Know Your Terms: Canvas

Because dropping the lingo is half the fun of dressing well.
Photo: Courtesy of Jhane Barnes

Full Canvas in Cross Section

No, we’re not talking about the stuff your duffel bag is made of, or baby kissing and glad-handing for votes. In this case, “canvas” refers to the lining that sits between the outer cloth and inner lining of a suit jacket or blazer and gives the garment structure. It’s generally comprised of wool and horsehair, the latter of which is stiff enough to give the jacket some shape. Sometimes cotton or rayon enters the mix to soften things up a bit, and some tailors use camel hair instead of horse. A “full canvas” spans the entire jacket from collar to hem, and a “half canvas” covers the top half only.

Unlike “fused” construction, where a glue-like synthetic is applied to the outer cloth to make it more rigid, the canvas “floats” between the inner and outer layers of the jacket. To ensure it sits properly while doing so, it has to be attached by hand. Canvas construction is a laborious process, but it allows the suit to move more freely along with the wearer. It also conforms to the wearer’s body over time, and purists contend that it breathes and holds up to dry cleaning better than fused options. Is it pricey? You’re damn right it is. But if you’re serious about investing in a suit, it’s certainly something to consider.

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