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?


Where are my shirts? I ordered them on Saturday!

I ordered 10 shirts from Hawes & Curtis, the shirtmakers, on Saturday afternoon. They were off-the-peg ones — and what’s more, they were in stock. I know this, because the stupid Hawes & Curtis website made me click through reams of pages like a performing dog, searching for 16.5″ x 36″ shirts that were actually in stock.


Or better yet, stop messing around with your own clearly sub-standard back-end order processing system and just get Amazon to do it?

Here’s my problem: I ordered the shirts on Saturday, right? I expected them to arrive on Tuesday morning.

I gave Hawes & Curtis the benefit of the doubt — no, actually, I thought there’d be no-way they’d be able to get the shirts to me on Monday morning. That would entail them running an operation on Sunday night and, you know, being good at logistics. Like Amazon.

Instead I assumed the shirts would arrive on Tuesday. That’s bearable. But really, in 2012, if Amazon can get almost anything to me next day guaranteed by 10am, why can’t you?

There’s really no excuse.

If you can’t figure out a way to deliver the shirts to me this way, Hawes & Curtis, then seriously — dump your existing processes — and get Amazon to handle it all for you.

I spent £110 on shirts — a good deal, if you ask me — and then I saw the silly £9.95 (or thereabouts) postage fee.

I did my very best fake smile when I saw that.

Thanks for nothing, I thought to myself.

Then I remembered there was a special offer displayed on the frontage of the website. Use the coupon code ‘postage’ and your postage fee is reduced to £4.95. Woop. I thought I might as well do that, given the fact it would save me five pounds and produce no other benefit. I’d rather have paid £9.95 to have had the shirts ON MONDAY.

It’s not especially important to me. I wasn’t depending on Hawes & Curtis for the delivery, because I know I can’t.

Online shops like these are really no better than an eBay equivalent. You HOPE they got the order on time. You HOPE they, you know, could be bothered to get out of bed and process it. You HOPE they actually made it to the post office on time before the last post and you HOPE you might even get the product by the end of the week. If you’re lucky.

I really do wonder how long the market will tolerate the likes of these services simply limping along, delivering middle of the road ‘whatever’ service?

Let’s be clear: I haven’t been wronged by Hawes & Curtis. My expectations have been entirely met — I expected this. If anything, I think I’m surprised by how dependent I have become on Amazon.

I now actively shop according to the Amazon Prime listings (I’m a “Prime” customer — which means delivery is ‘free’ and in most cases, next day — or just a wee bit extra to have it guaranteed by 10am etc). I will favour one supplier above another if Amazon fulfils the order. That is, if Amazon has the product sitting in their own warehouse ready to ship to me. Because I know that Amazon doesn’t screw it up. They’ve got the flow. They’re shipping millions of products a week. The Post Office knows them very, very well. So do the courier firms they work with. The whole thing is a beautifully oiled machine as far as I’m concerned.

Unfortunately Amazon is making everyone else look really, really bad — for me, anyway.

Forget the dumbing down and the disappearing High Street thread we’re all being fed by the mainstream media. What about the disappearing e-commerce world? 😉 I don’t intend ever bothering with Hawes & Curtis online ordering again. It was almost a novel shopping and check-out experience — it was, in a funny way, quite nice to be exposed to the ridiculous next-next-give-us-your-life-story process.

Why do you need my address? Why do you need my sodding CCV2 card number? Why do you need me to make a username and password? Amazon already have all of this. I can order in ONE CLICK! Come on!

So dear, dear me. The seamless Amazon experience has made me wholly intolerant to any other service that doesn’t either exactly equal the basic Amazon service (e.g. dispatched next day — and I mean NEXT DAY) or involves a chap getting on a bike and hand delivering the product.

I wonder how many Hawes & Curtis customers would pay to have someone bike the shirts to them for a fixed fee of, I dunno, £45? I’d have done it. I just want it done, you see. I don’t want to have to THINK about stuff that isn’t important.

Waiting for my shirts to arrive is an exception that — I’m sorry to admit — niggles at me. It’s the inefficiency of it all that seriously irks me.

Consider this: I placed the order on Saturday afternoon at about 1.30pm. The payment was immediately verified and charged to my card. And then nothing happened, right?

I am willing to bet that NOTHING happened at the Hawes & Curtis end until Monday morning. At some point on Monday morning, somebody will have checked the orders — or whatever — and realised they’d got a request from me. They’ll have messed around checking email and staring at the wall and resetting their desktop screensavers until midday. Then they’ll have picked the shirts and packed them. Then they’ll have either left my package alone or they’ll have dumped it into the postal system that evening, probably at last post, right?

I know I’m making huge, huge assumptions and probably causing a few folk at Hawes & Curtis to seriously question my sanity at this point, but run with me. If my package didn’t arrive TODAY — Tuesday — that means they clearly didn’t ship it yesterday. OR it means they’re sending it via second class post. Which means… well that’s anyone’s guess. Or they’re sending it via some cheapo manner. Or it didn’t make the post on Monday.

Whatever. The point is, if *I* had been fulfilling the order from my home — personally — I’d have got it to the Post Office for 10am on Monday so they could have to my customer on Tuesday morning.

It’s worth pointing out again, for the sake of the team at H&K — I’m a fan. That’s why I bought the shirts in the first place. I own about 20 other H&K shirts (most of which I lost by forgetting my dry cleaning on the train last week, hence the bulk purchase — but that’s another story).

I write this post to highlight the changing nature of the consumer. I’m not a typical consumer. I’m far too geeky for that. But the rest of society will catch up at some point in the next few years — and when they do, they’ll have absolutely no tolerance for anything that doesn’t deliver precisely like Amazon.