By on May 15, 2013

Do you have a truly bespoke pair of shoes, hand-made, to the tune of $1,000? Or a truly bespoke suit, not just one off the plebeian racks of Armani or Ermenegildo Zegna? Watch out, “bespoke” is losing its worth faster than a dollar during the peanut president regime. Oddly, it is Rolls-Royce that is behind that dangerous paradigm down-shift.

According to most dictionaries, from Oxford to Webster, “bespoke” simply stands for “custom, made to order,” something that sounds just right on the shingle of any tailor, whether on Savile Row or in a seedy side street of Kowloon. Now, the meaning of the term “bespoke” is slowly fading into “fancy,” or “high end.” Even in the pages of TTAC, the word “bespoke” has been used to gussy-up a simple top-line Acura.

The forces behind this semantic race to the bottom appear to be aligned with Rolls-Royce.  As anybody in the high-end business knows, a Roller is hardly bought off the rack. Or, in the words of a Roll-Royce press release, “nearly every Rolls-Royce Phantom and almost three in four Rolls-Royce Ghosts sold around the world are commissioned with Bespoke personalisation.”

So, they are Custom, made to order personalizations? Made by Two twins?  Sold at a High expensive price? The effects of this tauto-logic are wide-spread. From Autoevolution to  Motor Authority , car blogs have reprinted Rolls-Royce’s silly press releases for multiples of 12 Month years.  Next step:  Tailors will have to remove the term from their shingles, because Rolls-Royce’s parent will Trademark the patent on Bespoke. As you may have noticed, they already capitalize the B in Bespoke, soon they may want to capitalize on it.

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37 Comments on “Rolls-Royce, Now With Advanced Tautologic...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “plebeian racks of Armani or Ermenegildo Zegna”

    Gave me a chuckle, I’ll happily be the pleb whose rack is filled with those.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Bespoke has jumped the shark. Simply avoid anything claiming to be bespoke that wasn’t claiming it a decade ago or risk being seen as a poseur.

  • avatar

    “RICH” is something you can lose over a weekend with a bad drug habit.
    “WEALTH” means you can spend money that’s being earned by MONEY you have in a bunch of accounts generating MORE MONEY – it’s something you’d be hard pressed to lose even with a drug habit.

    The Wealthy don’t ride around in this stuff. Take a look at Forbe’s list of cars the wealthy drive. While I’d expect that the top 1% rides around in Veyrons, Lamborghinis and jets all day long, the TRUTH is that they buy E350′s (not even the gotdamned AMG), Lexus RX, Accords, Malibus, Toyotas, Chryslers and Dodges.

    Many wealthy people spend an ALLOWANCE which was generated by their multi-million dollar holdings while the “new money” rolls around in super cars.

    These Rolls Royces are usually company Limos to shuffle around executives and wealthy old people who are about to pass on.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Aren’t these vehicles also popular with wealthy oil-sheiks?

    BTW; the definition of “wealth” is spot-on. It essentially means that all your money that has been invested, will create even more money.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Luxury brands debase themselves… In other news, the sun came up this morning…

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      To make a reputation, you will have to offer a small quantity of higher quality products.

      To make money, you will have to make a reputation first, and then dilute it.

      There is a delay between the perception of quality and the real quality. Use it to your advantage.

      • 0 avatar
        another_pleb

        That’s a good point but an occasional bit of artificial scarcity never hurt a brand, like Ferrari reducing its production recently.

        I bet they haven’t reduced production of their baseball caps and teddy bears though.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Like from the 30s till the late 60s when Cadillac demand exceeded supply. In the 1970s they started to whore themselves out like the ladies working for the pimps that drove the Superfly customs.

  • avatar
    wsn

    It’s the same as with some of the “custom home builders”. When I brought my own drawing to one of those for a price quote, I was told “We won’t give a price quote or build anything like that. You will have to start off with our plans and then slightly modify them.”

    Fortunately, the next two would glad build anything I drew.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I assume that “bespoke” in this context means a level of customization or individuation not typically available in less expensive cars. While the only personal familiarity I have with this level of consumption is a former college roommate (from 40 years past) who, a few years ago, bought a new, first generation Quattroporte. He was able specify the wood in the dash and console, the leather in the seats, including the “baseball” stitching, the type of carpet on the floor. “Lesser” cars only give their buyers choices of “packages” to varying degrees, although MINI certainly gives its buyers a lot of choices. The problem is that MINI dealers, at least here, want to sell people a car off the lot, not ordered from the factory. I don’t know, but I rather doubt that new Rollers are sold “off the lot.” So, the new Roller reflects the buyer’s personal choices to a degree that a new Benz does not.

