Why Quality Suits Need Canvas

Words | William Phung

We explain the most important hidden detail of a suit: the canvas.

While you might know your Prince of Wales checks from your windowpanes and be able to convert microns to Super counts, often it’s in the hidden details that make all the difference to the quality of a suit. Here, we take a look beneath the surface into what makes the canvas in a suit so important, to give you a better understanding of what to consider on your next suit purchase.

Often referred to as the ‘skeleton’ of a jacket, the canvas is the piece of fabric between the lining on the inside and the cloth you see on the outside. This is what gives the jacket structure, helping to sculpt the shoulders and chest and create a clean roll on the lapel.

Canvas is generally made from a blend of fabrics including wool, cotton, linen and horsehair. Bespoke tailoring will always attach the canvas by hand, stitching it to the cloth of the jacket. At M.J. Bale, we used a specifically designed machine to mimic the hand finishing process. This creates a ‘floating’ canvas and allows the jacket the ability to move with and mould to your body, giving you a better fit over time.

The three types of canvassing are full canvas, half canvas and fusing. Full canvas is the most traditional type and is almost only used in bespoke tailoring. It covers the front of the jacket, extending from the shoulder to the bottom of the jacket, giving you structure the whole way down. Our Collection suits, handmade by our artisans in the Iwate Prefecture of Japan, are still made with a full canvas construction and offer one of the best' off the rack' options available anywhere in Australia.

Half canvas construction runs from the top of the jacket, through the lapel down to the top button, or 'breakpoint'. It was created by Edoardo Delassio while working for Canali, in the 'Hitman' suit factory in 1971. Half-canvassing was a mini-revolution in menswear, as you can only change a jacket so many ways. Companies realised they could create a canvas in half the time, improve the price-quality relationship and retain the benefits of a full canvas where it matters; the shoulder, chest and lapels. In only three years, 90% of all jackets in Italy were made with half canvas. An easy way to tell if the jacket is half or full canvas is to rub the jacket in between your fingers near the top button. You should be able to feel the canvas beneath the cloth, and it should move freely. If you can still feel that coarse fabric at the bottom of the jacket, it's a full canvas. We use a floating half-canvas in our Classic and Blue label suits to create an accessible price point and retain the best features of a canvas construction.

Fusing, the final method of construction, involves bonding the inner and outer cloth panels of a suit together to create a sense of structure. It's a technique usually only reserved for 'deconstructed' shirt blazers (blazer with no canvas or shoulder pads) to maintain lightness and a shirt-like appearance. In suiting, fusing creates a flat appearance that looks stiff and creates the impression that the suit is wearing the owner and not the other way around. Simply put, it just isn't cricket.