Bespoke is Being Mispoken

I’ve been thinking an awful lot about the use and misuse of the word bespoke. I was under the impression that bespoke was traditionally a term reserved for clothing. So it really bothers me to hear a commercial on the radio for “bespoke wood flooring.”  My friend Tim Mureau (of Tim’s Tailor Service in The Netherlands) is writing a book about craftsmen in Italy and contributes to The Gentleman’s Gazette. He points out that there are made-to-measure firms that are representing their clothing as bespoke — and this is not right. I have absolutely nothing against made-to-measure clothing per se — or ready-to-wear, for that matter. But one shouldn’t misrepresent one’s product and confuse the customer.

I recently discovered a couple of blog posts from a while back by Hugo Jacomet of Parisian Gentleman, a beautiful site that crystallized my thoughts on the subject and made me feel like he had read my mind. He maintains that bespoke is “based on a simple principle: each suit is constructed from a unique pattern drafted with and for a client after discussions with the tailor.”

In one of his posts, Jacomet employs a truly great title: A semantic tragedy: “Bespoke” used as a catch-all word! Semantic tragedy indeed. He writes:

This major trend of ascribing various meanings to a word is disastrous because it drags down EVERYTHING, induces confusion and is a ploy to sell mass produced products as genuine craft products whereas these are usually manufactured in unseemly conditions.

And then, I saw a news item for “bespoke donuts.” Yes, you read that correctly: “bespoke donuts!” Apparently, Tescos across the UK will be selling Krispy Kreme donuts with fancy glazes as a tie-in with Glamour magazine for London Fashion Week. This has got to be a new low. To say this is silly is an understatement. Where are the bespoke police when you need them?!


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