You want your clothes to fit better, but the thought of going to the tailor is intimidating, and you don't know where to start. This post is for you.
Fit is the most important aspect of style. If you don't believe this, look at the old photos of me in this post. You can see how I used to dress before I understood the importance of fit.
Wearing clothes that fit will literally make you look taller, thinner and even more athletic. But if you wear clothes that fit poorly, you will look shorter, fatter and less competent that you really are.
The problem is, for us shorter gents, it's very difficult to find clothes that fit properly. Like almost impossible.
Heck, there are even web apps that can help you find clothes that fit.
But at the end of the day, the best way to make sure your clothes fit is to get them tailored.
I'm talking about good old fashioned clothing alterations. Because the reality is, clothes are mass manufactured to fit the average male, who happens to be 5'9″ and slightly overweight.
That's why men under 5'9″ are pretty much screwed when it comes to clothing. You might say we've been short shrifted.
If you're already getting your clothes tailored, good for you! You've taken the most important step toward dressing well everyday.
If you've never been to the tailor, it's okay. I understand. Going to the tailor for the first time can be intimidating. You're probably wondering:
How do I find a good clothing tailor?
What do I tell them?
Do I have to know my measurements?
What if they mess up my clothes?
Is it going to be expensive?
What if I waste my money?
These are all legitimate concerns, but I promise you have nothing to be worried about. I'm going to teach you how to find a tailor, how to “test” them out and how to build a lasting relationship.
Let's start at the beginning…
How to Find a Tailor
The best way to find a clothing tailor is to use – you guessed it – the internet. To start, just search Google for “tailor + your town name”. For most cities and towns, there will be plenty of options to choose from.*
How do you pick the best one? Focus on these two criteria:
- Reviews (check their Google and Yelp reviews)
- Location (make sure they're close to your home or workplace)
After you find a tailor with good reviews that's close to where you live or work, pick up the phone and call them. Make sure they'll be open when you plan on stopping by, and ask them the following question:
“I want to get a pair of jeans hemmed, and I'd like to keep the original hem. Can you do that?”
If they say “no” or don't understand the question, find another tailor. This is a great way to filter out inexperienced tailors who don't really know what they're doing.
The hem is the extra piece of fabric that's folded over itself at the leg opening of your jeans. Any clothing tailor who's worth your time will understand that jeans look much better with their original hem.
Chances are, whoever you call will say they can hem your jeans and keep the original hem, no problem. Ask if you need an appointment. If so, make one. If not, let them know when you want to stop in (this first visit won't take more than 15-20 minutes).
*If you live in a small town or remote location, search for dry cleaners instead of tailors. Most dry cleaners have someone on staff who can handle basic alterations.
Start With Some Pants
Your potential tailor may have passed the initial screening, but that doesn't mean you should trust them with your entire wardrobe. You're still feeling them out.
Bring in a pair of jeans and/or a pair of trousers (dress pants) that are too long for you. Wear the shoes that you usually wear with those pants. If you need to bring in two different pairs of shoes – one for the jeans and one for the trousers – that's totally fine.
You don't have to know any specific measurements, but you should have an idea about how you want your pants to break.
Look over this pants fit guide from Primer Magazine. You can even print this picture and bring them with you.
Image credit: Primer Magazine
Explain which type of break you prefer (I prefer no break for dress pants and a quarter break for jeans). Your tailor will ask you to stand up straight in front of the mirror while they measure you. Make sure to stand naturally.
It's okay if you feel a little uncomfortable at this point, especially if there are other customers watching. Don't worry about it. Try to pretend that you're some rich business mogul who's being fitted for a bespoke tuxedo in his penthouse office.
Or pretend you're Sean Connery getting fitted for your next Bond flick.
I realize this may be hard. Your tailor probably isn't an old Italian gentleman, and you're local dry cleaning facility probably isn't lined with mahogany shelves full of leatherbound books and decanted whiskey.
But the point is you should try to enjoy it.
The tailor will fold your pants up to what they think is the best length. If you want them shorter, tell them. Don't be intimidated, and don't be shy. I've found that most tailors are conservative when it comes to length. If you don't speak up, you may end up with pants that are still a little bit too long for your liking.
They may not agree with your preferences, but they won't be offended, and they will come to learn and remember what you like. Trust me on this one!
Ask how much it's going to cost (should be $10-20), and see if you can pay when you pick the pants up. It should only take a few days.
Bring In a Button Up Shirt
Let's assume the pants turned out great. Now it's time to up the ante. Find a dress shirt that's too baggy in the torso and/or sleeves. Go back to the same tailor and tell them you want the shirt “taken in”.
Again, they'll make you stand on the little platform in front of the mirror while they pin up your shirt. Make sure they do the sleeves too (if they're baggy).
This will probably cost between $15-25 dollars, depending on where you live. It should also only take a few days to complete.
Nurture the Relationship
Congrats! You now have your very own tailor. If they did a good job with your pants and shirt, you should feel comfortable asking them about more complicated alterations, like shortening sleeves.
If they did a good job with the pants but botched the shirt, you'll have to continue your search.
Don't be surprised if you end up with more than one tailor. I have three that I go to regularly. One is quick, convenient and cheap. I go to them for basic stuff like getting pants hemmed or removing belt loops.
Another (VIP Custom Tailor) handles the bulk of my tailoring needs – shortening sleeves, tapering pants, etc.
The third is a master suit maker who I only go to for major surgery on suits and jackets. They're more expensive (rightfully so), and I wouldn't bother them with basic alterations.
Make sure to build a strong relationship with your tailor(s). Leave them glowing reviews on Yelp and Google, and recommend them to friends and coworkers. After a while, they might even give you discounts or occasional free dry cleaning to say “thanks” for the repeat business and promotion.
So I challenge you, right now, to commit to getting a pair of pants hemmed. It might just change your life.
Are you actually going to go to the tailor? Commit to it by leaving a comment below!