A while back, I bought a suit from a popular men’s store that has a warehouse full of them (get it?). It didn’t go well.
I hated my new suit. Hated it. I have this thing about being suppressed; I don’t like to feel as if my freedom of movement is restricted, which is what the suit did to me.
When I first tried it on, before any alterations were made, it didn’t fit that bad. Yes, it was a little tight; I can handle that, but it was only a little bit. And I could still move my arms for simple things like shaking hands without that pinching feeling in my upper arms.
After the alterations- that was a totally different story.
It was super-restrictive. I didn’t like that the “mouth” of the sleeve rose up three-quarters of the way up my forearm, or that it felt like the back was going to rip just by reaching out to shake someone’s hand.
This isn’t right, I thought. I couldn’t verbalize it properly, but I knew something was off.
Of course, the associate I had, who wasn’t who originally helped me, was a jackass. A simple gesture, showing his sleeve moved up (not nearly as far as mine, however), was supposed to make me feel better.
“Hold up”, I said. “I fit and build golf clubs. I know that if I made a set of fitted golf clubs for a customer and s/he couldn’t hit them, and basically told her/him ‘well, that’s how it goes’, I’d be ran out of town”.
“How did Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire do all that dancing in suits?” I asked. He didn’t have a response.
And it’s true. Check it out:
After some researching, I found out that suit manufacturers were making their armholes differently. They used to be high and circular; at some point in the ’80s, they went to low, ovular (almost egg-shaped) armholes.
The reason was two-fold. One, it was supposed to make the suit easier to put on. Secondly, it was a “one-size-fits-all” approach. As I, and others, can attest, low and oval-shaped arm holes aren’t exactly a good thing.
That’s how I equate off-the-rack clubs. Yeah, they look nice, and you likely spent a decent amount of money on them… but if they don’t help you, what was the point?
Think about it: if I built you a set of irons and all I did was alter the length, what would happen? I didn’t bother with the lie angle, or the grip, or anything else.
It’s a rare instance that just changing the length will create this new ball-striking ability. Lie angle has to be considered, as well; the right length will get you more “sweet spot” impacts, but if the lie angle’s off, you’ll still miss the green. Remember:
- Too Upright: Pulls/hooks
- Too Flat: Pushes/slices
If you find yourself with some impact tape or sunscreen, you can check where on the face you’re hitting the ball. If it’s on, or very near, the “sweet spot”, but you still can’t stop pulling (or pushing) the ball, a bad lie angle’s most likely the culprit.
This is why you get custom-fitted, to find this stuff out and make it right, so you can make a better swing, and shoot lower scores.
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Look, I’m not going to lie: online fitting forms, even my own, are very similar to a “made to wear” suit from a major retailer. Mine, and others (though I can’t speak for all), try our damnedest to get as close as we possibly can… but the lie angle is the one area where everyone can fail.
Just as no one swings the club exactly the same, their release mechanics aren’t, either. That can effect what lie angle you need, which can only truly be discovered through dynamic fitting.
The good news is, unlike a “MTW” suit’s arm holes, a golf club can be altered further. What I mean is, if you get a suit with low arm holes, you just won’t be able to have it altered. It’s a PITA for tailors, and it makes the suit look worse than before.
A golf club, however, can be adjusted a number of times. Not infinity, though; much like a paperclip, metal can only be bent so many times before it breaks. If you get a used set off Ebay, for example, it’s possible you can get at least one bend out of them. Be sure to ask if (and how many times) they were altered before buying.
It gets recommended in the suit forums: keep the number of a local tailor handy. If you buy online, there’s still a chance you’ll need some form of alteration done to the suit.
It’s not always because the company sucked. It’s difficult to measure yourself, and if you’re off by a half-inch, the sleeves, for example, might still need to be adjusted.
If you get a set of clubs online, and go through a “fitting wizard”, it’s a very good idea to still take the new sticks to a local clubfitter, so s/he can check to make sure the lie angle’s going to work for you.
It really is amazing, to me at least, how similar these two niches are.
There’s a saying floating around suit blogs:
A fitted $300 suit looks better than a $3000 non-fitted suit.
Or, as a member on a men’s style forum eloquently puts it:
Always remember a good tailor job can make an inexpensive suit look stellar on you.
A poor tailoring job can turn an Armani or Canali into expensive shit.
Same goes with golf clubs. There’s value everywhere if you look for it. A $100 fitted driver will do more for your game than a $500 non-fitted driver. A $300 fitted set of irons will do more to help you find the green in regulation than a $1000 non-fitted set.