    I’m not sure this usage of “bespoke” is objectionable in this context. At what level of customization would it be justified for an automobile? Where you get to specify the width of the seats? Or do you think it’s never an appropriate term to use in this context and should be reserved for a product made to the buyer’s specification from the raw materials, like a suit?

    I agree that a feature that is uniquely available to a particular model of car should not be described as “bespoke.” So, if the current version of the Acura RL (or whatever the model is called) has headlights that are exclusive to that model, they should not be called “bespoke.” They are “exclusive to that model.”

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      How long before they move on to ‘artisanal’?

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        +1 Truckducken. Some of these words just piss me off for no reason. It took me a year to figure out they weren’t saying “artesianal.” What? It came from a spring or a well? How is that possible? Oh…”artist..inal.” Got it.

        I know it’s me. I know it has to do with some psychological flaw or intellectual limitation. I can’t help it. The words “bespoke” and “artisanal” make me puke. (Even spell check hates artisanal.)

  • avatar

    I find the number of Rolls Royce orders being “bespoke” to be very funny considering how many are just black, white, silver or blue with a tan, black or grey interior. Often times with burl walnut for the veneer. Most Rollers that I see for sale used are your rather standard colour combinations. What is the point of ordering a “custom” or “bespoke” Rolls Royce if it’s just going to look like most others. They cost so much already and the depreciation on these kinds of cars is bad enough that making it truly your own isn’t going to hurt the resell enough to justify making your bespoke ghost look as “off the rack” as your neighbour’s BMW 760Li.

  • avatar
    another_pleb

    Can a car ever really be bespoke anymore?

    When you buy a bespoke suit, you choose exactly which bolts of cloth are used for the outer and the lining, the thing will be cut exactly to your body shape and have the pockets, lapels, vents, pleats etc. in the exact sizes, shapes and locations that you want.

    When you buy bespoke shoes, everything is made just for your feet, right down to your own unique last.

    With a car, even a Royce, unless you commission a coach-builder to create some unique sheet-metal, you might just be getting a different colour of wood, paint or leather (if I had the means to buy a Roller, I would order cloth seats) and maybe have a few gadgets thrown in. The car itself would remain virtually identical to every other Rolls Royce.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      Manual Rolls Royce with a a vinyl bench, rubber floor and steel rims.

      • 0 avatar
        another_pleb

        I also prefer steel wheels to alloys. However, if I were to buy a Rolls Royce, I’d probably buy a second identical one for the other side of the aeroplane.

    • 0 avatar
      kkt

      Custom coachbuilding pretty much came to an end with the end of body-on-frame construction in the 60s. Now, it’s true, customizations are limited to a long option list that can be installed and colors and materials of what you see and touch. I do remember about 10 years ago reading about a Bentley commissioned by someone who wanted to race it, and got it stripped. No floor mats, no wood over the dash, one lightweight seat for the driver and none for passengers

  • avatar
    stuki

    In the rag trade, made-to-measure is a term much closes with what Rolls is doing than bespoke. MTM clothes are custom made for each individual, but from a finite set of precut patterns. Just like options on a Roller. Bespoke is cut from scratch, from nothing but rolls of cloth. It’s a big difference for those that fall outside the norm the precut patterns are made to cover.

    If you cold literally have the roller built from steel and aluminum bars, and wool and leather sheets; specifically to your order, bespoke would make sense as a description of the process. But I doubt even oil sheiks and heads of state get quite that treatment at RR anymore. So MTM, or more fitting for the car world, Made to Order; is a more historically accurate term.

    Something I’m 100% sure pretty much everyone from the floor sweeper on up at Rolls Royce, is perfectly well aware of. It’s sad that the marketing dweebs are dealing with a buying population that obviously no longer are not. As misappropriating a traditionally snobbish and very British term like bespoke, only serve to cheapen the whole brand to the level of the stereotypical ghetto rapper.

    • 0 avatar

      Saying that using bespoke only serves to “cheapen the whole brand to the level of the stereotypical ghetto rapper” is not only wrong, but it’s a bit racist at the same time. Most rappers don’t actually buy them, their label buys them and loans them to the rapper until their time being famous is done, then they give it back. It’s also a huge insult to just about everyone who buys a Rolls Royce, because you’re implying that almost all buyers think that the car is actually bespoke, when they actually probably don’t. They probably look at the car is being custom ordered.

