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January 18, 2007

real cuff holes...

thomas333127.jpg
(Cut by my teacher, Mr. Halberry 25 years ago, for somebody who is now an old customer of mine. And now his son will enjoy it, too.)

This is a little detail that's grown in importance over the last few years: "Real Cuff Holes". These are seen today as one of the major hallmarks of a bespoke suit. But surprisingly enough, it wasn't always this way. Indeed, when I started in the trade twenty-three years ago, a relatively short time span, real button holes on the cuff were very rare.

When I started working at Redmaynes as a youth, the only people who had real holes in their coats were doctors and vets, simply so they could roll up their sleeves. With Mr Hallbery at Anderson & Sheppard's it was much the same. If you asked the two senior cutters for real holes, they would both pull a face as if they were chewing on a wasp.

The reason for this is not what you think, i.e. that real holes are more expensive or harder to do, even though yes, they are.

The real reason is that quite simply, very few people need them, and yes, they can cause problems.

DSC00232.JPG
(This was my coat from 18 years ago, which is still being worn by a friend of mine.)

Here's why. Bespoke clothing is like liquid. It's always in a slight state of change until it's been well worn and allowed to settle down. When a suit is finished and has gone to the customer, once it's "settled" a bit, it might need some minor alterations. This is perfectly normal. But this is where "real holes" can cause problems. Because you may need to lengthen or shorten a sleeve, and this is where real holes cause the most obvious aggravation.

Also, if you alter the shoulders this can also affect sleeve length, so that too may be slightly compromised. Most tailors, including myself, put two "real" and two "sham" holes, for precisely this reason. Four "real" holes allows for virtually no sleeve length alteration, unless the cloth is plain or striped. If the latter is the case, you can take out the sleeve from the shoulder and shorten it from the top.

But to lengthen it any more than about three-eighths of an inch at the bottom is going to start looking awful, with cuff buttons apparently floating halfway towards the elbow.

If you must lengthen a sleeve with real holes, as I often do, what you can do is lengthen the sleeve as necessary, then take out the top hole, and add another at the bottom to keep it balanced. So the worst-case scenario is that you've now got three working "real" holes instead of two.

On a somewhat related matter: I've just had the pleasure to alter some jackets made for a good customer of mine. They're not being altered for him, but for his eighteen year old son, who loves them. My customer came to see me in NYC with his son, and he told the lad how he remembers me at Anderson's a long time ago, as a blond haired young boy standing in the corner of the fitting room, standing there the whole time in complete silence with my hands behind my back, listening and watching every detail of Mr. Hallbery at work.

This moment of course is typical of the specialness of bespoke. And now what makes it even better is that the investments of the father are now being handed on to the son. It's always lovely to see.



cuff.JPG
(We'll get away with this one.)

As the photo at the top of this page will testify, the suits look terrific and have stood the test of time. I can alter these for the son, and I will, but in the picture of the cuff directly above, the headache is there for all to see. Blinking "real holes". As the fabric in this case is plain, it I can get away with it. Imagine the fun if I was shortening it an inch and the cloth was checked. Look how I've marked the right sleeve on the top photo.

So there you have it. Choose your cuff holes with great care. Twenty years later, whatever decision you make might just end up upsetting your son or grandson, not to mention his poor tailor. But this is what bespoke is all about.

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Posted by tom at January 18, 2007 8:14 PM

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