Where do you buy your shirts?

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.

One shirt!

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 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?


The scarf sent to me by The Chapar

Here is the first item I’ve chosen from the selection sent to me from the team at The Chapar. What do you think?

My wife approves — and that, fundamentally, is all that matters right?

Oh and I am warm too. It’s got just a bit chillier this week.

Thank you Hannah at The Chapar.


Clothing Services

Opening my trunk from The Chapar

Ok here we go…. My trunk from The Chapar has arrived!


And once it’s open…


The envelope stuck on the top of the box contains the notes from my stylist Hannah, the manifest and price list plus some notes on some of the products. For example there’s a bit of detail about a belt, some shirts and so on. All very useful. The sort of facts I would like to be told whilst trying things on. For example there’s some great insight on the founder of Meryn (who produce hand-made leather belts — completely new to me. This is what The Chapar is all about!)

I had a look down the price list:


I’m sure you will agree nothing is crazy. Yes the blazer/jackets are quite steep (£340/£375 is moving swiftly toward tailor rates) but that’s to be expected.

I am approaching it all with an open mind.


I did have a bit of a moment as I pulled back the orange (on-brand) tissue paper and saw all the smart clothes. And what looks like a casual tie! Is this for me?

Well. At least I’m not in a shop with folk staring.

Hannah wrote, “Please try everything,” (underlined!) in her introductory letter. I shall definitely do so.

My biggest challenge now is finding the time to actually do the trying-on.

I do like how they’ve tied bundles of clothes together with string. And I like the scarf. That’s a wicked idea as I was *just* thinking about buying one from the nearest shop given the weather’s got rather chilly. Smart thinking Hannah.

I am feeling rather excited. Let’s see how things go when I can get time to properly try everything.

Meanwhile if you’d like to try it out, head over to The Chapar and let me know how you get on.

Accessories Clothing Services

I’m trying out The Chapar’s Personal Clothing delivery service for men

Screenshot 2013-10-25 at 18.46.01

This week I was at the Great British Entrepreneurial Awards nomination shortlist reception. Held at 250 Bishopsgate in the centre of the Square Mile (and sponsored, no less, by Bizcrowd), I was there to give a little speech of welcome and to meet the gathered entrepreneurs.

I was blown away by the talent in the room. I don’t envy the judges having to make their decisions from the shortlisted companies. There were entrepreneurs from almost every industry. One pair I bumped into were Sam and Joe Middleton from personal stylist service, The Chapar. I was immediately intrigued as Sam introduced the concept: Wouldn’t it be great if someone who knew what they were talking about sent you a trunk every month containing clothes custom selected for you? Further, wouldn’t it be great if this basic service was free of charge — and that you just pay for any items you’d like to keep, sending the others back?

Yeah. I liked the sound of that.

I’ve heard of similar services in America that I’ve always wanted to try out. So I didn’t waste any time taking Sam’s card and promising to sign-up the next day.

I did sign up. But then I panicked at the online form. I panicked because I don’t really know my style. I don’t necessarily have one. Am I preppy? Or am I smart casual? That depends, you see. It almost depends what office I’m in. If I’m in the City, then I’m probably going to don a tip-top-super-hot pinstripe. If I’m working out in Angel, then I’m usually in relaxed ‘chinos-n-trainers’ look. I then hadn’t heard of half the brands they’d put up on the form to help give The Chapar’s stylists a bit of a hint.

I phoned the number on The Chapar’s website to ask for some advice. The call was answered by a delightfully sounding Chelsea. I explained that I loved the concept but didn’t feel qualified to complete the online form, nor did I feel it was appropriate for me to complete a phone style assessment with one of The Chapar’s personal stylists. This, I explained, is because I am married.

Some men like to retain their own individual sense of style and jealously guard their wardrobe. I’m not one of those people. I outsource that to my wife. This is why I married her. She knows and I’m fine with that. The last thing I want to do is go and buy something and then bring it back home and have her stare at me with the, “What were you thinking?” look. Far more efficient, I think, to have her talk to The Chapar’s personal stylist.

Chelsea — to her credit — didn’t laugh. She said that would be no problem.

My wife duly phoned up and had a chat, I think, with another of The Chapar’s team (a lady called Hannah). I haven’t had the time to ask about the experience as it’s been a busy week however I can say that my wife appeared content.

I think we’re both waiting with baited breath now.

I clicked the ‘send me a trunk’ button and a few hours later I had an email telling me that my trunk had been dispatched, along with a UPS reference. Nice.

I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

I am very impressed by the simplicity and ease of use. The team, too, well, the one’s I’ve been exposed to (Hannah and Chelsea) appeared highly capable. Chelsea sounded fashionable on the phone.

Now then. How will that translate to 36-year-old me?

Before I ordered the trunk, there was a helpful series of checkboxes asking if I needed anything in particular. Chinos, jackets, that sort of thing. Rather useful that. I didn’t know what to put. I didn’t want to leave the form blank so I clicked a few boxes.

I can’t wait.

Bring it on.

You can try out The Chapar for just £1 (required to verify your credit card). There are no other charges unless you’d like to purchase some of the items you’ve been sent. I would imagine it’s possible to receive a whole trunk, look through the items and return them all — free of charge. That would be pretty boring though.

