It is impossible to determine the right tailor if it is one’s first experience. It took me 8 suits tailored over 10 years to find the one tailor that I call my personal tailor.
I will start with the easiest marker and progress onto the next more complex marker, and the next, till you have an extremely good idea what traits would make the correct tailor for you.
Cheap and good suits
If one is determined to find the cheapest tailor, I am all for it. Not kidding. This is on the basis that any given tailor is more or less average. A measurement along the arms, or thighs or any part of the body that strays by half an inch is negligible. It should be comforting to know that it requires extraordinary effort on the tailor’s part to mess up your office attire or suit. Therefore, it is unlikely.
Shopping on price is easy too. Begin by tailor hopping, then hold your intentions close to your chest by keeping a distance from the sales person at the door, then ask for their respective available package, promotion or best price without entering the shop. Finally, please be polite and thank them. After inquiring with a few, the cheaper ones become apparent.
Assumption: cheap and hence poor skills
I acquired a litmus, a real battle scar, for a cheap and poorly skilled tailor. I had randomly walked into a small alley exploring the off-tourist track and I stumbled on this gentleman’s shop. For the half hour or so that I walked prior, he is the only tailor around. If one was at a tourist center, the next tailor is likely to be a stone’s throw away. The randomness of my tailor’s existence cannot be overstated.
In an act of faith, I decided that I wanted to get a shirt tailored with him because of the randomness. One never knows if some random guy might really be a maestro. As it turns out, this gentleman was the greatest misfortune in all my experiences with tailors but it certainly wasn’t a mistake. For a conscious decision made, i.e. I paid the tuition fee willingly even though he had seriously messed up and was deeply apologetic, every tailor thereafter can only be better than this one because I learnt. Also, because statistically speaking, I can’t be that suey.
Contrast this with feeling resentment blah blah.
Assumption: cheap and poor material
I fall back onto averages
Shit hits the ceiling fan
It will hurt. But if it is any comfort at all, 10 years of tailoring experience taught me that none of my suits fits perfectly beyond the third year after they were made. I have gone through the fat phase due to inaction. I have also gone through the beefcake phase due to effort. As a result, the suits that fit are the ones recently tailored within the year or so due to constantly changing physique.
Hence, it is important to check oneself about his expectations as satisfaction is a highly subjective marker vis. the objective assessment of the tailor’s competence.
Finally, if all else fails, take consolation that you paid the cheapest price possible. Also be consoled that this happened in Bangkok and not in Singapore for example. Beyond the anger of feeling cheated, you know immediately what a good tailor entails.
When I first tailored my shirt, Wikipedia was just beginning to be accepted as a credible source of information even within spheres outside formal academic institutions. These days, students and just about anyone need not worry about the degree of reliability beyond reasonable doubt. Heck, some tutors even give out material printed from Wikipedia.
Coming back, googling did not help me conclusively on tailor recommendations back then. It’s a different online world these days. If one isn’t worried about the cheapest deal, shortlist your tailors according to your preferred non-price matrices from the internet. If it is about price, price, price, asking for updated promotions on the ground is more real time than any any online forum can provide.
Choosing between shortlisted tailors: tailor’s conviction
Maintain distance as per above. Be particularly interested in those that display a reluctance of sharing just the price. This is because (assuming non-cheapest and average priced tailors) they take pride in their material and will be eager to share that conviction of good tailoring with you. Simply put, their prices are not the cheapest because they compete on value creation like offering good service, better material etc.
Choosing between shortlisted tailors: proximity to hotel
To ease your headache, you might like to use proximity to your hotel as a decision making matrix. This is completely fair and reasonable because seldom is one in Bangkok for more than a weekend trip. You need it fast. So just get to the closest one to your hotel among your shortlisted tailor in faith. Once again, I stress that I am setting aside the fact that it is statistically impossible to run into a bad tailor with a capital B. That closest one to you is going to work.
Choosing between shortlisted tailors: availability of certain colours
This can be a simple matrix or a complex one. It is a simple one if all blacks look the same to you. It is also simple if you only seek basic colours like black and navy blue. By the time one seeks grey tones or prints like lines and checkers, that is complex.
Complex because it is difficult to say no and walk out if none of the colours take to your liking. But if walking out comes naturally to you then great! Not complex at all.
However, I enjoy the process and I literally design my own jackets, hence I pay more for that feeling of being entertained and skill.