The Ultimate Guide to Professional Clothiers

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Discerning the differences between a professional clothier, a personal stylist and a professional tailor can be pretty challenging.

(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?

Professional clothier adjusting a custom suit

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 definition of professional clothier

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

Personal clothier cutting fabric
A personal clothier doesn’t just sell garments – he or she makes them theirselves

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.

OK, so…

What does a Professional Clothier do?

Clothier cutting material

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.

A professional clothier flipping through a fabric swatch
When you work with a professional clothier, you choose the fabric and get the perfect fit

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.

Next Up:

Professional Clothier vs Personal Stylist

Personal stylist folding scarf
A personal stylist helps you shop; a professional clothier makes custom clothes for you

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 

Professional clothier measuring man's arm
They have a lot of the same skills, but professional clothiers are more than tailors

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

Indochino salesman helping client
Indochino has essentially scaled up the custom clothing model

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:

Clothier images via Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels (Thanks Tima!)

About Dave Bowden

Dave Bowden

Irreverent Gent founder Dave Bowden is a style blogger whose advice on how to look good and live well has been featured in some of the world’s most trusted publications, including New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider and more.

When not obsessing over style and self-improvement, he can usually be found spending time with his wonderful wife and son, indulging in a hoppy craft beer, or sobbing over the woeful state of Toronto's sports teams.

Check out Dave's Style Story to find out how a chance encounter with his friend's step-dad taught him the value of looking good and living well. (Don't worry—it's less creepy than it sounds!)