So, I'm on the market for a tuxedo. I'm looking to spend between $700 and $900, which is enough to buy a designer suit made from fine fabric -- just nothing too regal. No peak lapels for me, or silk lining. That's not so important, though, because when I go looking for the suit that will fill out my wardrobe, I end up rifling through Burberry, Corneliani, Hugo Boss, and Joseph Abboud products -- and the sales reps like it when you're rifling through Burberry, Corneliani, Hugo Boss and Joseph Abboud products. They really can be remarkably polite! Alas, never are sales reps helpful, and seldom do they even have a tidbit of good advice for you (men who frequently buy tailored goods know precisely what I'm writing of). Seeking some advice to narrow my choices, I went, of course, to Mama Kriegs.
Now, if it isn't painfully obvious, Mama Kriegs is my mother. She grew up in the gentry class of 1970s Italy, and has a had a great deal of exposure to the fashion industry... Mostly just because she was a major constituent of its consumer base. Mama Kriegs always has advice, even if it's only sentimental, impractical crap, but, in this case, due to her aforementioned exposure, I was hoping for something juicy. And came forth the juice.
Mama's advice was simple: Go Italian. Sounds ignorant, and probably incredibly prejudiced, right? Well, not so prejudiced -- and really, not so ignorant. This was her logic: Much like American men, Italian men only purchase suits when it becomes necessary to their careers, and even then, they only have maybe one or two of them. The big consumers of tailored goods are the older guys, who have to dress well for social events, which, evidently, abound the schedule's of elderly Italian men (Mama Kriegs claims that old Italian men wear suits to their wives' knitting circle, when they're invited). Now, old Italian men are fat. No exceptions. This means that for an Italian designer to have a successful line in Italy, he must design his suits with narrow shoulders and broad skirts relative to the chest measurement (i.e. the standard sizing measurement, such as "42 Regular"), so as to cater to his consumer base. However, to have a successful international line, proportions have to be more regular, so as to optimize fitting possibilities, and therefore sales possibilities. No designer wants to make a line for every market he's selling on, so he needs to compromise on his few flagship lines. What's the compromise? To draw lots of extraneous fabric into his pattern.
In an effort to explicate the implications of this compromise, I'll type out a little story. A few weeks ago I went to an Italian boutique in New Hope, Pennsylvania, a little shopping town 30 miles north of Philadelphia. I tried on a beautiful coat in size 42L, only to find that while it fit perfectly over my shoulders, chest and waist, the arms were far too short. The store's head tailor walked over to me, recognizing the jacket's deficiency in the sleeves, and said to me, "I can take three inches of fabric out of each arm for you." Now, it's usually impossible to take more than one-and-a-half or two inches out of a sleeve, so I was taken aback, but he showed me the additional fabric, and I proceeded to praise the cut of the jacket for five minutes. According to Mama Kriegs, all Italian suits are made that way.
So, the moral of the story is that Italian suits are more effectively altered than English, American and German suits. If English suits were off of the Savile Row, it might be different, just as if American suits were built primarily for older men... But they're not, and, according to Mama Kriegs (and many others), that's why Italian suits reign supreme in the international off-the-rack men's clothing industry.
Giorgio Armani is worth $4.1 billion, after all.