Unless you wear the same model shirt from the same company for your entire wardrobe, you probably have accumulated an unwanted collection of collar stays of varying sizes and quality — some of them lone orphans and for some reason you hold out hope that you’ll find the accompanying one in the future.
Swiss Stays wants to solve the multiple length problem when it comes to finding the right collar stays for the various collars you own. Their patented design enables you to have four different lengths, ranging from 1 7/8th inch to 2 11/16th inches that you can pick by folding out the rotating parts — much like you would a Swiss Army knife.
The stays come in four materials: PVC plastic, stainless steel, brass and sterling silver. The company sent me a pack of their PVC and their stainless steel stays for review, each one coming in a tiny Tic-Tac-sized plastic hardcase with three sets inside.
The PVC plastic stays were definitely the lesser of the two. While their advantage was that they were easier to rotate into different lengths, they felt extremely flimsy and deformed easily — just like most plastic stays you’d receive with most dress shirts. They could’ve benefited from being more denser, like from the material used for credit cards.
The stainless steel stays, however, were much nicer. While rotating the parts to the various sizes proved slightly more difficult, they were more likely to not move once in place. They feel much more substantial and held up nicely. They’re great if you want a very straight collar that won’t deform or roll at the collar points. In terms of fit, the stays did work for the variety of collars in my wardrobe, from short to long.
Prices range are $8 for a PVC plastic pack, $20 for a stainless steel pack, $30 for a brass pack and $125 for a sterling silver set. You can buy a set of three packs for the PVC plastic, stainless steel and brass and get an additional pack free, too.
I have a hard time telling you whether or not to buy a set. Frankly, it depends if you use collar stays and feel this solves a problem for you in your life. A few months ago I looked over a ziplock bag I kept all my collar stays in and decided it wasn’t worth the headache any longer — I threw them in the trash and have opted to go sans collar stays since.
I imagine though I’m an outlier. Others will probably find the functionality useful to only need one type of collar stay in their accessories drawer. I know many guys prefer to use collar stays and even go as far as to buy them in luxurious materials like bone or gold, but neither of those would have the utility Swiss Stays offers.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I rarely wear neckties these days. So, it’s time to reduce the collection a bit more. I’ve got five “staples” all in navy that would do well in most wardrobes.
If you’re interested in a tie, then email me at email@example.com. Prices include shipping (I ship USPS Priority) and I take PayPal.
Navy satin w/ white woven dots: $85 — This is a substantial necktie that knots well and has a great drape with its weight. A favorite, but I don’t wear dotted ties too often (I’m finding a preference for “neat” flowers instead now).
While there’s been a plethora of made-to-measure shirting companies, I’ve noticed now that there’s a growing number of ready-to-wear shirting companies also popping up looking to find a balance between a better fit for customers who aren’t necessarily looking for the overwhelming options and choices that come with MTM online (or the hassle of measuring oneself or well-fitting shirt).
One of these is Hucklebury, founded by Parag and Dhawal, that seeks to find a balance on these several factors.
In terms of fabric, Hucklebury sources their fabrics from the Italian mills Thomas Mason and Tessitura Monti. The shirt sent to me for review I found is a 2-ply cotton poplin, which is a bit nicer for warmer weather as its a bit lighter. After a wash, the fabric held its dimensions well and I didn’t notice any shrinkage, which is nice.
For construction and design, Parag told me that they went through at least 25 to 30 variations on the pattern before finally settling on the two fits available (slim and regular) and that the shirts are made alongside shirts manufactured for brands like Zegna and Armani.
An interesting design choice includes adding a reinforced stitching on the bottom horizontal buttonhole with thicker thread to combat against the stress of pulling at the waistline and prevent stretching.
On the collar, Hucklebury opted to have their collars sewn by hand, from the outside in, to help it stand up higher and not fall under the lapels of a jacket. The collar itself isn’t super skinny and puny, either. It’s of average size and the button-down collar works nicely sans necktie.
