This is something that’s been exercising me for a little while. I have a hodge-podge of shirts from the likes of Hawkes & Curtis (stupid poor delivery fulfilment), Ede & Ravenscroft, Marks & Spencer, T.M. Lewin and so on. I also have a custom made one from A Suit That Fits. I’ll come on to that in a moment.
One of the problems I have with shirts is that if you’re wearing them often (I am), then the corners (or points) of the collar tend to get frayed pretty quickly. It’s not ideal as it can make an otherwise decent shirt look rather old.
I have been searching for the best quality shirt for work for some time. I don’t think I have a solution as yet, so I would very much welcome your suggestions.
Normally, my shirts are worn with ties – so it’s perfection in a ‘work shirt’ that I’m seeking at the moment. Although, when I’m dressed down, I like a normal shirt. I don’t like those massive big open collar styles. The oversized collar shirts remind me of 1980s pop stars making an almost-come-back in the 1990s.
Recently I had a just-in-time failure with shirts whilst traveling. I had some hotel-laundered shirts stored at the office in Edinburgh (I’m based in London) on account of the hotel failing to deliver the shirts to me same day as promised. They ended up (kindly, their fault!) sticking them in a taxi to the office reception. So I had planned to use those two shirts.
A top tip, by the way, if you’re staying in a hotel (or traveling regularly) is to get your shirts folded. Sometimes it’s the same cost, sometimes slightly more, however it makes life utterly simple and means the shirt is immediately usable and not scrunched up after travel.
My colleague had locked her pedestal and I couldn’t access the shirts. So I did what every right thinking businessman does in these situations: Went to the nearest Marks & Spencer.
The specialist shirt shops – of which there are a few in Edinburgh, I’m sure – will probably have been closed by 5pm. Or maybe 6. It was 615pm before my mind finally arrived at the shirt issue.
Fifteen minutes later I was strolling through one of Edinburgh’s biggest Marks & Spencers. They had a massive shirt section – which is always useful. I’m sure there’s some logic to how they have arrayed the various products on their shelves, but I couldn’t fathom it.
I really am not very good at shopping. I just don’t have the patience. I stood there imagining myself on the Star Trek Enterprise Holodeck.
The first issue would be to remove everything that didn’t have a yellow (16.5” collar) label. That’s the base demand given the standard at these types of stores is what-you-see-is-what’s-in-stock, typically.
“Computer, remove all shirts that are not double cuff,” was what I was saying to myself as I walked about hunting.
Then I was saying to myself, “Computer, show me all plain colour shirts, e.g. White, Blue, Pink.”
And then I wanted to examine the quality.
“Computer, display the results according to publicly accepted quality standards, highest to the right and indicate price demands on a RAG status.”
That would have been convenient.
Instead I had to riffle through the yellow label shirts. Everything from formal dress frilly shirts through to short-sleeve-with-a-pocket (arrgh) styles. It took about 10 minutes of arsing around before I found one.
I then decided to wander into the M&S ‘tailored’ section. I can’t remember what they called it. I think it was “Saville Row”.
I immediately located a £49.50 white shirt from that range that looked good. The cotton quality – to my untrained know-nothing eye – looked nice. I liked the firm collar. The buttons were nice. The double-cuff had a slight pattern. And it was 16.5 inch!
But, the shirt was covered in dust. It had obviously been left out for ages. These obviously nicer shirts didn’t come with a cover at all. So almost every shirt was covered in a small layer of dust. This is not what I wanted a) from a £49.50 purchase and b) from an immediate-wear point of view.
I hunted about again and found a wooden cupboard area containing some more shirts and selected two white ones.
I liked them. I felt good wearing the shirts.
So these M&S ones are currently my new favourite.
However. Let’s get back to the custom-made shirt from A Suit That Fits. It is rather good. I am pretty pleased with it. I was thinking of getting a job lot of them. It’s just a plain white one as I wanted to test the experience. It’s nice white material and I feel it does rival the quality of the M&S ones. It’s also got my monogram initials as that was an option and I thought it would be fun. I did my best at a Lord Vetinari (Discworld reference, for any fans reading) by asking for the monogram to be in white against the white cotton of the shirt. So it’s not that easy to make out.
(Discworld fans: You recall Lord Vetinari travels in a black coach which bears his coat of arms. A black sable shield. Love it.)
I haven’t ordered a load of the custom ones because, from memory, they were £60-70 each which, although I do like the bespoke fit, I don’t think I like it enough to pay such a premium.
I did a Google the other day for ‘Bespoke shirt’ and came across a site called itailor.com. It caught my eye what appears to be a reasonably priced custom-made shirt for about £49. I’m thinking about trying this service out.
Have you got any recommendations?