      While your assessment of “Bespoke” is correct, a RR or Bentley is about as close to bespoke as one can really get anymore with a car. I don’t think it applies either, but automotive standards have evolved, and so has our language as a whole. You couldn’t properly make a bespoke car anymore, nor could you ever in all truth, a Duesenberg was about as close as you could get.

      It makes more sense to look at this as simple “branding”. Rolls Royce has had far worse periods of this in their history and I’m willing to trade a misuse for the word bespoke than go back to right before the BMW buyout when the cars weren’t good looking or comfortable and rather terrible (I’ve been in a couple, and the cars hugely improved these days).

      That period right before the BMW buyout did far worse to cheapen the brand then using the word bespoke. That’s why the got bought out, the cars had gotten quite bad, and the buyers stopped coming. If you’d rather BMW went back to building cars like they were right before the bought RR and dropped the word bespoke, RR wouldn’t be around much longer because the drop in quality, style, comfort and prestige would drop so badly that the company would probably fail again. Like I said, I’ll take the marketing word bespoke if it means the cars will actually undo the actual cheapening of the brand.

      Just something to think about :)

  • avatar
    DasFast

    In my opinion, the more quickly the word is devalued through misuse the better; can’t it just go away already? Bespoke was a word that I had never heard used in North America until trendars picked it and flappy paddles up from Clarkson on Top Gear. It is now one of those words tossed around to add intentional pretense to conversation, yawn! As if custom didn’t suffice…
    Add to the list Hachi-Roku which was seemingly never used outside of Japan until people started repeatedly reading it on sites such as this. Does 86 not sound knowing enough?
    The influence of the border-less internet I suppose.

  • avatar
    BeyondBelief

    “I would be Honoured if you could Favour me with some Grey Poupon.”

    This reminds of a passage in Nelson DeMille’s excellent novel “The Gold Coast” where the most damning social censures at the country club were reserved for those old money trust-funders who had the poor judgment to, gulp, spend some of the principal. Oh, the furtive glances, the whispers. Shame.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    Bespoke is valuable in clothing because of a basic rule: fit > quality > brand. A great fit beats quality which beats brand name. The exact opposite of how men and women shop for clothing.

    I’m wearing a custom suit as I type this. I had it made in Ho Chi Minh City, and I was anally specific as to what I wanted. The value of custom clothing is really the time saved from not having to go to dozens of stores and trying on dozens of suits looking for the perfect fit with the fabric, cut, and details I want.

    Pants are the hardest clothing for me to shop for because i have a build that is hard to fit over the rack. I ordered and had shipped 3 pairs of dress pants this year and they fit me perfectly from the measurements they made 4 years ago. All for less than it would cost for a pair of Banana Republic dress pants. At half price.

    Cars have the misfortune of being a mass market product that can’t (yet?) be economically customized through software or expansion slots.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Rollers are for the nouveau riche . People with an excess of fiscal security tend to own cars like mercedes 600′s which are understated and attractive. Anyone who likes the look of a Rolls phantom would also like the emporor’s new clothes.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Amani and Zegna are not bespoke. When you are fitted for your bespoke suit you make an appointement with your tailor. he checks your measurements against last seasons ,he may suggest a different pinstripe or tweed ,and a new shirt color.If you have bought new shoes, the length will be adjusted . They do a fitting and you can have it delivered or pick it up yourself in 3-4 weeks . The account will be payable at the end of the month.
    I cannot imagine anyone buying a zegna suit going to that extent and cost isn’t everything. The most expensive part can be flying to London and catching a cab to Saville Row.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      The real value of a custom suit is the second and third fitting, where adjustments can be made before delivery.

      My tailor was off the beaten path, so I paid about $100 USD in taxi fares. The majority of his business was from upscale tailor shops from downtown Ho Chi Minh City in District 1, which outsourced production to him. That’s not an unusual business model, since many Kowloon tailor shops outsource to nearby Shenzhen to increase their margins. Their value-add is the convenience of location in the tourist areas, as well as the ability to staff English speakers.

      Sometimes you have to put up with their quirks though. For some reason, my tailor likes to use Pierre Cardin linings and will sew in the fabric identifier markings indicating thread count and mill source. He even sewed “Sean John” in the inner waist band of my pants, the part of the fabric roll he’s supposed to throw away.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I guess it’s real classy to eat dinner out of the trunk of your Bespoke Rolls Royce…I’ll bet the Kardashians do it all the time.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    So, if I’m reading this right, if I go to Jesse James and get him to build me a bike it’s “bespoke” and the same if I get Danny the Count to build me a 51 Buick with a bar in the back. I could enjoy this.


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