Purchasers of fine clothes should ask themselves, when presented with something made by hand, whether that is necessarily an advantage. Seams that come under a lot of strain usually need to be strong above all else. The advantages of handmade construction are flexibility, movement and life; it adds stretch to the shoulder seam of a jacket and personality to the padding of its chest. But it is not always and necessarily better.
Equally, ask yourself whether the marginal difference made by hand construction is worth the money. I know that my tailor, for example, uses pre-made shoulder pads. Some of the Savile Row tailors make their own, by hand. Personally it’s something I am quite willing to save on. But I want to pay to have the chest made by hand.
I have also never understood people that want something to be flawed to prove that it is handmade – fluctuation in the hand-stitched lapel or a slight skew in the welt. To them imperfection is honesty. To me it is a fault. I want my individuality in the fit, the design and the wear. I don’t want to see evidence of the craft; I just want to benefit from it.
It’s true that no two items made by hand will ever be identical. As a bespoke shoemaker told me once “if I ever punched two medallions exactly the same I wouldn’t be a craftsman, I’d be a robot.” But, contrary to him, I don’t see a virtue in the slight looseness of one seam on a shoe’s counter. It bugs me and I want it changed.
The fact that he has lasted the shoe by hand is not something that can be seen. Its virtue is that he was able to adapt the natural leather and its personality when stretching it over the last. The attention to detail means it will wear better. That’s the kind of hand construction I want.
Buy handmade intelligently.