Obviously, the first step of uman's mission is concerned with the "body" for which the suit is designed. While uman is conceptually identified with the Modern Rich, it also refers to a well-defined profile of the physical individual.
He is someone whose demographic, morphological, and cultural background has been at the origin of the "lounge suit". The modern sartorial suit that has been adopted around the world as the basis of men's smart attire.
Historically, the lounge suit was developed in England, where its main shape and proportions were first defined. The concept then moved to France, where it acquired colour and decorations, and finally found its home in Italy, where it gained a natural grace that is known as "sprezzatura" (6).
This axis of style and innovation is where the contemporary look of men's costume was defined, refined, and codified. From the mid 18th century onwards, educated and wealthy gentlemen in England, France and Italy – whether nob or snob – were truly pan-European, at least as far as fashion was concerned. The Grand Tour was, in fact, the impetus to a virtuous fusion of elegance (7). Via the Grand Tour, the Englishman was affected by Francophilia for rich accessories and grand high-end clothing, the Frenchman was imbued with Anglomania for practical day clothing, and both were fascinated by the Italian inclination towards a "bella figura" in all circumstances. It is therefore perfectly appropriate for uman to build the suit's silhouette on the real body of the "homo elegans and affluens", the man who still lives between the main cities of England, France, and Italy.
But why, so far at least, has this been a tough (and some would say, perhaps, impossible) job? The answer is that the sizes and proportions of both the craft-made and industrially-made classical men's suit have been based on methodologies and standards that date back to the mid 20th century. As we know, these sizes and proportions were based on statistics that are limited to a few average measurements – height, chest, waist, and seat – that were for the most part actually collected from World War II conscripts. While these statistics have been regularly updated, they are mostly acquired on a random basis and without reference to specific demographical information.
The tables summarizing such measures, which are still used by tailors and garment-makers today, should therefore express all the measurements and proportions of the so-called "regular individual", that is an individual who has an "average-sized human body" (8). By studying this supposedly normal figure, technicians have produced what are known as "proportion ratios" of the different parts of the body and, thereby, of the suit (9).
This approach has allowed all the fundamental measurements of a suit to develop (including the trousers and the length of the sleeves) based on a single conventional measurement: the half-circumference of the chest, whose length still sets the size.
Based on this one dimension, a set of tables was created with the scale of all the sizes of the regular individual (10) and then so-called shaped fits were developed by taking further sample measurements (11). These specifications are still the parameters on which both industrial as well as (all too often) hand-made products are based.
As far as actual bespoke production is concerned, tailors can obviously take more direct measurements of the customers (and previously they had also used odd instruments like the "technimeter" or the "basimeter"), but even here, when drafting the pattern of a suit, tailors were always counselled not to deviate too much from the standard tables (12).
Due to the lack of objective and precise data on the size and shape of men's bodies, these systems are clearly based on average approximations and are therefore continually less appropriate for the purpose of establishing the precise fit.
Fashion designers whose sole purpose is an aesthetic expression of the suit take an even more arbitrary approach: they use the size of a specific individual (known as a "fit model") as their standard measure.
Human scanning technology has radically changed the basis from which a suit's prototype is created and its size is developped; this has marked a turning point in the development of menswear. Over the past few years, a pioneering company in this field has created a database with the measurements of hundreds of thousands of individuals from different parts of the world, each of whom is clearly identified by race, age, social class, and lifestyle (13).
The identity profile uman has selected is that of a European, high status, youthful man of about forty, who enjoys a sporty, healthy, and sophisticated lifestyle, and lives between London, Paris, and Milan. These cities, the world's style capitals, host its fashion shows and showcase the most exclusive ateliers and boutiques, alongside theatre, music, and art.
Because the lounge suit remains the formal masculine dress par excellence, it is in London, Paris, and Milan where we should look for the genteel, intellectual, affluent, and athletic man who can wear this suit most elegantly and in its most articulated form.
Uman's next step was to map the available physical characteristics of the thousands of people who satisfy this demographic profile today. When these attributes are appropriately correlated, they can be translated into a virtual body. From here a three-dimensional "archetype" can be created, using materials that reproduce the different densities of the human body (its bones, muscles, and fat), with the precise posture and proportions among the different parts, and then finally they are covered in fabric. Thereby, the ideal silhouette of the suit can be designed, and so the perfect fit is set on this body.
In these and other ways, uman merges classical tradition and modern innovation to dress the Modern Rich.
6) In The Book of the Courtier (1528), Baldessar Castiglione introduced the term sprezzatura in his famous behavioural manual in the following way: “… to apply in everything a certain sprezzatura, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear effortless and almost without any thought about it.”
7) From the 17th to the late 19th century, the Grand Tour journeys, which could last a year or more through central Europe and Italy, were meant to educate, mature, and let wealthy British young men (and later also French and German ones as well) confront new experiences.
8) See Prof. Antonio Sandre’s Tecnica del Taglio Maschile (1958). In the 1960s, with the launch of the garment-making industry, more than forty essays on cutting fabric were published in Italy, each with its own unfailing “system” (a large collection of these texts is available at the “Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale” in Florence).
9) Such proportions of the “ideal figure” were obtained by “measuring and dressing men of all ages” (Il Moderno Grande Sarto, by Prof. Peppino Ligas, 1976), thus from a potpourri of individuals who did not share any other characteristic than having chosen the same tailor. The basic ratio of a “regular individual” was roughly defined as height ÷ half-chest = 3.02
10) When taken to extremes, this technique requires an almost mechanical use of tables, so that, “… when a suit is cut, you only have to open the Proportion ratio with the desired chest size and, in a moment, you can obtain the required data without any errors …” (Il Moderno Grande Sarto).
11) When bodies are categorized according to height (calculated from the seventh cervical vertebra downwards) they are simply defined as extra-short, short, regular, long, and extra-long; when categorized according
to shape they are slim, regular, portly, and stout. On the other hand, when bespoke garments are sewn, tailors can also make further adjustments according to the posture, which are defined as stooping or erect, and with high or low shoulders.
12) Bespoke tailors who used of only direct measurements obviously had an opposite reaction. On his website, a renowned British tailor describes using as many as 20 individual measurements, which he transformed into a model using a procedure that he defines as “rock of eye” (that is, a simple visual impression that is immediately transferred onto the fabric using simple chalk), as opposed to the “clinical, scientific, and extremely complicated formula” technicians use.
13) This company is Alvanon Inc. It was founded in 2001 in New York with the mission “to revolutionize apparel fit, starting from the observation that poor fit was common across the industry … as a result of data compiled as far back as World War II”.