When I first started trying to rebuild my wardrobe, one of the first things I did was swear off shirts that didn’t come in my exact neck and sleeve size. No more alpha (small, medium, large, etc.) sizing, as I could never find a combination that fit my frame correctly. Over time, I developed a preference for custom, made-to-measure shirts. Going back to ready-to-wear is a tough proposition.
But as I’ve said countless times in dress shirt reviews before, made-to-measure isn’t for everyone. And if you’re fortunate to be able to buy items off the rack that you enjoy and fit well, then you should do it because it’ll save you time and you can often find good deals.
I wanted to provide that personal background so you can understand my experience with Hugh & Crye better. They have the most unique sizing I’ve ever encountered and when they contacted me to review one of their shirts, I had to ask them for help on what “size” shirt to pick from. They were extremely helpful, but I would point out that it helps to know your basic measurements.
Instead of sizing guys by neck and sleeve, they size you by your build (skinny, slim, athletic, broad) and height (short, average, tall). That’s it.
I won’t deny being highly skeptical of the idea, but it actually worked for me. They placed me in the “tall/skinny” fit, which I suppose is an accurate description of body.
I received their Rockefeller shirt that features a spread collar, barrel cuff, placket front and no pocket on a blue and white striped poplin fabric made of 120s Egyptian cotton.
The collar stands pretty well, even after two washes now. I hate collar stays (and the shirt includes removable ones), and I liked the fact the collar managed to stay up well without them under a jacket.
The buttons are plastic, but they are decently thick and don’t feel cheap at all. Along the placket’s end, the bottom buttonhole is horizontal. This allows the shirt to move as your waist expands to have some give without stressing the placket and causing it to pull (probably helpful to those of us who drink too much beer or enjoy pasta).
The shirt’s side seams feature single-needle construction, which is preferred to the double-needle construction you see on cheaper and lower-quality shirts.
The back of the shirt is darted, helping trim and taper the torso’s extra fabric. I’ll admit that I don’t have my MTM shirts darted, but I’ve never minded when ready-to-wear shirts add darts. I feel they only help the shirt fit better.
At the base of the side seams are Hugh & Crye’s signature contrasting gussets, which help prevent the shirt’s seams from splitting from stress. I haven’t seen gussets like this before and thought they looked pretty cool. Thankfully, the contrasting fabric is tastefully complimentary and simple.
The shirt’s construction overall felt well done. Hugh & Crye’s site says they primarily manufacture their shirts in India and source fabrics from Italy. In addition, they have a rather comprehensive disclosure page about their sourcing. I thought this was rather a rather interesting level of transparency, which I hope becomes more common from others.
In regards to the fit of the shirt, I really liked it and their approach to sizing worked for me — a pleasant surprise. Their shirts range from $85 to $125, slightly more expensive than Brooks Brothers, but cheaper than many department store brands.
I would add Hugh & Crye to a very short list of ready-made shirtmakers I’d recommend. Combined with a good variety of classic fabrics and thoughtful construction, they’ve managed to produce a competitively priced shirt.
“We’ve been working on streamlining our process and now in just two weeks you’ll have a MTM shirt delivered to your door.”
That was the bold promise of Proper Cloth, who contacted me about providing a made-to-measure dress shirt for me to review. I found this fascinating and impressive.
One of the startling things about made-to-measure operations now is the turn-around time. Where traditional bespoke used to take months, made-to-measure now can be done in a matter of weeks — but even a two-week timeline from order placed to arrival at your door is insanely fast.
Naturally, speed isn’t everything when it comes to custom-made shirting. Fit is still paramount alongside construction quality. But as someone who has tried several other MTM operations before, it’s interesting to see a company focus on shipping logistics, too.
I went my usual route for measurements at the Proper Cloth site, entering in measurements off my best-fitting shirt, which usually produces the best results. Other methods are available, of course, but I didn’t want to tread in those waters. The shirt-building process is similar to other MTM shirting sites, beginning with you picking your choice of fabric and then entering details for the various elements: collar, cuffs, placket, monogram, etc.
Now, I know I’ll get asked about that two-week delivery time, but I feel kind of bad in how I tested it: I placed the order five days before Christmas. Between two holidays and the massive postal rush, the shirt didn’t quite arrive within the timeline — just two days over. Fedex also reported an international shipping clearance delay on the package. So, I’m actually impressed it arrived as fast as it did and I’m sure under normal circumstances that two-week window is accurate.
Enough about shipping though, let’s get to the shirt.
While I usually enjoy wearing blue shirts, I opted to go with a checked shirt with alternating blue and brown lines to be worn with tweed jackets and suits. A bit more casual because of the pattern, but still subtle and not too loud.
Proper Cloth offers the usual wide range of fabrics ranging from $80 to quite a few in the $150-$200 range from Thomas Mason, Canclini and Albini. I actually went with a $95 cotton broadcloth fabric simply for the design.
