Navigating the wide range of suit prices can be overwhelming, especially when unsure what makes a good, reasonably priced suit. The advancements in fashion and technology have led to suits being available at prices ranging from $100 to $10,000 or even more. Suits are a representation of traditional, classic, and formal clothing, so it's essential to consider factors beyond just fashion trends. While any suit can add a touch of formality to your appearance, wearing a low-quality suit will never create the desired impression. Think of it like having a cup of espresso in the morning: both a cheap and an expensive coffee machine can make your espresso, but only the higher-quality machine can extract the best flavor and provide finer grinds.
Today, we won't be discussing luxury suits, which can cost around $5,000 and are out of reach for most people. Instead, we'll focus on suits within a more accessible budget of $500.
3 Key Differences
When assessing a suit's quality, the three primary factors to consider are fabric, cut, and craftsmanship. These elements are what set high-quality suits apart from their inferior counterparts. For example, with a $100 budget, you'll likely be limited to off-the-rack suits from retailers such as H&M, ZARA, or Men's Wearhouse. In contrast, a $500 budget opens up the possibility of purchasing a made-to-measure suit.
These days, the stretchiness of fabrics is often used as a marketing ploy by many retailers, which can distort your perception of fabric quality. Just because people desire a more comfortable suit and a retailer offers stretchy fabric doesn't necessarily mean the fabric is high quality. While some artificial fibers can provide extra stretch, it doesn't make them good. A good-quality fabric should be evaluated based on its sustainability, glossiness, and comfort.
● $100 Suits
Suits at the $100 price point are typically made from artificial fibers, such as polyester, rayon, cotton blends, recycled wool, and synthetic blends. Even if the raw material is wool or cotton, it is likely of the lowest quality. While it's unfair to say that all suits made from artificial fibers are inferior, you generally get what you pay for. Over time, poor-quality fabrics will lose shape, start pilling, and alter the original structure of the suit. Of course, this is also related to craftsmanship and the "cut." However, finding a suit with good craftsmanship on this budget is nearly impossible because they are mass-produced. In addition to the low longevity of inferior fabrics, they also offer poor breathability. Once you try a suit made from quality fabric, you might discover that you don't actually sweat as easily.
● $500 Suits
When your budget reaches $500, you have many more fabric options to choose from. You can opt for 100% natural fibers such as wool, linen, cotton, and silk. These materials are softer and provide a more comfortable wearing experience. By following the advice of fabric experts, you may have the opportunity to find a fabric that offers a truly exceptional drape. Generally, the fabric of a $500 suit won't last as long as that of a $2,000 suit, but it will likely last at least 2-3 years longer than a low-quality $100 suit.
Signs to Distinguish Between Low and High-quality Fabrics
When it comes to wool fabrics, the feel of them is often the easiest way to differentiate between low and high-quality options. High-quality wool fabric tends to be soft, refined, and smooth to the touch, while low-quality fabrics feel coarse, harsh, and uncomfortably stiff. You can easily distinguish them by comparing the feel of two fabrics side by side. For other materials, such as seersucker and linen, keep in mind that they may not feel smooth to the touch, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are low-quality. That's just the nature of these fabrics. A well-made jacket crafted from high-quality seersucker or linen can last for years in your wardrobe.
In addition, there are fabrics made from 100% wool that are somewhat dry to the touch, like Hopsack, but still offer good quality. These fabrics typically provide breathability and wrinkle resistance, making them valuable options for specific purposes.
To find the best fabric that suits your needs and budget, communicate your requirements to retailers and follow their recommendations. This way, you can make an informed decision and choose a fabric that will meet your expectations.
The "cut" of a suit is the single most crucial factor in determining whether it fits you well. Both off-the-rack and made-to-measure suits may look great in images, but you can only truly tell the difference when you put them on. In fact, there aren't specific signs to pinpoint a good or bad cut between ready-to-wear and made-to-measure suits; the key is to see how well the suit fits your body.
