Alan David Custom is a family-owned, full custom suiting company based in NYC. This article is a deep dive into my experience with them last summer.
In this Alan David Custom review, I’ll touch on everything from the company background, showroom experience, style analysis, fabric selection process to getting measured, first fitting, my initial impressions and the finished product. I’ll wrap things up with what I liked most, areas for improvement and provide styling inspiration wearing the suit.
Let’s get started.
ALAN DAVID CUSTOM REVIEW
Last summer Alan Horowitz of the menswear shop Alan David Custom in NYC invited me out to his showroom for a full custom suit experience. I went over to the website and was happy to read that they had been in business since 1948. My curiosity was piqued and I replied with much interest.
I’ve written about my custom suit experiences in the past. While all of my prior experiences with custom-made suit companies from Knot Standard to Indochino and Black Lapel to Vulture Suits were made-to-measure — my Alan David experience was as close to bespoke as it gets.
About Alan David Custom
Alan David Custom comes from a long lineage — four generations of custom clothing. They pride themselves on heritage quality over price. The owner, Alan David Horowitz was born to make men’s custom suits.
“The quality of suit is long remembered after its price is forgotten.”
– Alan David Horowitz
All of their suits are meticulously hand-crafted in New York City, with nothing outsourced or produced overseas. Contrary to made-to-measure (MTM) or ready-to-wear (RTW) garments, Alan David Custom specializes in carefully crafted individual patterns unique to each client. In the end, it’s the about finding the perfect fit and that always remains a priority.
In The Showroom
I arrived at the Alan David NYC office on 16 E 40th St., midtown Manhattan on Monday, July 1st, 2019. I still remember because Alan and I talked about our upcoming 4th of July holiday plans.
The showroom is up on the 7th floor of a narrow Apartment style building. My first impression is that it was nothing fancy, just a modest-sized office space with a few office rooms and rows of suits and a several mannequins.
I was greeted by Elsie who I had been in contact with via emails. After a brief wait, I met David in his office and immediately felt welcome. He shared with me the Alan David story and he asked me about how I got into menswear blogging.
We also discussed what I had in mind for our collaboration. I said that I wanted to document the complete Alan David Custom experience from start to finish. I told him I didn’t want any preferential treatment; just walk me through the usual process that you do with your thousands of other clients.
Then it was down to business.
We sat down at a table full of open binders and swatch books. I immediately began flipping through the fabric swatches with excitement. There was something for every personal preference in those books. If you wanted something fine and thick like winter flannels or if you preferred something highly textured and light like linen, they had it.
David asked all the right questions like what’s my aesthetic, what suits from other brands fit me well, what has been my experience with other MTM companies, how many suits are in my rotation, how often do I wear suits, and what’s missing in my suit collection, are there any gaps to fill — what type of suit am I looking for right now?
Tons of questions, which I was happy to share my thoughts and experiences. We also talked a lot about the struggles short guys have with off the rack. The more I could share the better he could ultimately serve me.
I already had an idea of what I wanted. A few summers ago I picked up two sport coats from Suitsupply in the Havana style. The olive jacket was perfection, except it didn’t fit me perfectly. I basically wanted a replica of that jacket, but more of a summery olive green.
Fabric Selection Process
I wanted a fabric suitable for 2-3 seasons. I immediately fell in love with the hopsack fabrics, but the colors were a little too bold for my tastes. I looked through unique fabrics like mohair and flannels, linen/wool blends and super 210s. The choices were endless.
David patiently watched me as I went back and forth between books from Zegna to Vitale Barberis and Loro Piana — undecided on what I actually wanted. It was much harder than I had thought to pick the right fabric. It was a good 10 minutes or so before David wrote something down on his notepad and showed it to my photographer (shoutout to Erica for taking these awesome photos in the showroom).
I had no idea what he wrote, but I finally selected the fabrics I wanted for my jacket and trousers. Once I did, Erica laughed because Alan had successfully guessed which swatch book I was going to choose. I’ll admit, I was impressed, although Alan has spent decades analyzing men’s style choices through these informal sit downs and so it shouldn’t come to my surprise.
I landed on 100% linen fabric from the Italian luxury fashion house, Ermenegildo Zegna. Zegna is highly regarded in the menswear industry.
