What is custom made? Definition and examples

If we produce something according to the customer’s instructions or preferences, it is custom made. We also use the terms tailor made or bespoke with the same meaning. The three terms are part of what we call customization. A custom made good is something we made specifically for somebody, a company, or an organization.

Custom made clothing - image of a dressmaker and customer 49949
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Custom made vs. off the rack (peg)

A custom made supplier makes something from scratch for somebody. Off the peg or off the rack mean the opposite. If something, such as a jacket, is off the rack, it means that it was made, delivered to a shop, and then bought by somebody randomly.

When you make something off the rack, you don’t know who the customer will be. When you make something that is tailor made or custom made, you know who the customer is.

We commonly use the terms off the rack and off the peg for clothes. Off the rack is an American/Canadian term, while Britons, Irish people, and Australians say off the peg.

All English-speaking countries also use the term off the shelf for something that is made for the mass market, i.e., producers don’t know who will buy what they are making.

The Longman Dictionary has the following definition of the term:

“Designed or built specially for a particular customer, and being different to other things of the same kind.”

Brand Management

Custom made products are often used as part of a company’s brand management strategy. Brand management is a marketing technique a company uses in which it focuses on improving the reputation of its brand, products, or services.

A business’ brand is what customers and consumers in general think of when they hear or see a brand name. Some brands are worth hundreds of billions of dollars. According to Forbes.com, Apple’s brand is the most valuable in the world – worth $205.5 billion.

Custom made goods can set a company’s brand apart from those of its rivals. In the world of brand management, hundreds of different types of products are tailor made. Companies give these products to customers and sometimes prospects too. A prospect is somebody who you think could well become a paying customer.

Examples of custom made products that brand managers or marketing managers give away include:

  • Pens
  • Calendars
  • Pencils
  • Mats
  • Mugs
  • USB drives
  • Umbrellas
  • Key rings
  • Grocery totes (bags)
  • Driving gloves
  • Corkscrews (the list could go on and on and on….)

Pros and Cons


The main benefit of having something custom made is that it is much more likely to satisfy your needs than a product that has been mass produced. You will  know how to use it or what to do with it. After you have purchased the product, customer service will typically be excellent.


If somebody has to make something according to your preferences or instructions, it is going to be considerably more expensive than its off the rack equivalent. It will also take time, i.e., you won’t be able to use or wear it on the day you order it. If I buy, for example, a suit off the rack, I can walk out of the shop wearing it if I want.

Video – What is Customization?