● $100 Suits
It's doubtful you'll find a $100 off-the-rack suit with a great cut, as these suits are mass-produced using machines on assembly lines. Even if you share the same height, weight, and chest circumference as someone else, your body types are likely to be completely different, meaning that a suit that fits one person well may not fit the other. For instance, many $100 off-the-rack suits have large armholes due to their mass production. You might feel comfortable standing with your arms at your sides, but try lifting your arm, and you'll feel restricted as the entire jacket moves with you.
● $500 Suits
Made-to-measure suits are crafted as semi-finished products based on standard sizes, then slightly adjusted according to your body measurements until they're finished. As a result, these suits are more likely to fit your body type and give you a polished, clean look. However, this approach doesn't solve all fit issues. If you want a suit that fits you flawlessly, consider opting for a bespoke suit, which might cost over $1,000, or explore the option of having a suit crafted from scratch with expert handmade craftsmanship.
The main difference between quality and poor craftsmanship lies in the construction of the suits - fused, half-canvassed, and full-canvassed. You might be confused about these different constructions but you don't need to know the technicalities. Learning about the differences in the final effect between these three constructions is enough for you to choose a suit that fits you. Additionally, craftsmanship is reflected in all the details, such as buttonholes, stitching, collar, and lapel.
● $100 Suits
It's rare to find a $100 suit with a half-canvassed or full-canvassed construction. Most $100 suits are constructed with fused interlining. Sometimes a fused interlining construction is made for a casual style that provides a more comfortable wearing experience. However, from a lifespan perspective, it's not considered quality craftsmanship. Typically, your fused construction suits will last no more than a year. They'll lose their shape, and you'll notice bubbles forming on your lapels all over your jacket. This look is cheap and inferior and is the hallmark of a $100 suit.
Moreover, you won't find a handmade collar on a $100 suit, because it takes a lot of time to create one by hand. As a result, you won't get a comfortable feeling while wearing it, and it likely won't last for more than a year.
● $500 Suits
Full-canvassed suits have a longer lifespan, but this comes at the cost of a longer production cycle and higher production costs. In reality, it's rare to find a $500 suit with full-canvassed construction, although it's possible just for a suit jacket.
Both full-canvas and half-canvas suits have a longer lifespan than fused constructions. However, full-canvas suits perform better. Over time, this type of interlining can automatically adjust to your body type. Eventually, the suit will fit your body perfectly and provide an excellent drape. As for the half-canvas suits, they are lighter and more breathable, which means they are more comfortable. This construction strikes a balance between fused and full-canvased constructions while saving on costs. If you find a $500 suit with full-canvas construction, be sure to check their fabric, as retailers might cut costs on fabric and provide better craftsmanship.
While you won't find a handmade collar on a $100 suit, it's possible to find one on a $500 suit, although it's rare. We do offer suits with handmade collars. These collars can make your suit last for years and provide a more comfortable wearing experience.
● Other Details to Distinguish The Craftsmanship
Let's go over the collar, lapel, and buttonhole details to make things easier for you.
The collar stitching is the signature method to differentiate whether a suit has quality craftsmanship. If you see a collar with very regular zigzag stitches or consistent stitching, it is highly likely to be machine-sewn, which means it has poor craftsmanship. In contrast, if the stitches are irregular or appear less polished, the suit might be made with high-quality craftsmanship - representing the handmade.
A refined lapel usually has a sort of elegant curvature on both the inside and outside; it won't be pressed tightly against the jacket. This aspect will largely determine how your suits look - cheap, average, or sophisticated. You can see the difference in images, where a well-crafted lapel will stand out.
The easiest way to identify quality craftsmanship in buttonholes is to take a look at the lapel buttonhole. When comparing images, you can quickly tell the difference between them. One will showcase handmade work, while the other will be machine-made. Handmade buttonholes typically appear more intricate and detailed, whereas machine-made buttonholes can look more uniform and less personalized.
Understanding the differences between $100 and $500 suits is essential for making an informed decision when investing in a new suit. While a $100 suit may suffice for occasional wear or for those on a tight budget, a $500 suit offers better-quality fabrics, fit, craftsmanship, and styling options. By considering factors such as fabric quality, fit and tailoring, construction, and features, you can select a suit that suits your budget and personal style while providing the best value.