You can choose from 15 different collar types and I picked the “Presidential Spread”, which featured longer collar points, which I’ve begun to prefer for shirts. The collar itself stands quite well and the length fits neatly under the lapels of my jackets, helping to avoid the dreadful collar gap.
In terms of other details, I did decide to upgrade the shirt’s buttons to mother of pearl (additional $15) and went with a front placket, given the shirt would be worn with the more casual tweed jacket.
Complimenting the placket, I added a pocket and barrel cuffs with a single button. The cuffs do feel softer than other shirts I’ve had in the past. They don’t feel overly stiff after just one washing. There’s also a much-welcome button on the gauntlet, too.
It seems like every MTM shirting company has a few surprise details that come standard and impresses me. First, Proper Cloth makes split-back yolks standard on their dress shirts at no extra charge. Complicating matters further, I ordered a patterned shirt, which makes it tougher on the manufacturer to align the pattern along the split seam. I think they did a pretty good job considering the grid pattern is actually more rectangular than square (and, yes, nerds: I know all squares are rectangles).
Also worth noting for the first time ever in my MTM shirting experience: gusseted seams. This helps keep the end of the shirt’s hem from coming apart while under stress. No other MTM shirtmaker I’ve used has done this for my shirts and it’s nice to see that Proper Cloth makes it standard operating procedure on theirs.
I should also add that Proper Cloth uses single-needle construction on their seams, which also adds durability. It’s nice to see them not cheapening out on construction and details that I’m sure add time and cost to their manufacturing.
To be a bit obnoxious, I did add a monogram ($10 fee) to see what it would look like. For placement, I chose the pocket — but you can also pick the right or left cuff. You can pick you thread color and script type.
After wearing the shirt a few times and putting it in a wash, I’ve been satisfied with the fit and it wears as nicely as other MTM shirts in my wardrobe. After comparing the shirt’s measurements to what I inputed, it’s pretty darn close after a wash (cold water, hang dry).
I’ve learned after enough MTM shirts gone wrong to give yourself enough room for movement — bending elbows, raising arms, sitting down, bending over, etc. — and not to attempt the ultra-slim “fitted” look for all practical purposes. Slightly longer and wider sleeves let you bend your arms under a jacket and keep the cuff showing still. A bit more room in the torso helps forgive a week-long bender of beer and fried food. My idea of “fit” now is more practical than it was a few years ago.
And the shirt works well with my ideal ensemble of a donegal brown tweed jacket, navy wool tie and cream square.
If you’re considering Proper Cloth, then give them a try — especially if you already have a well-fitting shirt you can base your measurements off. In case the shirt doesn’t fit you, their customer service is pretty top notch and they’ll work to get your fit right.
The construction details included in their shirts are a definite advantage and you can likely find a shirt within your MTM budget. They do have a much more vibrant set of casual fabrics (plaids and checks) that are worth checking out if that’s more your speed. For those looking for something to fit in their conservative business dress wardrobe, they have those as well.
For the price of the shirt and the quality received, I’d say that Proper Cloth exceeds other MTM shirtmakers I’ve used in the past and I can give them a recommendation.
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.
Enter to win one Thomas Light Blue Stripes dress shirt (worth $95) size 15.
Winners will be announced on November 26.
The more entries you make, the greater your points, the greater your chance to win:
- Answer a simple question: 5 points
- Like Hucklebury on Facebook: 4 points
- Tweet about the giveaway: 2 points (You can tweet once per day)
For U.S. residents only.
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.
I’ve had a few questions recently asking me about the Brooks Brothers Extra-Slim Fit OCBD (and quite a bit of Google search traffic on the topic), so I thought I’d write a brief sizing guide for everyone.
For context, I measure in at a 15” neck and 35” sleeve. This, however, is not the size I am in the Brooks Brothers Extra-Slim Fit OCBDs. In fact, I’m not the same size in all the different colors and styles (i.e.: “university stripes”) of the dress shirt, either.
The Brooks Brothers Extra-Slim Fit OCBD’s various fabric types all shrink differently and they manufacture different sleeve lengths to account for this. It took several returns and trials to figure out which fabrics would shrink and by how much.
I’m hoping to save you that trouble. Here’s what size shirt I buy in what fabric as a 15/35:
- White: 15.5/35 (I should’ve sized up to 15.5/36)
- Blue: 15.5/35
- Pink: 15.5/34
- Ecru: 15.5/34
- Red/Blue Striped: 15.5/34
Please note: I haven’t bought or tried the “yellow” OCBD (I’m half Asian and yellow looks terrible on me).
All these are for the Supima cotton, must-iron, made-in-the-U.S.A. OCBDs. This doesn’t apply to other shirts from Brooks Brothers, especially their non-iron shirts (for those, I’d suggest going true-to-size in neck and sleeve).
You’ll notice that I sized up 0.5” in the neck on all OCBDs. The cotton does shrink quite a bit on all these shirts, especially after several washes.
Some sleeves seem really long when you first get them, some are overly long for their size (hence why I sized down 1” on some). The only shirt I’d maybe consider sizing up on would be the white OCBD — that fabric shrinks the most of any of them.
