Review: Hall & Madden dress shirts
The premise behind Hall & Madden is simple: it’s a dress shirt subscription.
You pick your size, pick your fit and every 3, 4 or 6 months (depending on your plan) they’ll send you three dress shirts in a box for $150.
It’s an intriguing concept, blending the concepts of subscription-clothing startups like Manpacks and Trunk Club and narrowing the focus on just dress shirts. It’s a service targeting its product at guys who desire a well-fitting shirt based on sizing they’re familiar with and sold at a price that’s extremely competitive while maintaining use of high quality construction and fabrics.
Hall & Madden comes from the same gentlemen behind Proper Suit (read my Proper Suit review here) and it surprised me they made the decision to not go down the path of offering MTM shirting. Instead, the founders told me they wanted to branch out away from the customization-only customer and focus this business on guys who just want a well-made shirt that fits them and their budget.
From a business perspective, it certainly makes sense (and I say this as someone whose shirt wardrobe stands at 60% MTM), as a majority of guys probably won’t ever be convinced to invest the time, effort and money on MTM. Measure yourself or a well-fitting shirt, waiting for the shirts to arrive and tinkering with measurements on a test shirt does take a certain level of customer enthusiasm — especially if you jump from company to company.
Hall & Madden seeks the customer who doesn’t want to deal with retailer dressing rooms or having to even make a decision on what color or pattern to purchase. Instead, you get a basic box with three shirts inside every few months.
The box I received had one white herringbone shirt with a cutaway collar, a blue twill with a spread collar and a grey with white pinstripe shirt with a button-down collar — two shirts that can be worn with suits and one that’s more casual for under sweaters or with sport jackets.
In terms of construction quality, Hall & Madden shirts are the best I’ve seen on from any ready-to-wear company at this price point. I don’t know of any other shirt you can buy for $50 that has these features.
Seams are single-needle stitched on the shirt, versus the less-desirable double-needle stitching. I can only think of two other companies that single-needle stitch their shirts that come close to the same price. Lands’ End does it for a few of their shirts (not sure about all of them), but their fit isn’t as good or trim. Brooks Brothers does it, but only on their U.S.-made OCBDs — their foreign-made shirts (which are the majority of style they sell) are all double-needle.
Another detail on the side seams of the shirt that’s worth pointing out are the gusseted ends. Gussets are a piece of fabric sewn on to help prevent seams from tearing or coming apart at the end. I don’t own any other shirts that have this detail — off-the-rack or made-to-measure. Frankly, I’m kind of peeved that this isn’t standard on most of the MTM shirtmakers I’ve used.
For buttons, Hall & Madden uses only thick, mother-of-pearl buttons that feel and look substantial. This is another area that shirtmakers sometimes skimp on (or in the case of MTM, you pay extra for), but it’s standard in this case. In terms of fabric, they use 2-ply, unblended cotton.
I feel the need to also point out that some shirts come with contrasting interior fabric on the cuffs and collar. Thankfully, it’s tastefully done (a solid navy with the blue twill, a tattersall check with the white herringbone) and actually compliments instead of clashes with the shirts.
In terms of fit, Hall & Madden does something clever: they base their three fits off of those from Hugo Boss’ “regular”, “sharp” and “slim” fit shirts. If you own a shirt from Hugo Boss or can get to a store to try one on in the respective fit, then you’ll know exactly how these shirts will fit you (at one-third the price).
As it so happens, my current tuxedo shirt is from the Hugo Boss “slim” fit line — and it was the only tuxedo shirt that I could find that fit slim. Compared against the Hall & Madden shirts, the fit is identical as far as I can tell — but the Hugo Boss shirt is actually double-needle stitched.
Hall & Madden darts the back of their shirts, which tapers the torso toward the waist for a slimmer fit. Also, the shirt’s back is unpleated, which also helps give the shirt additional slimness.
I also like the collars on the shirts — they’re substantial. They’re not trendy short and skinny like a lot of retailers are offering right now, which have a tendency to give most guys terrible-looking collar gap when worn with a suit jacket. The collars stand up well and fall easily under a jacket’s lapels — even when worn without a tie.
I’ve been wearing them for a few months now and they’ve held up well through several washings. While I like a good OCBD, I’ve reached for these shirts when I wanted to go tieless, but not quite as casual as a button-down collar.
For each subsequent box you receive, Hall & Madden tries to include two shirts that will work for wearing at the office — something in blue, something in white, both a bit more conservative — and then a third shirt in a bolder pattern or color — like the purple gingham you see below.
Overall, Hall & Madden is a great value. If your priority is predictable fit, quality construction and an affordable price, then Hall & Madden comes with a recommendation.
If you want to give Hall & Madden a try, then they have a special offer for readers here at The Silentist: After you place your order, email firstname.lastname@example.org to tell them you read the review here and they’ll include a free white linen pocket square to the first 15 subscribers.