The ability to try on clothes easily and without the hassle of sales assistants shoving things in your face strikes me as a key benefit. I reckon there’s a high likelihood that I’ll probably want to keep some things. The experimentation possibilities are likely to help me buy more, I’m sure. For example, it’s likely that I’d never reach for a particular jacket or item of clothing if I saw it on a shelf in a shop. But if you’ve sent it to me… I’ll at least consider it. And then you’ll have my wife sitting next to me with a glass of wine appraising it all. In a relaxed manner.

Interesting, very interesting.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

In the meantime if you’d like to give it a go, get yourself over to and let me know how you get on.


When did chaps in suits start carrying rucksacks?

I got the 713am train this morning and was astonished at the number of chaps on the station platform dressed in suits, but also carrying rucksacks.

I added the qualifier, “but”, there, because it is required.

You don’t carry a rucksack and wear a sharp suit. It just doesn’t work. You carry a sports bag or similar instead. Ideally one that doesn’t (necessarily) have Nike written all over it or make you look like a rather old high school student.

If you carry a rucksack it immediately screws up the shoulders and back material of the suit. Worse, if like half the men on the platform, you opt to carry the rucksack on just one shoulder, it seriously disfigures that section of the suit.

There are a few occasions when it’s permissible without the wearer rendered the status of low-level-chump. I suppose if you’re going to the gym later, fair enough. If you ride a bike or a motorbike, I suppose that is ok. Combine it with a bike helmet and you’re all set (a la Boris Johnson).

But if you’re just carrying the rucksack because you couldn’t think of anything else to do, seriously … think twice. Think about the damage you’re doing to the suit. And how much of a chump you look.

Clothing Observations Services

Moss Bros Hire: Shocked and then delighted by terrific service!

[Note, I start off negative, but that soon changes…]

There is perhaps nothing more embarrassing on a Monday morning commute than being seen carrying a Moss Bros Hire suit carrier.

I can’t stand it.

It’s so…

Well I just don’t like it.

I think it goes against my exclusive, quality viewpoint.

Perhaps I’ve witnessed too many weddings in downmarket hotels featuring chimps dressed to the nines in Moss Bros Hire attire (which, if you can ignore the contents — i.e., the chimp — does look pretty good.)

Now and again I have to resort to Moss Bros Hire because I haven’t got my arse in gear and bought a jacket for my kilt. I’ve got the whole shebang — everything — except the jacket. I can’t remember why this is the case. So whenever I have the opportunity to get stuck into the proper Highland gear, I need to hire the jacket that goes with it.

There’s a wedding coming up this weekend. Arrrrgh!

I’ve been all over the place with work. I haven’t had time to get it sorted.

I need the jacket for tomorrow.

It’s a potentially big ask.

So I walked into the Richmond branch of Moss Bros Hire at lunchtime today and asked if I could hire the ‘morning dress’ jacket for a kilt.

The chap behind the counter smiled blandly.

“That has to come from Scotland,” he tells me, delighted — I feel — that he doesn’t have to do any work. I get the impression that he’s about to deflect my invitation to take some cash from me by pulling a ‘computer-says-no’.

That’s precisely what he does.

“It takes a week to get it from Scotland… so…”

“I need it for tomorrow or at the very latest, Saturday morning,” I explain.

I’m not sure why I bothered explaining. I think it was in the vain — stupid — hope that the chap might want to actually help me out.

He flashed me another limited, bland smile, “You could try Covent Garden…”


I could.

‘What about you?’ I thought. ‘You could phone them now for me.’

I didn’t voice that. Obviously. I wanted to get out of the store as soon as possible. The can’t-be-bothered atmosphere was crushing.

“Oh, ok, thanks…” I said, walking out.


However I had to admit that my expectations were completely and totally met, if not exceeded. This is precisely what I’d expected.

Ultimately it was my fault for leaving it all so late. But you know, that’s a super opportunity to make a good amount of cash out of me.


I thought I’d see if the Bracknell store could help out.

The last time I needed to hire a jacket, my wife and I happened to be in Bracknell and happened to be walking by Moss Bros Hire. I really didn’t want to go in — I wanted to arrange a time with a tailor and get a sodding jacket made. But.. I ran out of time. So we popped into the shop there and — well, I have to say, we were served efficiently.

So I flipped out the BlackBerry, searched for “Moss Bros Bracknell” and hit the call button.

A chap called Dan answered. He was unusually bright, caring and professional. Unusual in the context of my general view of Moss Bros.

“Oh that might be a stretch,” he said, listening to my enquiry. (I’m paraphrasing but words to that effect)

“Let me make a few calls,” he said, before he took my number, “I’ll call you back in a moment.”

I walked back to the office and a minute later, Dan was back on the phone.

“Ok we can get something for you, but it’ll cost an extra £10. Is that ok?”

I practically screamed with delight.

Yes, fine.

In the intervening time I’d looked out my old hire details and quoted the contract number back to him. He looked up the details and bam… job done. I didn’t even have to bother giving him my size.

“Right that’s all sorted,” he said, “Ready for collection tomorrow.”

Get in.

I told him he’d delivered excellent service. I briefly narrated the ‘computer says no’ horror at the Richmond store and then thanked him again.

Thank you to Dan in the Bracknell store for helping me out. Excellent, excellent work.

My perspective of Moss Bros Hire has thus changed rather dramatically — for the positive. I really must update my perspective of the company’s brand. Looking around their main corporate site I see they’re offering quite a wide range of quality services — including recently launching a bespoke suit service from their flagship London store. I rather like the keen, clear pricing strategy too.