After a couple decades lost to oversized shoulder pads, droopy lapels, and billowy trousers, a new generation of designers has helped introduce a new generation of guys (yourself among them, perhaps) to a radical concept: A suit, even an off the rack suit, should fit like it was made just for you. But not all suits are cut from the cloth. Literally. Since we’re running a sale featuring suits by Luciano Barbera, one of masters of fabrics (his are made at his father’s mill in Briella Italy and stored in caves) we asked Barbera’s U.S. market head Michael Sestak and our own Chris Wong for some tips.

Chris Wong, head men’s buyer at Gilt Man, says “Remember this: A fabric should be seasonably appropriate, breathable, durable and it has to feel good.” For summer, Wong recommends blends. “A blend gives the suit a lighter hand — that is, it feels lighter — and it drapes easily.” Worsted wool, on the other hand, is good for three seasons.  Wong advises, “If you’re going to be wearing a suit often, invest in a high quality fabric. You want the fabric to be durable, not to get shiny or thin.” Or as Michael Sestak poetically explains, “A good fabric should be like wine. It should get better with age.”

But even following those guidelines, there’s a lot of jargon that is thrown around when discussing fabric. Some of it is important, some less so. Though Super 100s and Super 120s are good signposts that you’re dealing with a high quality fabric, the most important thing is to get a hand on it. “If you touch enough fabric,” Sestak says, “your fingertips develop a certain memory.” Sestak advises, “If you are looking for worsted suits, you’re looking for a smoothness and an evenness in the way the fabrics looks. That smoothness is the product of proper shearing.”

A lot of suits today, says Sestak, are made with high spun yarns. The more high spun the yarn, the higher the TPI — that’s twist per inch — and the fuller bodied the fabric seems. “When you have high twist yarns,” Sestak says, “you try to feel the nervousness of the fabric. To do this. take the fabric in your hands and smush it. Then see how fast or strongly it bounces back.” The faster it bounces back, the more nervous it is. “Fabrics are like good horses. They should be nervous.”

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