I asked them if they had a sample jacket with the fabric that I wanted, but there wasn’t any, which was fine, but it would have helped in determining if the color was the exact one I wanted. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge if you’ll truly love a color based on a single swatch.
Suit Customization Options
After I selected my fabrics we then went over all the suit customization options. There were so many potential options that I began suffering from analysis paralysis.
Did I want a full suit or perhaps a double breasted suit jacket? Wide peak lapels or standard notch? Trendy jetted pockets or how about casual patch pockets? What about the lining — fully-lined, half-lined or no lining? What type of button enclosure, do I want surgeon’s cuffs? How about pleated pants — cuffs or side tabs?
I then reminded myself to get back on track with what I had planned to get. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you have no idea what you want.
I knew I wanted a Suitsupply Havana fit (slim/modern) and for my jacket and trousers to be a different color, yet versatile enough to be able to wear them as separates, especially since I chose such a casual fabric in linen. Spring and summer suiting is perfect to wear suit separates.
Throughout the customization process, Alan shared his knowledge, making some recommendations and his stance on suits with lining, pleats and or cuffs. He taught me some new things. We went over all the customization options you’d expect from MTM and more.
All in all, the customization process went quickly, much faster than the fabric selection process. Mostly because I already had an idea of what I was looking for in my suit.
Below are bullet point lists of the custom options I went with for my suit.
- 100% linen
- Slim fit
- 2 button enclosure
- Notch lapels 3.5″
- Patch pockets
- Side vents
- Pic stitching 1/16″
- Higher quality canvas
- Functional sleeve buttons
- Lapel buttonhole
- 1/4 lined construction
- 100% linen
- Slim fit
- High waisted
- Regular seat
- Single pleat (reverse)
- 1/4 front pockets
- Plain back pockets
- No belt loops
- Finished bottom, 1.5″ cuffs
- 2.5″ (standard) waistband extension
- Front to knee (standard) lining
After deciding on all the customization options it was time to get measured.
Getting My Measurements
With modern technology there are apps that will determine your measurements with nothing but your phone’s camera. And many of them promise that their algorithms are 20% more accurate than a professional tailor. I’ve had some hit and miss (mostly miss) experience with those.
If you’ve ever gotten a made-to-measure (MTM) suit then you know all about the measurement process. It’s a lot of measurements, especially if you’re not used to it. And bespoke is even more comprehensive.
A Word on Bespoke
At Alan David Custom, since it’s even more specialized than MTM, their measurement process is more detailed than all of the other MTM companies I’ve been to in the past. From the pattern making and detailed discussion, it’s as close to a bespoke experience as you’re going to get.
Technically Alan doesn’t refer to his shop as true “bespoke” because that involves keeping all tailoring material on the premises and one individual handling the garment from start to finish, whereas at Alan David the complete process may involve more than one person.
But beyond the literal definition, Alan David Custom is bespoke in every other sense in that it is a custom garment, hand-stitched from the ground up as opposed to taking a preexisting suit and fitting it to individual measurements.
Ultimately, I’d say that no matter how good technology gets, there’s no substitute to actually getting measured by a professional tailor who has honed his craft. In the past, I’ve been measured by tailors who knew less than I did, which put me in a bad situation. Luckily my tailor at Alan David knew his craft like the back of his hand.
The Master Fitter
After my discussion with Alan, I met Jay Duval, a long time tailor at Alan David Custom. His title, “Master Fitter.” He was responsible for taking my measurements and seeking feedback from me. I mentioned my preferences and some problem areas I’ve had with MTM in the past. Particularly with past MTM experiences I’ve had bunching under the collar and puffing of jacket’s chest area.
Jay had me try on a size 36 suit jacket and normal trousers. He then pinned me up and told me potential problem areas on my body. It was a simple, yet methodical process. You can tell he’d done it thousands of times before.
He educated me on all the decisions that were made and he also took detailed notes on my posture (my left shoulder slopes more), and how I like my pants to fit (a higher rise). He explained to me that the sleeves and trousers will be cut a little bit longer to account for linen fabric’s tendency to wrinkle and thus ride up — and so he wanted to account for that.
