factory to make their goods…
…not only because their name is on the line at the end of the day, but it makes for a damn fine suit at an affordable price…
Which of course translates to more money in your back pocket.
The Black Lapel Product Selection
This perhaps is one of the stronger points when it comes to Black Lapel (beyond price, quality, and convenience of course) – is product selection.
Whether you are looking to get yourself dressed for a wedding, funeral, or the daily office grind, Black Lapel has a formal offering for you.
On the Black Lapel site you will find the following categories:
Custom (To Your Measurements)
- Black Tie / Tuxedos
Accessories (Related To Dress Wear)
- Pocket Squares
- Cufflinks / Tie Bars
So, whether you are looking for a full suit, blazer to work with an existing pair of trousers, or simply some accent pieces (i.e. pocket square or tie bar), you can find some great picks in their store.
Given that our review is focused on just their suits (and likely the reason you are reading this in the first place), let’s take a deeper dive here:
Black Lapel Suit Selection Review
At the time of initial publication (Dec. 2018), Black Lapel offers 72 different types of suits at varying colors, occasions, patterns, seasons, fabrics, and prices.
In order to see what is currently available or if they have added any new styles, we recommend checking out their suit section for the latest information.
Measuring For Your New Black Lapel Suit
Getting the right measurements for a new suit is one of the most important parts of the process.
It’s one of those things at if you are off, it results in an ill-fitting garment that you will never want to wear.
But check this out:
The measurement process is also one of the best features about Black Lapel.
The requirements to get started are simple:
- Fabric measuring tape
- About 15 minutes of your time
- Spouse, significant other, or really trusted friend
Before starting, you are going to want to create an account.
While the entire measurement process takes about 15 minutes, should anything come up, all your info will be saved so you can pick right up where you left off.
Once your account has been created you will be served up with a few basic questions, including key measurements:
Questions around posture and shoulders:
Along with your fit preference:
Once these basics are covered, you will then be tasked with taking 12 additional measurements all around your body.
Remember: this extensive measuring helps to ensure that the suit you receive fits your body.
To make things super easy, Black Lapel does provide short and concise videos clearly explaining what you need to do:
Of course, there were some good laughs to be had around certain pre-populated measurements (like the one pictured above), where a stomach size should be about 5 inches slimmer than what I am currently carrying!
However, the videos do definitely make measuring idiot proof, so you can’t really screw up here too badly (don’t worry, they add in an additional safety measure as you will see in just a minute).
Once you finished the 12 easy measurements, you will then see the following screen letting you know everything has been saved and that they will be reviewing them:
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I half expected an automated message to come in a couple of days saying that “Everything is fine” or “Our system shows us that you did something wrong”…
…but what happened next surprised me…
…an actual person from Black Lapel reached out and made very specific recommendations:
For those following along at home – this is not typical.
Especially when many tech companies are too afraid to reach out as it could alter a conversion rate or some other key metric.
It’s this level of detail that really sets Black Lapel apart from other suit companies.
So, what’s the takeaway here?
Measure with confidence and know that one of Black Lapel’s tailors are there for you should something not look quite right.
Customizing A Black Lapel Suit
Once you have everything set when it comes to measurements, its now on to the fun part – selecting your brand new suit.
In our review we are going to look at the Navy Saxony Suit.
We decided to go with this one for a few reasons, one its really versatile, it works with many seasons, and lastly, you can never have too many blue suits!
Customizing a suit with Black Lapel is dead easy.
In fact, it’s so easy, we won’t go over every step – instead, we will cover just a few of the highlights:
To get started, just simply hit the “Customize Now” button:
As you begin, you will be asked a series of questions for your suit preference – such as the jacket type:
Along with several other details such as the following:
- Jacket Pockets
- Jacket Inter Lining
- Pant Pleats
- Vest (If you want to add one)
- Extra Pair of Pants (optional)
- Pick Stitching
- Ticket Pockets
- Accent Stitching (for a boutonniere)
- Last Sleeve Button Hole Stitching
- Pant Back Pockets
- Belt Loops
- Suspender Buttons
Yeah, it gets pretty detailed.
Now, I know this process can be a turn off to some men simply because it seems to provide a bit too much choice!
After all, have you ever really thought about accent stitching for a boutonniere before today!?
But Black Lapel knows this.
As you may have noticed in the screenshots provided above, Black Lapel gives you a bit of guidance when customizing your suit by way of the small BL icon recommending what you should go with:
This makes things much easier for those men who need a bit of guidance along the way.
In addition, these recommendations make sure that you don’t commit any fashion faux pas either!
Beyond customizing your new suit, Black Lapel also offers ample customization options on their dress shirts as well.
So, if you want a specific collar spread:
Or perhaps Monogramming:
Or any one of the following:
- Cuff Type
- Chest Pocket
- White Collar (if you choose a different shirt color)
- White Cuffs (if you choose a different shirt color)
- Shirt Black (pleats)
Again, this level of customization is unprecedented compared to many other suit shops online.
Unboxing Our Black Lapel Suit
Now truth be told, even after providing measurements, the next level service, and easy online suit customization process, I still had some apprehension…
…I mean, you read horror stories about poorly fitting suits all the time on forums and places like Reddit (which honestly can provide both really good and really poor advice), and other social media platforms.
So needless to say, when the package arrived, I was cautiously optimistic.
For those guys out there that like a good in-depth unboxing, here you go…
First, the arrival:
Plain, simple, and to the point.
A black box with the Black Lapel logo on the top, and shipping details underneath.
Opening up the inside, you see all the stuff neatly packed:
Everything was organized and stacked cleanly.
