Style Q&A: What are the Differences Between Off the Rack, Made-to-Measure and Bespoke Suits?

As a man moves up in the world and evolves his personal style, he climbs the ladder from suits that are off the rack to made-to-measure to bespoke. Grant gives us the step up on the differences.


I'm ready to buy my third suit. My first two are off the rack and they're acceptable, I think. I hear a lot about made to measure and ‘bespoke' suits online and am curious if they're worth the extra money. Is there really that much of a difference? Since my first two rack suits fit well, besides ‘fitting better' is there any real advantage to straying from the rack?

Best, Jason R.

Congrats on your wardrobe expansion. The fact that you’re asking the difference between off-the rack (OTR) and higher end tailoring shows you’re commitment to looking your best. There are several reasons why made-to-measure (MTM) and bespoke are superior to OTR. OTR suits are cut on a general pattern and aren’t specific to your body type which means whatever you buy OTR will have to be adjusted to your body after the fact costing you more time, energy and effort. You’re also limited in your choice of fabrics, quality, construction, and overall options. With OTR what you see is what you get. Many OTR suits use inferior fabrics and construction techniques which decrease the use of the suit over time.

MTM takes your suiting options to another level. The suit is still produced on a pre-cut pattern but the pattern is adjusted to your specific body measurements beforehand which save you from visiting a tailor. In general there are more options available in MTM. A wider selection off fabrics, fit, quality, and construction exist with MTM, but the options are still limited to what the particular brand and/or tailor can offer. The fit of an MTM suit will be much better. Arm holes will be higher, pants slimmer, jacket waist suppressed etc. For this service you can pay up to twice as much as an OTR suit but the cost will be worth the effort for a better looking, better feeling, better fitting suit.

Check out our visual guide for how your suit should fit.

The difference between OTR and bespoke is like driving a Dodge Neon versus a Dodge Viper. The difference in quality, construction, individualism, style, and price are vast. The term “bespoke” means to be spoken of or for. This originated from a time when men selected the individual fabrics for their suit by hand at their tailor. Once that fabric had been reserved so others couldn't choose it, it had “been spoken for.” (ed: Thanks to ewc on Reddit for the reference.)

Bespoke suiting is the ultimate experience in menswear. Everything in bespoke suiting is made from scratch by hand for the first time to conform exactly to the wearer’s body. Specific measurements are taken from head to toe and in between by a master tailor. An individual pattern is then made from the measurements for the first time. This pattern will be the guide for all future suits. The options available in bespoke suiting are endless. Fabrics, cuts, details, colors, etc. are all requested by the wearer and/or suggested by the tailor. There are several fittings from the first measurements to the completion of the suit creating a superior fit.

The cost of a bespoke suit is only limited by the imagination of the wearer. It can cost anywhere from 3 to 5 times as much as an OTR suit. Aside from a superior fit, the experience of having a suit created specifically for you and made to your expectations that shows your personality and will be part of your wardrobe for years to come is worth the cost.

A personal interaction is the best way to go bespoke but if you’re looking for online options try Indochino, A Tailored Suit, or Astor & Black. These purveyors of fine clothing offer top notch quality and service. Tell them I sent you.

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Grant Harris

Grant Harris is Owner & Chief Style Consultant at Image Granted; a Washington, DC based Image Consulting Company dedicated to solving the complex image, style & fashion issues of today's professional man. He has a healthy obsession with socks. Follow him on Twitter & Facebook.