There are myriad decisions that need to be made when commissioning a bespoke men's winter suit or jacket, from the shape of the lapel to the number and style of buttons. The most important of these decisions concerns the cloth from which the garment will be made, for this will determine its utility, durability and price. As summer reaches its peak and we begin to plan our weatherproof wardrobes for the Autumn and Winter, now is an ideal time to think about the cloths that will shield us from the wet and wind.
The majority of suit fabrics are wool. This is a durable cloth, generally resistant to wrinkles and with a matte finish. Birdseye, Flannel and Herringbone are heavy woollen cloths that will provide sufficient warmth during the winter months; the texture of Birdseye and Herringbone will also add subtle distinction to your suit. Super Fine cloths, made from a finer yarn, are softer and lighter options that could be used in transitional pieces before the weather turns. For something more luxurious, cashmere is an obvious choice, although bear in mind that this will give your tailoring a sheen; a cashmere and wool mix is perhaps a better option, unless Nineties-Italian chic is what you're after.
There are not quite as many cloth merchants as there are cloths to choose from, but the range is still mightily impressive. By way of introduction, there are three British-based merchants that should be able to satisfy the majority of your fabric requirements for next season.
Huddersfield-based Dugdale Brothers has been trading since 1896 and is still run as an independent family firm. Their New Fine Worsted collection provides a wide range of cloths suitable for Spring, Summer and Autumn. Highlights include the subtle pinstripes, self-stripes and Princes of Wales check, a cloth that elegantly bridges the divide between country chic and city cool. For heavier cloths, appropriate when the summer days are far behind us, Dugdale's English Classics and Town Classics collection is ideal. The collection includes a range of Birdseye and Sharkskin cloths, if you seek distinction, and some beautiful hopsack in grey and navy.
A similar range of cloths is available from Harrison's of Edinburgh. Established in Exeter in 1863 by the Lear Browne and Dunsford families, and still run by members of the Dunsford family today, Harrison's was amalgamated into the firm in 1998. The P&B Fine Classics collections includes medium weight worsteds, which just means that the woollen fibres are combed before they are spun. Worsteds generally have a slightly coarse texture. They are very durable and resistant to creasing (within reason!). For something a little different, Harrisons' Multi-Millionaire collection includes worsteds spun with cashmere and vicuÃ±a; the fine wool of the South-American vicuÃ±a is produced in small quantities and is commensurately expensive. If distinction is important, the firm's sub-division Lear Browne Dunsford produces some bright and playful linings, which could do much to enliven your Autumnal attire and add a personal touch to your tailoring.
Wool and cashmere blended cloths are also available in the Supreme Classic collection of Bateman Ogden. Established in 1881 when Bateman and Ogden merged, the firm continues to trade from Bradford and uses its vast experience to produce traditional and contemporary cloths. Their Westminster II collection caters for all city requirements and offers a range of medium weight cloths. The Yorkdale collection is of a similar weight but includes more variety. To prove that wet and wind will never dampen the spirit of the most ardent sartorialist, the Bateman Ogden Fine and Dandy collection contains a wonderful range of bold and colourful checks that will ensure you are comfortable and conspicuous come rain, sleet or snow.