Shopping for a suit can be a fun experience, but it definitely calls for some decision-making skills. There are mountains of options in terms of colors, fabrics, cuts, costs and more.

When you want to narrow down your choices, there’s one important place to start. Do you want a fused or a fully canvassed suit? In almost all cases, a fused suit is much less expensive than a fully canvassed suit. A fully canvassed suit, however, can offer you so many benefits that you may decide that it’s more than worth the price tag.

Fused or Canvassed: Telling One From the Other

Imagine that you’re standing in a store with a suit jacket in your hands. It’s not labeled as fully canvassed or fused. How could you tell the difference?

One method is to just look at the price. The least expensive suits on the market are almost always fused. Examples include the Midnight Blue Slim-Fit Suit, the OppoSuits Slim-Fit Navy Royale Suit and lastly, the Charcoal Grey Two Button Suit from Alain Dupetit.

The cost isn’t always a telltale sign, though. Some prestigious fashion brands rely on fusing, which is why you can’t automatically assume that an expensive suit is fully canvassed. Another way to tell these jackets apart is to feel the material and try it on. Fully canvassed jackets are thick and plush; their substance is evident. When you put one on, it has a flattering drape. Fused jackets are usually rigid and don’t offer the same natural drape.

A post shared by HUGO BOSS (@hugoboss) on

If you’re not sure whether a jacket’s fused or fully canvassed, hold it just beneath the buttons. Then, with your thumbs and index fingers, pull the inside and the outside of the coat in opposite directions ever so slightly. Does it seem like there’s material in between? If so, that’s the canvas. If not, you’re probably holding a fused coat.

Additionally, if the chest is less flexible than the sleeves and the lapel isn’t elastic, you’re likely looking at a fused product. Be aware, however, that a flexible lapel doesn’t necessarily indicate a fully canvassed suit. That’s because clothing manufacturers that rely on fusing have been making their lapels less stiff in recent years.

How Canvassed vs. Fused Jackets Are Made

What makes fused jackets so different from their fully canvassed brethren? The answer lies in the processes by which they’re constructed.To maintain the shape of a suit jacket, generations of tailors have used horsehair canvas. A master tailor will carefully shape a canvas piece so it will fit a coat perfectly. Once it’s finished, the artisan will slowly stitch the fabric to it by hand.

Examples of fully canvassed gorgeousness include the Canali Sharkskin Super 130s Wool Two-Piece Suit, the Brioni Madison Suit, the Hugo Boss Full Canvas Suit and the Hickey Freeman Classic Fit Loro Piana Wool Suit. What’s remarkable about a canvas piece is that it’s not an unchanging object. Instead, over time, your body will slightly stretch and mold it until it’s just right for your torso.

A post shared by Canali (@canali1934) on

Fused jackets also feature an inner lining to maintain the shape. This is done by gluing the fabric to the lining, rather than stitching it. The process is quick and cheap and it allows for mass-produced suits. At the same time, it’s responsible for the flatness and rigidity of these clothes. Another issue is that most fused coats hardly breathe and can lead to sweating and feeling less than comfortable.

Canvassed vs. Fused: And The Winner Is…

When you’re setting a budget for a suit, you should factor in the length of time it could last. A fused suit might be a more economical initial investment, but it might not be wearable long-term. The glue could lose its adhesive properties, causing the fabric to bubble up and look messy. This problem doesn’t happen as frequently as it once did as fusing methods have become more sophisticated, but it still happens from time to time.

The day may come when fused jackets are every bit as high in quality as fully canvassed jackets. The day may also come when we use rocket-powered backpacks to get to work and fast food is healthy for you. Until that time, you’re almost surely better off springing for a fully canvassed suit. On the other hand, you might choose a fused suit if your budget is constrained or if you happen to find one that looks and drapes just the way you like. Ultimately, you should always choose the suit that makes you feel like your most confident self.

men's fashion advice

About Ralph Lauretta

Ralph is a co-owner of Sal Lauretta for Men. His areas of expertise include custom clothing as well as being the primary clothing buyer for the store. When not at work you can find him hanging out with his family, reorganizing his garage or watching a Denver Broncos game.