Our box did have a tear on the edge (top-left), however, none of the items were damaged upon arrival.
In the envelope you have a copy your receipt, along with a page answering a few common questions around remakes, returns, and alterations (more on this in a minute):
And also a few key instructions on taking proper care of your suit:
And a few other instructions around wrinkle removal, storage, and cleaning:
Now that we got the paperwork out of the way, it’s time to get to the good stuff – the suit…
…well the dress shirt first!
Here’s how it arrives:
If you are wondering, we decided to go with Black Lapel’s White Broadcloth Custom Dress Shirt.
It’s a fairly versatile dress shirt at 133 gsm (perfect for most seasons) and is made from 100% cotton.
The plastic wrapping while might seem like extra fluff, will help to protect the shirt during shipping from any scuffs or marks, ensuring that it is crisp upon arrival…
…and here’s a look at it sans wrapping:
And a bit closer to see the quality buttons and fabric:
When customizing this shirt, we went fairly conservative – classic semi-spread collar, no chest pocket, no monogramming, etc.
Now the moment you have been waiting for…
Like the dress shirt, the packaging here for the suit is pretty no-frills. Wrapped in black tissue paper that is held together by a sticker:
And once you undo the wrapping, you have your brand-new suit – perfectly folded:
In this review we are trying on the Navy Blue Saxony Custom Suit (the same one we went over in the customization steps above).
Based on our personal preferences, we decided to opt for the modern pick stitching:
Four buttons on the sleeve without accent threading:
Overall, nothing too terribly aggressive when it comes to design as we wanted a suit that was versatile.
When customizing the trousers, we also went with a straightforward approach:
Belt loops, clasp buckle, two back pockets, and a flat front (no pleats):
Lastly, one component included that we really loved was the included garment bag.
All too often suit companies like to sell you a pricey suit, yet give you no way to properly store one.
As we are quickly learning in this review, Black Lapel challenges a lot of these old school notions.
Here’s a look at the garment bag:
It’s both lightweight yet features a strong material that should protect your suit with ease:
Wearing Our Black Lapel Suit
It’s one thing to talk about the customization details and taking macro shots of the suit itself, but it’s a whole other notion to actually see how it looks on you.
Now before we get to the pics, we want to say a few things:
First, I am not terribly in shape.
My details are as follows:
I am 5’8” and reaching towards 160lbs (the holidays haven’t been nice to me so far).
So, be that as it may – here are a few pics of the suit fresh from the box:
*Note: I didn’t exercise use of the complimentary tailoring credit yet. However, based on the pictures above, I feel confident that this suit would look even better if I spent a few extra minutes at my local tailor making the adjustments.
How Others Look In Black Lapel Suits
All too often when seeing suit pictures online you get only one person’s point of view…
…and that can be a problem.
Well, you at home are likely much different in both height and weight compared to me.
So to help you out, we found a few other men who were reviewing or showcasing their Black Lapel suit to give you a bit more comprehensive view on what you should expect:
Black Lapel Tailoring Credit
Now one would think that with the several measurements provided and outreach from a Black Lapel specialist you would expect a perfect fitting suit upon arrival – the reality is that this won’t always be the case.
But, Black Lapel smartly accounts for this…
…and they make it really simple.
As part of their Flawless Fit Promise, Black Lapel provides you with a $75 tailoring credit for your suit.
As part of the paperwork you receive in your box, you have an Alterations Form that you can bring to your local tailor to have them fill out:
Here you just follow the instructions and provide a copy of your receipt.
Then you will receive a refund for the tailoring credit from Black Lapel within 10 days of approval.
This is awesome!
Black Lapel Return Policy
One of the most standout features of Black Lapel, especially compared to many online custom suit stores is their return policy.
To put it simply:
They are the best in the business.
If you are disappointed with your suit (which we don’t think you will be), you can get a full refund for your suit so long as its unworn, undamaged, and within 30 days of receiving the package.
You just have to cover the shipping back.
Overall, this is incredibly lenient and one of the reasons why many men go with Black Lapel over the other suit companies (and even brick and mortar stores).
Now you are probably thinking that they just give the returned suit to someone else who might have similar measurements to you, right…
…and you would be partially right.
Now get this…
That’s awesome – we hope more clothing and suit companies take notice.
Black Lapel Shipping Time
One of the biggest gripes for online suit companies is their turnaround time.
To put it simply:
If you need a suit next week, then Black Lapel isn’t for you.
Let’s be honest here:
The amount of time required to make a suit is simply much longer than if you were to go to your local suit store and pick one off the rack (however, it won’t be cut to your measurements – making for a poor fit).
The typical turnaround time for a Black Lapel suit is around 4 to 6 weeks.
Remember, they ship from China.
Therefore, you will want to plan accordingly.
Don’t forget, in addition to the longer shipping times, you may also need your suit tailored once it arrives which could add on a few additional days depending on how busy your local tailor is.
While this lengthy time table may not be a huge deal breaker for many men, for those needing to look great for an upcoming occasion – it’s definitely worth noting.
Black Lapel Review: Our Final Thoughts
Whether you are buying your first suit or are looking to replace one that has been in your closet since your high school prom, Black Lapel is undoubtedly a perfect choice for men.
Their competitive prices coupled with the uncompromising quality makes them a great place to check out when purchasing a new suit.
Custom suits allow for a much cleaner fit to your body and one that you will likely be pleased with years down the road.
So, if you are looking for an upgrade, check out Black Lapel – we think you will be pretty darn happy with what you receive in the mail.
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.