It’s a common concern and rightly so.
I often see menswear threads fraught with debate about the hefty costs of bespoke. Writers and popular models can often afford bespoke, yet a large margin of avid readers (and the general population) cannot.
It’s a nice reality check and one I commiserate with.
Really, unless you make around $80,000+ annually, purchasing true, hand-finished bespoke is difficult.
Companies don’t really address the elephant in the room and the customers they’re excluding, since most returning clients live comfortably. Pair this with constant marketing, and classic menswear understandably rubs off as elitist to the general population.
It’s nobody’s fault, really. Everything material exists in a capitalist hierarchy and bespoke is no exception. Like luxury and vintage cars, there are millionaires who own several and those who can barely afford gas.
If anything, bespoke is less influenced by random product inflation. I know a consistent, highly regarded head bespoke shoemaker who makes about $80,000 a year. Based on stories from other shoemakers, that’s a fantastic income.
As readers know, I was once a shoemaking apprentice. That experience, and the herculean effort required to make one pair of bespoke shoes is forever etched in my memory. After that, I resolved never to offhandedly sell a pair of bespoke shoes, even for $10,000. Really, it’s such a serious commitment besides the physical strain.
We rarely often witness labor in clothing, which impacts our understanding about how products are priced. Bespoke attempts to recover some of that value in labor (of employed craftsmen crouched down, sewing) through fair pricing.
And of course, there will always be houses charging exorbitant amounts. That is unavoidable.
Tailoring will probably never be a bastion of equality. It never was.
For me, the better outlet is appreciation, like gazing at a beautiful work of art or spending a few minutes appreciating a rare stamp – without wanting or craving.
A few companies have met clients halfway and explored making RTW (ready-to-wear) garments inspired by bespoke models. Houses like W&S and 100 Hands make foreign bespoke – finished in India and priced cheaper. I think positive gestures like these can bridge financial access.
Menswear enthusiasts have so much passion: they can just sit back and enjoy the craft. Without doubt, many can help companies shift feedback into exciting projects. Brands and tailors can listen, take notes, and draft from there.