The backs of the shirt are darted, which I know can be kind of controversial among guys. My tailor refuses to do darts on shirts, however, I own several darted shirts and they do help add a slimmer profile that many trimmer and athletic gentlemen will appreciate.
But it all comes down to fit — and I’m pleased with it. The chest, shoulders and waistline fit really well. Not too constrictive, nor too baggy for my tastes.
Hucklebury sizes by neck, however, they don’t size by sleeve length. I tend to have longer arms (typically, I am a 15/35) so the shirt fell a bit short on my arms. If you’ve got shorter arms though, then it should be OK.
The back darting does help taper the torso dramatically so you avoid the “puff” at the waistline when you tuck in your shirt. I feel this is among one of the more important points of fit from a visual standpoint — provided you’re wearing a properly sized collar and sleeve, too.
Overall, I can appreciate what Hucklebury attempts to do for ready-to-wear shirts by going with higher-end fabric mills and bringing attention to a few key details. Their prices aren’t out of line — ranging from $85-$95 — considering the fabrics used and worth consideration.
Giveaway contest: Hucklebury is holding a contest, which you can enter below.
We want to give a warm “welcome back” to Kiyoshi Martinez, who will now be contributing to our blog on a regular basis. Kiyoshi wrote our “Ramen Noodle Budget” series earlier this year, which focused on how men can dress better without spending a fortune. He’ll be writing posts here again in the same spirit, including a more regular coverage of notable menswear sales. This will be in addition to pumping up the sales roundup we do every week for The Inside Track. So, welcome back, Kiyoshi – we look forward to your posts.
A big “thank you” to Jesse, who sent me a very nice message last week asking if I’d like to contribute on a more regular basis to Put This On. Originally, I thought I wouldn’t have the time, however, the next day I was let go from my job*. Not an elegant solution, but I’m really stoked about the opportunity.
As the post says, I’ll be focusing on doing sales roundups for PTO and also writing some various other things, too. One of which will be a (hopefully) weekly roundup of links of the best men’s style articles I’ve seen on the web. If you write something great, then email me.
And today or tomorrow I’ll be starting the first part in a series on black tie. Should be fun!
(* If anyone out there is looking for someone to do content marketing on contract, email me. Or, if you know of any copywriting, communications or writing-related gigs, let me know, too. And, yes, I’m also giving thought about pursuing a career in menswear now since now seems like an ideal time to switch stuff up — I’m all ears at this point!)
Alex (aka, mrdanger) took these shots of me at NorthernGRADE a little while back and it’s essentially what I’ve been wearing since the weather’s taken a bit of a cooler turn here in Chicago.
Working from home doesn’t exactly encourage you to do things normal working folks do — like “take a shower” and “wear pants”. However, once I make the effort to appear like a functional member of the outside world, I’ve found myself reaching for the same items from my wardrobe every day.
This isn’t a far departure from my uniform experiment from a while ago. The selvedge raw denim jeans and the blue OCBD shirt have reappeared. As far as I’m concerned, these items can be worn for three seasons of the year, taking time off for summer (during which I substitute in linen shirts and linen-cotton trousers).
When I leave the apartment to grab lunch at the Italian grocer, I’ve thrown on my vintage Barbour Beaufort that I rewaxed myself at the beginning of the season (a tremendous pain in the ass if you’ve never done it before). The jacket’s pockets carry all the stuff I need with me and the game pocket in the back can stow stuff while you’re at a bar — like gloves, a knit hat and scarf. I’ve even put a portable umbrella in there once.
Footwear has been a pair of ranger moccasins with Vibram soles, which have been insanely comfortable to wear and perfect for slightly rainy days. Otherwise, I’m still reaching for the Clarks desert boots, but I imagine L.L.Bean Boots will be making an appearance once snow becomes an issue.
