Bespoke what? The word itself has undergone changes since its first use in the 1500’s. Back then, “bespoke” was what you called your outfit. Your one outfit, the one that smelled of Western European colonization.
“Why yes, the codpiece was bespoke. No, I don’t know why it’s so small. But the godless heathens should be impressed.”
The idea of having something made for you was nothing strange in those days, but as mass-produced items became commonplace, something made to your particular specifications (such as your particular body) became scarce. Most ready-to-wear suits may not fit you perfectly, but a few may. Most are also made from ugly fabrics, but a handful are tastefully classic. The price range is anywhere from $300 to upwards of $3000 and higher. Something, somewhere, will fit your body, budget, and discriminating bias. So, why bespoke?
Indeed, in order to get something bespoke one has to do quite a bit of research, as few companies even offer such services. Fewer still are the tailoring houses that take your measurements, have various high quality fabrics to choose from, and provide fittings for adjustments. Most have to travel great distances to tailoring houses, across state lines, time zones, and oceans. Others hope traveling tailors visit their city (or a nearby one), but such merchants visit once or perhaps twice a year, which means you may not receive the finished product for one or even two birthdays. In contrast, off-the-rack suits can be found in any department store, ready for you to take home. So again: why bespoke?
One word: romance. Interestingly, a recent article from The New York Times quotes Georgetown linguistics professor Deborah Tannen, saying “bespoke” appeals to our individualism. Which is partially true: more often than not, those who venture into bespoke have a very specific idea of how they want to appear. What better way to materialize your distinct sense of identity by dictating your projected image? Self-love and self-expression often go hand in hand.
But it’s more than that. It’s the enchantment with bespoke itself – a medium which takes far more time than the alternative but, to those who appreciate it, returns far more reward. Even if you never thread the needle, the process of discussing what environment you’ll wear the suit and how you wish to be presented, deciding which fabric you like versus how it will perform examining various technical styles, all contribute to the creation of a unique idea (yours). You’re excited because you get to dictate the particulars. But the courtship continues, because it’s during the fitting when you begin to see your idea turn into something tangible. Sure, maybe a few tweaks need to be made, the tailor makes a note of it, you go out for some coffee, maybe dinner and a drink, shoot the breeze, exchange salutations, make another appointment, and part ways smiling with eager prospects of the next encounter. Finally you see the finished product – the completed suit – and that’s it. You try it on, and you’re smitten.
That’s romance, and that’s the why of bespoke. Sure, that suit makes you look great, but the process, eliciting feelings of creativity, anticipation and discovery, is the reason to choose bespoke. Because you can’t find that in any department store.