Custom clothes help men dress to kill

With more men turning to personal trainers and therapists, perhaps it's no surprise that they are also turning to bespoke tailors in hopes of cultivating that James Bond look.

Many custom tailors say that about 80 per cent of their clients are men who are tired of shirts with excess material around their waist or suit jackets with sleeves a tad too long. Men like to control the details of their clothing.

"The men who come in are information soakers," says Andrew Kozinn of Saint Laurie Merchant Tailors in New York.

"They have jobs that depend on due diligence, and that carries over to buying clothes."


An architect recently asked Saint Laurie's Kozinn to create a suit jacket for him with a big iPad pocket sewn into the lining. Bewildered at first, Kozinn realized that the concept wasn't too far off from jackets decades ago that had special pockets sewn in for cigarette packages.

Of course, the iPad is bigger and heavier. "It can wrinkle the jacket a bit," says Kozinn, "but we accommodate it."

A bespoke suit lets a man express himself, and the process of designing it makes him more thoughtful about his clothing, Kozinn says. "He wouldn't ever think of putting on a tight-fitting suit with goofy square-toed Zappos shoes."

Two-piece suit ($US1,895), three-piece suit ($US2,545), two blazers ($US1,495 each), four pairs of trousers (about $US550 each) -- Saint Laurie Merchant Tailors

Running Tally: $US9,630


A watch collector walked into Ascot Chang tailors in New York with a strange shirt request. He wanted the left sleeve shorter than the right so his timepiece would always be visible.

"We had a bit of a back-and-forth about it," says Ascot Chang's Justin Chang. "What would happen, we wondered, if he chose not to wear a watch one day?"

In the end, the left sleeve was shortened so it would never cover the watch. That was a minor challenge. One man, for instance, didn't come close to having the perfect physique, yet he wanted a shirt that made him look like Superman.

"More men want skin-tight shirts," says Chang. "They want it so tight that if they sit down, I worry their buttons will pop off."

$US2,400: Eight custom-made shirts (the average number bought by first-time customers) at an average price of $US300 per shirt using a variety of popular fabrics -- Ascot Chang

Running Tally: $US12,030


A man in his 60s yearned for the Levi's jeans of his youth. At the Levi's Meatpacking Store in New York, he was able to create a pair just like the ones he remembered. The store is the only one that manufactures bespoke Levi's.

Tobey Hayduk of Levi's says the stitches are made one line at a time and examined by a tailor during the process. Regular jeans go through machines that make two parallel lines of stitching at once. The difference may not be noticeable to everyone, but that doesn't matter, says Hayduk.

"You can be sitting in a restaurant having lunch, and you'll spot a guy at another table wearing bespoke jeans," he says. "Its sort of like being in a club."

$US750: One pair of jeans -- Levi's Meatpacking Store

Running Tally: $US12,780

Dress Shoes

You may never want shoes made out of ostrich skin, but if you do, you won't find them at Payless. Paul Wilson, the shoemaker at John Lobb in Paris, explains that aside from rare materials, a bespoke shoemaker can make dreams come true.

For one man, Wilson boosted his height (and ego) more than two inches by adding a "lift" inside the shoe. For another -- a skinny fellow who wore tight-fitting suits -- Wilson recreated clunky English army boots from World War I with bright red lining inside.

"I like it when a customer knows what he wants, though he looked like an extreme version of Tin Tin," says Wilson.

$US8,750: Initial consultation to create shoe mold ($US1,100) and then to create regular calfskin shoe -- John Lobb

Running Tally: $US21,530


"For some reason, many celebrities have huge heads," observes Orlando Palacios, the haberdasher at New York's Worth & Worth. For such men, finding a hat is no easy matter. Getting one made isn't easy either.

The size of the hat's brim and crown depends on such features as the size of the head, the squareness of the jawbone and the height of the cheekbones, he says. Even the size of the lapel on an overcoat is considered. In the end, it all has to be proportional.

"You can't put a three-inch brim on a hat for a man that is six feet tall but weighs just 120 pounds," says Palacios. "It would look as if he has wings."

$US325: Popular handmade felt fedora hat -- Worth & Worth Hat Shop

Running Tally: $US21,855


If the idea of having your underwear made to measure makes you squirm, most men would likely agree. Fact is, underwear doesn't really need to be customized. Since waist sizes must be flexible to handle expanding stomachs after big meals, boxer shorts and even briefs don't need to be perfectly fitted.

If you do want something special, make sure the boxer is made of silk or cotton with a yarn number of more than 100 (which makes the material smoother). Or you can buy briefs or boxers made by the Swiss company Zimmerli and have them specially colored for you by Kabbaz Kelly & Sons in New York. When it comes to boxers, that may be bespoke enough.

$US440: Zimmerli boxers made in Switzerland ($US55 each for eight pairs) -- Kabbaz Kelly & Sons

Running Tally: $US22,295


Why not create a very unique aroma that only you exude? At Scenterprises in Manhattan, you answer a number of questions before a concoction is tailored to your olfactory system.

At issue: Whether you like the feel of wool, silk or cashmere (which says something about the scents you may like) and the smells of flowers, woods or spice. The final test may be the reaction of others.

"Many people overlook the fact that our sense of smell is the most powerful sense after sight," says Sue Phillips, the owner of Scenterprises.

"If it smells bad, though, people will remember."

$US185: Minimum price for initial consultation and 1-ounce customized cologne -- Scenterprises

Final Tally: $US22,480