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Published in the Adelaide Hills Weekender Herald.
Things change, people change, even words change. The meaning and context of the word “bespoke” or to “speak for” has changed too. Although clichéd, swings and roundabouts are particularly relevant to the curious case of “bespoke”. Once the exclusive providence of suiting Savile Row style and a byword for class and luxury; the word has entered the domain of the everyday in contemporary English. Anything can be “bespoke”; we can now apply the word to the ordinary and elevate anything to the extraordinary; the bland to the bourgeoisie, even if only for a moment.
The word “bespoke” certainly comes into the twenty first century laden with meaning and a rich heritage but because of the allure it presents, it has been hijacked, taken hostage by every endeavour hoping to underscore exclusivity, luxury and personal signature. The problem is that the word has been spread too thin, like too little butter over too much bread. Not only is bespoke used to describe a myriad of items but it has lost its gravitas within the world from which it was born.
Today every wannabe designer, consultant, expert and so-called tailor throws the word around to describe any gentleman’s suit from ready to wear to made to measure and everything in-between. For a suit to be properly bespoke in the tradition of Savile Row, it needs to tick a few boxes. Firstly, you must choose a luxury cloth from an established house like Dormeuil, Ariston or Holland & Sherry. Next you must be professionally measured by a tailor to capture your attitude (posture), physical dimensions and the essence of your vision. Someone who displays a penchant for tailoring or enjoys flipping through issues of GQ doesn’t qualify regardless of how much rigorous Googling they have done.
Real tailors have studied an apprenticeship. They have been an understudy to a master tailor for a number of years moving gradually up the ladder of responsibility and learning the craft with precision. Some tailors specialise in jackets, some in trousers and some never cut a pattern but merely finish the suit. The master cutter will make a pattern or toile first which will be build up around you around as the suit takes shape. The process is not quick; it’s not supposed to be. It’s a labour of love and you are encouraged to live the experience. Beware, once you wear a true bespoke suit you set a precedent. Nothing else will be good enough moving forward.