Jay had an answer for every question I threw at him. I asked about a basted fitting and what I could expect for next steps. He assured me that based on my figure that no basted fitting would be required. For those who don’t know what a basted fitting is, essentially it’s when you try on a suit temporarily stitched together with white basting thread. It’s a working jacket that’s used to fine tune the fitting.
In my case, Jay recommended not having one because my body type is easy to fit and thus said I wouldn’t need one. Plus it would add an extra month of time, which I we both agreed it would be best to have the suit sooner than later — before summer was over.
First Fitting & My Initial Impressions
On Monday, August 19th I received an email from Elsie informing me that my garment had arrived, a little over a month and a half after my initial visit to the showroom.
I scheduled an appointment to come in on Monday, August 23rd. Upon arrival I was told that the fabrics I chose for the trousers were sold out which was a bit of a surprise.
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I was wondering why they hadn’t emailed me prior to let me know, but I figure it was a busy time with wedding season and so no biggie. I’ve learned to be patient when it comes to anything custom.
I took a moment to select a new fabric and landed on a beautiful cream linen from the Kerry Knoll Summon swatch book. Like Zegna, all their fabrics are woven in Italy.
The Jacket Fit
When I first tried on the jacket and stood in front of the mirror, it felt like I was wearing armor. The jacket looked flawless in my opinion. It fit extraordinarily well in all the main areas.
Perhaps the most important area of a suit jacket’s fit to take note of is the shoulders. If this is off, there’s likely no chance that the jacket will fit correctly, and it’s difficult to fix.
Thankfully the jacket’s shoulders lay flat on my shoulders with no signs of a shoulder divot or bunching up behind the collar. It ends where it should right around my shoulder bone.
There is a light shoulder padding which to be honest, feels like nothing is there, although you can tell that there’s some padding by looking at the photos. All in all, the shoulders fit exceptionally well.
The button stance and button closure is spot on. It was positioned just above my belly button which is an ideal placement for someone of my stature (5’6″). It’s fitted with just enough wiggle room that it’s not restricting yet looser for a relaxed warmer weather vibe.
The chest area lays flat against my chest and doesn’t pucker which is usually a sign that a jacket is too tight up there. This is a common problem area I have with many off the rack (OTR) or ready to wear (RTW) jackets. Even my past MTM experiences I encountered problems in the chest area. Mainly because I have a bit of a drop from my chest to my waist.
Additionally, the jacket length was spot on, not too long and not cropped too short, but just right. The traditional length of fully covering one’s butt is too long for my tastes and the Thom Browne cropped aesthetic is too trendy in my opinion. But this length is classic, yet still feels modern.
The sleeves have no excess fabric although the jacket does have slightly extra room for flexibility and range of motion, which I requested. It’s a linen jacket and I’ll be wearing it in warm/hot weather and so I didn’t want any part of the jacket to be too tight, including the sleeves.
I like the higher arm holes which certainly looks and feels more modern. Furthermore, the sleeve pitch is on point and the length of the sleeves are spot on. The only fix Jay and I agreed on was to bring the left sleeve up a quarter of an inch, that was all.
As for my impressions of the jacket, I felt that it was a little too bright green. It’s different when you look at a swatch and compare it to a complete jacket. It was lighter than I had expected. It felt more Christmasy green. I felt like a more versatile, darker olive green shade would have been a better fit. And it probably would have been appropriate for more occasions.
But then I thought — it’s a 100% linen construction and thus most appropriate for the warmer and hotter months of summer and so I can’t judge too harshly. And after wearing the jacket in the Sai Gon (Ho Chi Minh City) heat this past February, the color has grown on me. I think it’s a wonderful warm weather fabric and color.
A Few Alterations
About a month later on Monday, September 23rd I received another email from Elsie saying that my order had come in. The pants were ready and the jacket sleeve had been altered. I requested for them to ship the jacket and pants to my house.
The Pants Fit
The pants felt great and the overall fit was pretty good, but there was some alterations that I felt could help to achieve an even better fit. I took some photos and sent them to Elsie for feedback from the tailors.
I felt that a primary area that needed altering is the length of the pants. The hem needs to go up slightly for a cleaner break. And a second area that needs some work is that the taper down the ankle could be increased for a more slimmer fit. Other than that, everything looked good to me.