I suppose ”country” attire of both American and British influences inspired my desire to swing toward a more casual wardrobe — basically the kind of stuff that ends up on Thornproof. While I particularly like the look of tailored clothing in the spring and summer, I don’t have the same affection for it in the colder months.
A tailored jacket in the cooler months means a tailored overcoat and every time you go out you have to find a place to stash that heavy thing if there’s no coat check (and we all know there’s no coat check at dive bars). Dress shoes are quickly rendered useless unless you choose to constantly wear overshoes or willing to buy at least two pairs of dress boots with Dainite soles for traction. Rock salt and sludge become enemies of flannel trousers.
I might be overthinking it all, of course, and I certainly keep some cold-weather tailored clothing on hand, but it’s the exception for my daily wardrobe — not the rule. I really do prefer to wear workwear at this time of year, especially since I don’t work in an office.
My one gripe would be that it doesn’t offer much of an opportunity to wear a necktie. I think ties look awkward under v-necks, are impractical under crewnecks and if I’m wearing a shawl-collared cardigan at home, there’s not much need for a tie.
It’s relatively simple and takes zero real thought in the morning (or early afternoon) when getting dressed. It will look rather appropriate for most instances and you can dress it up with a nicer pair of tweed trousers if you’d like. But let’s face it: In the sea of black North Face fleece zip-ups that seems to reappear each winter, you probably won’t need to go to such lengths.
Recommending a made-to-measure shirtmaker comes with a lot of caveats, which makes them tough to review. Fit is, of course, paramount, but once you’ve got a well-fitting shirt in your wardrobe, you can take your measurements from the shirt nearly anywhere.
Provided you’ve got a shirt you’re happy with in terms of fit, then you can look for a shirtmaker who has the fabrics and options you want in a shirt. CottonWork has these in spades and the shirt they allowed me to make for a review has the characteristics I’d encourage anyone to look for in their MTM shirting.
Let’s start at the beginning. If you have a well-fitting shirt, then you can simple take measurements off that shirt and input them at CottonWork. This is my recommended method. And if you don’t have a tape measure, CottonWork will give you a free starter kit that has a tape measure and several fabric swatches.
From that point forward, it’s a fairly standard process that those of you who’ve done MTM shirting online will recognize. You pick you fabric and use a shirt builder that gives you a live preview of your order’s details.
On the topic of fabric, CottonWork offers a wide variety, starting at $45 for cotton-blends to fabrics from renowned mills Thomas Mason and Tessitura Monti that range north of $200. For those wondering if there’s a discernible difference for a high end fabric, I’d argue that there is after receiving my shirt made from a Thomas Mason oxford cloth. There’s a refinement to the fabric and a softness that’s unlike what I’ve seen elsewhere.
While I kept it fairly predictable in terms of fabric choice — as many of you know, solid blue is often my preference — I decided to make some slight straying choices from what I typically prefer. Instead of my preference for a placket front, I went with a French front and also pocket-less, too, as I intended for this to be worn with suits in a slightly more formal look.
For the shirt’s collar, I went with a spread collar and I really love how soft the collar is around the neck. It’s not stiff and doesn’t feel like cardboard’s inside like some shirt collars. You’ll also notice the buttons on the shirt are mother-of-pearl, which is a nice touch that’s often an option you have to pay extra for at most MTM shirting places, but not CottonWork.
The collar has a decent roll when worn with a necktie. I will admit that while I like that it has removable collar stays, I prefer to not wear collar stays to make the collar a bit more soft in appearance. Well-made collars and a necktie should work just fine most of the time to keep things upright. This collar might very well be the most comfortable shirt collar I’ve had outside of my Brooks Brothers OCBDs.
In terms of construction, it’s worth pointing out that all CottonWork shirts are single-needle stitched with 22 stitches per inch. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to count stitches in an inch, but it’s a pain in the ass. And, yes, I did count them on my shirt and their claim holds up, in case you were wondering.
