Justin Carroll is a lawyer at a big firm in Manhattan. A 32-year-old assoicate, he is expected to wear a suit every day. But, as a 6'4" former NCAA swimmer, Carroll’s endowed with 38"-long arms, which are longer than the longest off-the-rack suit he could find in a store. “The Nordstrom brothers [of department store fame] were tall guys, so they at least offer 37" sleeves, but I still needed longer,” Carroll says.
Then a fellow trainee tipped him off to a tailor from Hong Kong operating out of a nearby hotel suite. For a big guy and frequent gym goer, Carroll says his first appointment was nothing short of an epiphany. Forget Big & Tall—he could now spend roughly the same amount and custom-order clothing to perfectly fit every contour of his bulging body. Michael Phelpsian arms? No sweat. Been hitting the bench hard? No problem, here’s a shirt with a sea-sail torso. Since then, Carroll has never worn a shirt or suit that wasn’t custom made.
But let’s say you’re not a superfit dude exiled from the world of standard sizing: Who hasn’t wanted a made-to-measure suit at department-store-chain prices? Thankfully, Hong Kong tailoring—that old-school, word-of-mouth institution once available only to the international banking set—is more accessible to the regular guy than ever before. That is—if you know where to look.
The world’s best tailors are based in Hong Kong because of China’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, which drove a generation of skilled workers out of the mainland. Many of them set up businesses on the neighboring island—then under British rule— where they flourished.
With expert craftsmanship and access to cheaper, higher-grade textiles, the tailors gained a reputation for producing Savile Row-quality product at a fraction of the cost. For years, budget-minded men traveled to them. Then the tailors wised up and expanded their client base by dispatching reps to hotel suites around the world. Now, the service that once required a faded old business card or first-hand referral to score an appointment can be booked online.
Carroll recommends (and uses) a tailor named Kishore Daswani, one of the pioneers of overseas fittings (get his newsletter for updates on U.S. schedules by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org). Another reputable and accessible Hong Kong-based operation is Raja Fashions, which lets you book an appointment on its website (raja-fashions.com).
If neither is visiting stateside near you, don’t worry—check in on the Quality Tourism Services (QTS), run by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. It lists a raft of vendors there, including dozens of suitmakers—such as Simpson’s and Princeton—that routinely make visits to American cities. But whatever you do: Don’t order your suits remotely. The magic of Hong Kong tailoring is what the craftsmen manage to do, in person, with the tape measure.