Short of slapping a luxury brand’s label on the outside of a jacket, there aren’t too many clearer indications of a bespoke suit’s quality than pick stitching.
What is it?
The visible stitching running along the edge of the lapel, the pocket flaps, as well as the breast pocket is always one of the decorative finishes that a quality tailor offers with a bespoke suit jacket. Pick stitching serves no functional purpose, so it’s purely a visual symbol of luxury and style, displaying the expert craftsmanship that went into manufacturing the garment — only the finest tailors can master the custom handwork technique.
How obvious should it be?
How long’s a piece of string . . . or rather, how prominent is a piece of thread? Pick stitching is often finely done and difficult to spot, offering your jacket only a subtle accent. But if you want it to stand out a little more, the tailor can employ a thread colour that contrasts with the colour of the suit fabric, or use a thicker thread or bigger stitches. The debate is whether you want the stitch to scream, ‘Look at me, I’m wearing a bespoke suit!’, or whether you want to whisper that message more subtly.
Should you get it on your next suit?
Word of warning: although pick stitching is a great way to individualise a bespoke jacket, it’s not a traditional piece of detailing, meaning it can give your suit a more laid-back vibe. So if you’re ordering a less formal light blue or grey suit for the races, weddings, and a slightly more relaxed office, pick stitch it up. If you’re tailoring your day-to-day black or charcoal business wear, perhaps think twice.
Does it have to be done by hand?
There is an alternative — AMF stitching, named after the machines that are used to do it — that can attempt to make a lower quality blazer appear handmade, but sharp eyes can spot the different thanks to the length and alignment of the stitches, as well as the proximity to the edge of the fabric.
That said, hand-crafted stitching isn’t the only choice you face when customising your bespoke garment — the choice of lapel (notch, peak, shawl), pocket (from the informal patch, to the conventional flap and the more formal jetted pocket), button placement on the sleeve, and jacket vents on the lower back are all important considerations.