CottonWork also offers an optional split-back yoke. Several other MTM operations require you pay extra for this, but it’s a free option at CottonWork. If you’re not familiar with split-back yokes, the reason for this preference is one of better fit across the shoulder. With the fabric at a diagonal in a split yoke, it stretches better when you move your arms out, but it’s also more expensive for the shirtmaker to produce. (You can read more about split-back yokes here.)
For cuffs, I went with what CottonWorks described as a Neapolitan cuff. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the style as it’s a bit flashy, but worn under a jacket it’s less obvious. Cuff construction is a bit more substantial than the collar and the sleeve features a gauntlet button, too.
Of course, monogramming is available. I opted for the collar, so it would be hidden, but you can opt for the chest, cuffs or placket, too. I don’t typically wear monogrammed items, but I figured it’d be worth showing those reading this review what it looks like. If you don’t like scripted fonts, you should know they have two other scripted fonts and a sans-serif block font available.
In terms of fit, I’m pleased with it after a wash and iron. I wore the shirt out on Friday evening and didn’t find any issues in regards to fit with it. My latest MTM shirts have been slightly fuller in the upper torso to allow for movement, but I’ve had them aggressively taper at the waist. While I don’t typically like to wear a dress shirt sans a jacket, this does help balance comfort against “puffy shirt waist” syndrome.
Because I used measurements off another MTM shirt I’d gotten after visiting a tailor in person, a lot of the finer measurement problems had been worked out after a few trials and adjustments. CottonWork did a good job of replicating the shirts I had already in my wardrobe.
If you’re concerned about getting an ill-fitting shirt, then let me recommend you go with one of their $45 fabrics first to see how it fits as a test shirt. I’ve often found it takes several trials before dialing in your fit on a MTM shirt — especially if you’re basing measurements off your body instead of a well-fitting shirt. Alternatively, you can send in your best fitting shirt for CottonWork to replicate, too.
So, if you’re looking for a MTM shirtmaker that does quality construction, can easily replicate the fit of your best shirt and give you a wide breadth of optional details, then check out CottonWork. To date, they’ve been the most impressive online-only MTM experience I’ve had and have matched the in-person MTM shirtmakers I’ve used in the past with their quality of work.
My experience with Proper Suit taught me one important thing: Not all made-to-measure suiting is made equal. It’s not just about the amount of fabrics available or what details you can have, but it’s largely also about the skill and expertise of those fitting you.
The guys behind Proper Suit, McGregor and Richard, have a great deal of experience and familiarity with their product and service. When they offered me the opportunity to review a suit from them, I was admittedly a bit nervous when they managed to just eyeball measurements and adjustments without a tailor’s measuring tape.
But that comes from having spent an incredible amount of time fitting guys in eleven different cities, starting right here in Chicago. Unlike some lesser made-to-measure operations that let you simply enter in a few measurements online, Proper Suit insists upon an in-person appointment to fit you to a few base-model suits and make the necessary adjustments.
And these adjustments aren’t just for things like sleeve length or tapering the chest. They took into account my posture and where the best buttoning point would be on my torso so the lapels would lay correctly.
The armhole size was raised a bit to accommodate the fit I wanted, but it wasn’t too extreme as I intended for this suit to be more for business dress. The height of the chest pocket was adjusted to be more in proportion with my torso length.
When it comes to shoulders, they really stressed over every aspect, from the slopes of my shoulders, to what kind of padding to go with (I went with a natural shoulder), to how the sleeve ought to be rotated to make it drape properly.
"Our fit specialists are not only just really cool guys," McGregor said. "But they are very technical and take fit very seriously."
My experience on the fitting definitely reflected that. While it was casual and relaxed, I felt that the two of them definitely “got it” in terms of knowing what to care about and how to manipulate the pattern being made to flatter your body the best.
