Discerning the differences between a professional clothier, a personal stylist and a professional tailor can be pretty hard to parse sometimes.
(Even for a style blogger like me, who spends a
probably unhealthy totally normal amount of time researching and writing about all things sartorial.)
To help you understand what separates a professional clothier from their fellow sartorial pros, I decided to do a deep dive.
In this post I’ll outline what a professional clothier is, what they do and – most importantly – what they can do for you.
What is a Professional Clothier?
An Irreverent Gent Investigation
First and Foremost:
What’s a Professional Clothier?
The exact meaning of the phrase professional clothier – also sometimes called a “custom clothier” – can be (annoyingly) nebulous.
Whereas titles like “doctor” and “lawyer” denote a specific set of professional standards, pretty much anyone can slap the words “professional clothier” on their business cards.
The problem is, a lot of these people actually have very different jobs, making it hard to figure out what, exactly, the phrase is supposed to denote.
Professional Clothier Definition
The dictionary definition of a professional clothier is “a retailer of clothing” or “a person who makes or sells cloth.”
Which, like, duh.
That definition is obviously so broad that it’s not really helpful (thanks for nothing, dictionary), and does nothing to address the problem I alluded to above:
The nebulous way people use the phrase in everyday life.
To really understand what a professional clothier is – and just what the hell they actually do – you need to understand not just the definition of the phrase, but what it means.
Professional Clothier Meaning
Most often, the phrase professional clothier is used to refer to someone who actually makes custom garments, rather than someone who just sells them.
For instance, when you buy a bespoke or made-to-measure suit from a Savile Row tailor, you’re working with a professional clothier.
Rather than stocking a bunch of suits and helping you find the right one, these are the guys who source the raw materials, take your measurements, then craft a custom suit that’s specific to your body and tastes.
Big made-to-measure brands like Indochino are kind of like professional clothiers writ large.
Although they specialize in made-to-measure rather than “true custom” or Bespoke tailoring, their business model has basically scaled up the Savile Row experience and made it available to the rest of us.
What does a Professional Clothier do?
As alluded to above, a professional clothier actually makes the clothes they sell, which is one of the defining aspects of the job.
But the reason they’re called professional clothiers rather than clothing manufacturers is because they actually do quite a bit more than that.
A person who works in a factory cranking out cheap polyester sweaters in sizes small, medium and large might be called a clothing manufacturer.
And so might the person who works in a factory cranking out $1,000 Italian wool suits in sizes 38, 40, 42, etc.
It doesn’t matter how nice the product is – if it’s mass produced, it’s not made by a professional clothier.
A professional clothier, on the other hand, doesn’t work in a factory, and doesn’t “crank out” anything.
Instead, they make custom clothes that are designed to fit the measurements and tastes of one specific person, rather than made in a variety of sizes to suit the anonymous masses.
Professional Clothier vs Personal Stylist
By contrast, a personal stylist is someone who essentially serves as a shopping consultant.
They’ll help you find the right clothes to fit your body and suit your tastes, but they’re not sourcing the raw materials directly or crafting the clothes from scratch.
Remember that shopping scene in Crazy Stupid Love where Ryan Gosling took Steve Carell to get some new gear? (You’re better than The Gap!)
Gosling was essentially serving as a freelance personal stylist there.
Professional Clothier vs Professional Tailor
There’s more overlap between a professional clothier and a tailor than there is between a professional clothier and a stylist.
Both could be considered craftsmen, and both professions involve working closely with the clothes themselves (i.e. measuring, cutting, sowing, etc.).
But the main difference is that professional clothiers start that process from scratch, whereas professional tailors start with a garment that’s already finished, but doesn’t fit quite right.
If you buy a suit off the rack but find that you need to have the jacket hemmed and the pants taken up at the bottom, the person you bring it to is a professional tailor.
Whereas when you go to a professional clothier, the suit doesn’t yet exist. They’ll take your measurements, help you choose a fabric, and then start from to create a garment that’s designed from the ground up to fit you.
So a professional clothier basically has all the skills that a professional tailor has, plus a host of others.
The Best Professional Clothiers
Since professional clothiers specialize in one-of-a-kind custom garments rather than mass-produced commodities, the best way to find them is to punch “professional clothier near me” into Google and see what comes up locally.
If you live in a small town and you don’t see any businesses with the words “professional clothiers” in their name, you might have to travel a bit to find one.
Try adding the name of the biggest metropolitan city near you to your search query to find some results.
Looking locally is almost always the best way to find a professional clothier, but there are a few national brands worth looking for as well.
I already mentioned Indochino, who has essentially taken the made-to-measure suit game national and can be found in most major North American cities.
Another option is Tom James, which has locations worldwide and can build you a suit or wardrobe from more than 2,000 custom fabrics.
Random But Amusing:
Tom James has been around since the ’60s, but the business really shot to fame in early 2020 when Kelsey Weier, who worked at the Tom James location in Des Moines, Iowa, became a contestant on The Bachelor.
I’m not sure how much of The Bachelor audience is looking for custom menswear, but I guess any publicity is good publicity?
You Know What a Professional Clothier Does
Now Learn How to Look Like a Pro Yourself
Now that you know what a professional clothier is and how it differs from other sartorial professionals, you’ll know exactly where to turn if you’re in the market for custom made clothes.
But the good news is that you don’t need a professional clothier to look polished, poised and put together.
Instead, you just need to know how to nail the small but vital style details that most guys miss.
We’ve put together a checklist outlining the nine most important, but woefully overlooked details which, when treated with the attention they deserve, will add up to make a big difference on your overall appearance.
And the best part? It’s totally free. Just enter your email address below and we’ll send it straight to your inbox.
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More Resources ↓
More Men’s Style Advice from Irreverent Gent:
- What to Wear in the Spring
- The Best Summer Shoes for Men
- The Best Men’s Shapewear
- The Absolute Best Men’s Sweatpants and Joggers
Clothier images via Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels (Thanks Tima!)