For most men, suits are investment pieces that they buy with the expectation that they will last for many years. One of the best ways to determine the quality of a suit is by the amount of canvas material used to construct the suit. Full-canvas suits are considered to be the most high quality, while fused suits are generally considered to be low quality. Half-canvas suits can offer a good compromise between the two options.
Canvas lining helps to reinforce the shape of a suit's structure. It is sewed into a suit between the exterior fabric and the inner suit lining. Canvas linings are usually made from wool, cotton and animal hair. Canvas material is lightweight, resilient and somewhat malleable. Ideally, canvas will be used throughout a suit jacket. However, sewing canvas material to the inner lining of a suit can be an expensive process, and tailors sometimes cut costs by using canvas only in the upper part of the jacket. As a result, the more canvas material used in the suit jacket, the higher the price of the jacket.
Full-canvas suit jackets are those where the canvas fabric extends from the top of the jacket down to the bottom hem. This layer of canvas fabric is the most important factor in determining the quality of a men's suit, Michael Ostrove, senior vice president at men's retailer Paul Stuart, tells "Forbes" magazine. Canvas material conforms to the body after the jacket has been worn several times, improving the quality of the jacket's fit over time. Canvas material also holds up the shape of the suit, and this interior reinforcement keeps the suit jacket from sagging or deforming over time.
The most inexpensive option for suit jackets is a fused construction. Fused suit jackets are those were the lining is glued to the inside of the outer fabric, rather than being sewn in. A fused lining can still help keep the suit jacket's shape, but it cannot move naturally against the outer lining, creating a stiffness in the suit jacket. The glue with which the jacket interior has been fused can also degrade over time or become damaged during the dry-cleaning process. This creates ripples or "bubbles" in the fabric, ruining the clean appearance of the suit jacket and revealing poor quality construction.
Half-canvas suits offer a compromise between low and high quality and present a more affordable option that still has some of the benefits of full-canvassed construction. In a half-canvas suit jacket, the canvas material is used only in the chest and lapels of the suit jacket. Half-canvas jackets can be beneficial because they are less expensive than full-canvas jackets. Because the top half of the jacket is canvas, it will still conform to your body and prevent the jacket from deforming. The bottom half of the suit jacket is fused, which means that less work is required to make the jacket, saving you the extra expense.
To test what kind of construction was used in a jacket, pinch the layers of fabric between the button holes. Three layers of fabric means that a jacket is full-canvas, two layers mean that it is half-canvas, and one layer means that the lining has been fused, notes Ostrove. Canvas is never used in a suit jacket's sleeves, so you cannot pinch the sleeves to determine jacket quality. To determine if a jacket is full- or half-canvas, you can also run your hand along the front of the jacket. In half-canvas jackets, you will feel a difference in the stiffness of the material at the top half of the jacket versus the bottom half. Finally, you can check the stitching behind the lapels. If you see tiny stitches holding the fabric together, then the jacket has some sort of canvas construction. If there are no stitches, then the jacket is likely fused.