I would also note that after washing them a few times, I’ve had my shirts actually tapered in the chest and arms, too, to get rid of the billowing around the waist. A few things contribute to this, but it’s mainly the center-back pleat. Your local tailor should be able to alter them for $25 or less a shirt (which should encourage you to buy them on sale).
I was also asked if these shirts shrink too much from washing. In my experience, this hasn’t been the case, especially in the torso area (hence the alteration in the torso and arms). Brooks Brothers has a pretty great return policy, and you can even return items after you’ve washed them (I’ve done it in-person at a store).
My typical washing routine is cold water and then I put them in the dryer for 10-15 minutes, just to accelerate drying. You should (and probably should) do hang-dry only, but I find that a quick stint in the beginning with a dryer helps shrink the fabric properly and makes the fabric softer.
Finally, here’s the measurements (laid flat) on an unaltered 15.5/35 white OCBD that’s been washed multiple times, for your reference:
- Pit-to-Pit: 21”
- Waist: 19.5”
- Back of collar to hem: 29.75”
- Yolk: 17”
- Shoulder to Shoulder: 17.25”
- Top of shoulder to end of cuff: 25.25”
- Center back to end of cuff: 34.25”
It’s hard to find a #menswear “essentials” list that doesn’t include the oxford cloth button-down collar shirt. Everyone tells you to buy one and pretty much every retailer carries some version of this shirt.
Sure, it’s “classic” and J.F.K. wore one and it’s an Ivy staple. You have guys on forums and blog comments whining about how the collars used to have a much better roll to them decades ago compared to the ones now or how they used to take sandpaper to the collars to wear them down a bit for that “worn in” look. (And don’t even get them started on this “slim fit” business all the kids like!)
It’s easy to read that and laugh. But you have to realize the reason why they talk in such detailed curmudgeonly ways about this particular shirt is because they love it. It’s like meeting someone who is a complete nerd about a particular thing they’re really, really into: they love it so much that they want to tell you all the reasons why so that you’ll understand and love it, too.
And the OCBD nerds aren’t totally crazy! It’s a fantastic shirt. I particularly like mine from Brooks Brothers in a certain non-trad fit (“extra-slim”, which makes it sound like a diet drink supplement) for a variety of irrational reasons.
Yes, the collar is great. It’s softer than a stiffer collar from most off-the-rack dress shirts. It’s a bit more substantial, too, in its collar point length — not some wimpy tiny collar that’s currently in fashion — that gives it a decent roll. Not the best roll, mind you, that you see in black and white photos of “Take Ivy”, but better than what else is out there in retailers today.
I also love the shirring of the sleeves where it attaches to the cuff instead of the pleated look a lot of other shirts use. And it’s even more ridiculous that I like this unique detail on the shirt because you can’t even see it when I roll my sleeves up anyway, which I do most of the time when wearing the shirt, but I know it’s there.
I’ll also add that I love the pocket on the shirt. People are adding all sorts of useless crap to their shirts like epaulets, grosgrain trimming or monograms, but I’m a fan of functional things. I know a growing number of people prefer the French front placket and no pocket on shirts, but I can’t stand it. I use my pocket all the time. I put a pen in there, or my glasses when I head outside during the day and wear my prescription sunglasses. I don’t know why anyone would turn down a free pocket on their shirt.
The shirt’s construction is pretty solid with single-needle stitched seams. It’s also still made right here in the United States (something that unfortunately cannot be said about the majority of Brooks Brothers’ shirts). The best part about the OCBD is that you can wash it, dry it and hang it up. That’s it. No need to worry about ironing it, as it looks great a bit wrinkled and just feels comfortable, which is the most important thing.
The shirt doesn’t feel terribly stiff when first worn, but it just feels better several washes in. You can throw it on when you’re mildly hungover or just about to head down to the grocery store to buy some cilantro for some tostadas because you’re an idiot who forgot to check the fridge before you went to the store yesterday.
Of course, it goes well with almost anything. You can wear it untucked with jeans or tucked into chinos with a madras, seersucker or navy wool blazer on top. And while my personal uniform most days consists of the blue OCBD, the white OCBD probably gets a fairly high amount of time covering my torso. I consider it a casual shirt to just wear around the house or on weekends. It’s what I do chores in and take naps in.
You want that “lived-in” look? Pick up one of these shirts and live in it. There will always be time for you to put on a really dressed-up outfit to get dinner or go somewhere nice or even sit in your office cubicle. People always say that you should dress up for the important moments of your life, but the rest of your life’s more mundane and non-Instagram worthy moments ought to have a place in your wardrobe, too. For me, that’s the Brooks Brothers OCBD.
(“Investment Pieces” is a series about the items in my wardrobe that have gotten the most usage and wear. It’s part review and part paean to the clothes I really would recommend to anybody. These aren’t luxury items or limited in availability — you can get them anywhere at anytime for a fairly reasonable price.)