Back To NYC
I scheduled an appointment to go back to the showroom on Tuesday, October 22nd. By now it was getting cooler and my hopes of wearing the ensemble dashed, at least until next season. I’d rather have a flawlessly fitting suit anyway, so it would be worth the wait.
When I arrived back at Alan David for the 3rd time (it felt like home now), I got the trousers pinned up and also thought about getting the light shoulder padding removed from the jacket for a completely unstructured jacket. Jay said that he likes the padding because it gives more structure, but said ultimately the choice was up to me. And after a bit of thinking, I decided to have it removed. I personally prefer unstructured jackets. The 1/4 lining was fine though.
The Finished Product
After about 3 weeks I received the final jacket and trousers.
Let’s see how they did.
How Does It Fit?
This is the all important question and Alan David Custom’s number one priority. I already discussed the fit of the jacket during the first fitting and the pants fit at my home, but I’ll expand a bit on those with the final product.
Earlier I mentioned having the light shoulder pads removed from the jacket. I was concerned about the fit of the shoulders after removing the padding, but I’m glad I made that decision as the jacket fits even better than before.
I already have pretty broad shoulders as it is and so there’s still definition in the shoulders, even without the light padding. It feels more fitted and looks more streamlined in my opinion.
The pockets are well positioned and there’s a subtle pick stitching along the edges of the suit and along the patch pockets that add interesting detail. The slightly wider than normal (3.5″) notch lapels accentuate my chest and is much more masculine than thinner lapels.
And the functional sleeves are traditional, fine tailoring detail. Those in the know can tell that it’s a custom piece based on those functioning sleeves. All in all, I’m quite satisfied with the fit of the jacket. It’s definitely one of the best fitting in my collection right now.
The pants needed to be hemmed up a few inches and they did just that. Now there’s a very slight break which is what I was going for in the first place. I wanted for the bottom of the cuffed trousers to kiss the top of my shoes.
I also opted for an inch cuff at the bottom of the trousers. I personally like how it adds a bit of weight and structure to the pants and allows for them to lay cleaner than a non-cuffed pair of pants.
The trousers are very simple. No belt loops, instead I opted for the more classic side tabs for effortless, and stylish functionality.
There’s a single reverse pleat which Alan recommended. I had always thought pleats where too old fashioned, but it actually looks quite nice and still modern. I feel the pleats are appropriate for linen, plus it allows for more range of movement and flexibility.
Overall, they’re slim fitting, just the way I like them with a perfect amount of taper through the leg, down towards the ankle.
Linen Suit Style Inspiration
What’s The Price?
Directly from the Alan David Custom website.
- Men’s Custom suit prices range from $1,195 – $1,995.
- Custom tuxedo prices range from $1,295 – $2,195.
- Custom shirts prices range from $160 – $295.
- Women’s custom suit prices range from $1,795 – $2,895.
- Sport coats are 75% of suit prices, trousers are 30% of suit prices.
- Hundreds of fabrics to choose from in each price range.
- First time buyers take an additional $100 off.
What I Like Most (Pros)
- Non-pretentious, friendly family atmosphere
- Knowledgeable owner, tailors and sales staff
- Limitless fabric selection
- Top notch attention to detail
- Nailed the final fit without a basted fitting
- Worked with me until I was 100% satisfied
Room For Improvement (Cons)
- Process longer than expected
- Not the easiest location to get to
A custom shop like Alan David NYC is for those who seek to graduate beyond the standard made-to-measure (MTM), granting you more options, control and better overall experience.
They ask all the right questions and really get into the specifics so that they can best serve you. They don’t rush you at all. They allow for you to reach a decision of what you want all on your own.
And if you’re ever stuck or undecided on something, Alan helps to guide you, providing his insights of decades of experience. It’s his attention to the little details that makes all the difference.
He may nudge you in one direction if he sees that you’re having trouble making a decision, but never to the point where he assumes control. Alan David Custom is definitely for men who know what they want in a suit. And ultimately, the finished product can be something to be proud for everyone involved.
A Note: Alan David Custom provided me with this custom suit for review. These are my thoughts and opinions based on my experience. Gentleman Within holds all control over editorial content.
What are your thoughts on Alan David Custom?
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Looking forward to seeing you in there.
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