There are 300 different fit check points that goes into consideration when the pattern is entered into AutoCAD. Because of all the different adjustments needed to account for your body’s shape, Proper Suit flatly rejects the idea of just having guys enter in a few self-taken measurements and shipping a box to their door, like some competitors do.
I think McGregor’s reasoning why Proper Suit avoids online MTM made a lot of sense:
"Two people may have very similar measurements but they have completely different postures, different tastes and different reasons for wearing the suit. How do I know which fit will be correct? I don’t. You are also relying on someone else measuring you. That is just flimsy. I hear a lot about remakes that other companies need to do to dial down the fit. Remakes for my business are toxic to our bottom line. That is why we take upmost care in getting it perfect the first time and we can offer this kind of quality at this price point."
This is what leads me to my sentiment that not all made-to-measure suiting is created equal. Before even getting into fabrics, construction and details, the fit has to be perfect.
And when it came to fabrics and details, the sky’s very much the limit. There are about 250 fabrics available with 80 different linings.
Details on the suit (or sport coat) can include all the usual things like a throat latch, sueded lining under the collar, monogramming, surgeon cuffs, ticket pockets, etc.
But I found the details on the trousers to be actually surprising. The hem of the trousers have an extra strip of fabric sewn on the inside edge to give them extra weight to keep them down. The waistband has a strip of grippy fabric on the inside to help keep your shirt tucked in. This isn’t something you’ll find on most off-the-rack trousers, for sure — and they weren’t included with another MTM suiting operation I tried. In fact, the only time I’d seen these details were from my tailor’s bespoke trousers he did for his customers.
As for the suit itself, I went with fairly standard details. Flapped jetted pockets, two-button, notched lapels, flat fronted trousers with jetted slanted pockets and no cuffs, kissing buttons (non-functional), boutonniere hole and loop, suede under-collar lining with monogrammed initials.
The fabric is a navy blue sharkskin texture from Loro Piana’s All-Season line with a silver Bemberg lining and a light-blue printed piping.
The construction is full canvas and the lapels roll amazingly well. They suggested I wear it several times to help break-in the jacket a bit and I did find the suggestion made it decidedly less stiff than when I first put it on. And it really felt great after an evening of dancing at Double Door — so, yes, you can move in this suit.
In terms of pricing, Proper Suit lists their prices on their website and Loro Piana fabrics start at $1,250 (for comparison, if you were to head to the Loro Piana retail store to do their MTM program, their suits start at $5,500 and it takes three months turnaround). Proper Suit’s base model fabrics start at $750.
The one question I almost always seem to be asked, especially on higher-priced items, is, “Is it worth the money?” I can imagine some people will browse over to Indochino and see they could get two suits for the price of Proper Suit’s base model — assuming quantity is a better deal, or that paying half the price would be a steal in comparison.
The difference is that I don’t believe there’s a legitimate comparison. For one, the fit I received from Proper Suit absolutely blew away the fit I received with Indochino (and I even received an in-person fitting with them during their Traveling Tailor program). The attention Proper Suit just pays to their suit’s shoulders is more attention than what Indochino paid to the fit of my entire suit. Proper Suit even hand-stitches the shoulders of their suits to make sure it fits you better.
And once you get into construction, Proper Suit also wins out. For an additional $250, you can have your suit entirely handmade. And while the suits are manufactured in China, McGregor — who happens to also be fluent in Mandarin — stressed to me that not all factories are the same and they’ve spent years finding the best manufacturer for their suits, which also makes suits for some other really big-name labels, and they work with them to ensure they’re producing the best-fitting suits the first time for each new customer.
Admittedly, made-to-measure isn’t for everybody or everyone’s budget, but when you consider the prices of some ready-to-wear suiting brands, it’s worth considering the alternative, too. The price is a good deal considering the fit, fabric and construction.
Wearing this suit made me wish I had a reason to wear a suit more often — or at least find more excuses to wear one. These guys care immensely about the finest individual details while providing a good value. Consider this review a recommendation for Proper Suit.