English Cloth or Italian Cloth for Custom Suits?

Dressy business suits are made with cloth woven with worsted wool yarns.   In case you're not familiar with the term,  the process of making a wool "worsted" involves combing the wool fibres to a consistent length so that the yarns and the resulting fabric is smoother and lighter in weight.  So a rugged tweed jacket will not be made from worsted wool, but a fine business suit will be.

The term "worsted" is derived from the village of similar name in  Norfolk, England where the process was invented during the Middle Ages.  England became famous for its skill in weaving wool and its export became a major source of its wealth.  Although greatly reduced in number from a generation ago,  there are still a dozen or so mills weaving wool in Yorkshire, more exactly in the cities of Huddersfield and Bradford.

The English mills are particularly proud of two things-- the way their cloths are finished and the fact that most of the cloths are woven from 2-ply yarns in the warp and weft (vertically and horizontally).  One of the English finishing processes is called a "pressed finish" which involves applying even pressure to cloth with  smooth oak tag paper.  The result is very flat,  "hard" finish, adding to the durability of the cloth.  And making a cloth two-ply in both directions adds integrity and strength to  any cloth.

So what about Italian made cloth? The finest wools are woven in the Biella region of northern Italy where there is a long history of cloth weaving.  However, Italian cloths are not generally two-ply in warp and weft and I've never seen one with a "pressed finish."

Does that make the Italian cloths inferior to the English ones?

Not necessarilly.  The Italians have developed ways to weave cloth with a single yarn in the weft that may not be as durable as the English cloths, but it is much lighter in weight.  And, in our overheated offices, that can be a great advantage.  Also, the Italians are far more creative in designing unique and unusual cloths.  So, if you're someone who enjoys fashion, the Italian cloths are probably going to be more interesting for you to look at.

How do you know which cloths are right for your custom suit?  First, you have to find an establishment that knows where its cloth is woven. Certainly, in ready-made suits this is very hard to determine.  Secondly, you have to use your hands to feel the different types of cloth.  Compare luxury, strength and weight. And, thirdly, you may have to try a suit in each so that you can find out from experience which you prefer.

After all, a custom suit is an important investment.  You need someone you can trust to guide you through the options.  And, you have to be as realistic as you are with any other investment-- it may not always work out.  At a minimum, you should learn from your experience and have fun in the process.

Andy Kozinn
Kozinn+Sons Merchant Tailors
22 West 32nd Street, 5th Floor
New York NY 10001

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Kozinn+Sons Merchant Tailors
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