September 10, 2014

Bespoke suits: British vs Italian

 

In the blue corner, we have Italian bespoke suits. In the red, white and blue corner, British bespoke suits. Both countries are universally acknowledged as the world leaders in bespoke suiting for gentlemen, but which is best, and why?

Well, Savile Row is generally accepted as the source of major trends. But it’s Italy that tends to pick up the latest style and run with it, making it more chic, more cool. What’s indisputable is that both nations have flawless techniques passed down through generations. These traditions and world-class tailoring have created fan bases in quite disparate parts of the world.

Italian suits in the US

In Europe, buying an Italian or British off-the-peg or bespoke suit is no problem. However, in America, it’s Italy that hogs the market. Ask any American where the finest suits hail from and he’ll tell you Milan or Rome. The US is a big market, so does Italy have it all its own way? Well, in terms of popularity, probably. But not if we factor in quality.

What’s the difference between the two? There’s a big divide in culture and philosophy – broadly, it’s tradition vs flair.

Naturally, the tradition comes from London. The British tend to be a little conservative when it comes to fabrics and cuts. Durability and practicality come built-in. Savile Row tailors just love fabrics that wear well and will survive many decades of British winters, with their accompanying grey lid.

Italian innovation

On the other hand, Italians have a sense of breezy innovation. With cuts and fabrics, they push the boat out, tinker and experiment. Suits tend to be ultra-lightweight and in luxuriously soft fabrics. They follow the line of the body. What they lose in longevity, they more than make up for in cool.

So, in terms of consumer spend and marketability, Italy would seem to be the clear winner. But that doesn’t mean their bespoke suits are the better made. In the end, it’s down to your priorities. Want something traditional that’ll last for decades? Go British. Want to look crisp and cool sipping espresso at a Milanese pavement café? You know where to look.

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