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.
The pitch hit all the right notes: denim fabric sourced in the United States or Japan, made in San Francisco and a price that reflects selling direct to customers versus retail markup.
The Kickstarter was a massive success, but my one hangup on issuing a blanket recommendation about Gustin was that I’d not handled the product myself and I thought sizing could be a bit tricky along with exchanges. I also wondered what Gustin would do post-Kickstarter and how they would continue to offer their jeans to those who wanted them.
Gustin launched their new website this week and they were kind enough to provide me with a pair to examine and photograph for this review.
After having hand’s on with Gustin’s jeans, I’m giving them a recommendation.
One of the first things I noticed about Gustin’s jeans were the back pockets and their unique blue horizontal stitch. At first, I thought this was a decoration, but it turns out that it’s actually there to functionally attach an inner cloth liner to help prevent your back pockets from blowing out and forming holes.
Of course, you can look up a bit higher and see the leather patch. I’m not person who places a lot of value on the leather patch on denim, but it does feel more substantial than one that would appear on a pair of Levi’s. However, it feels thinner than the Tanner Good patch that comes on a pair of 3Sixteens. As someone who wears a belt over the patch anyway, I’m not too hung up on it, but I did appreciate that the patch is darker and subdued rather than outlandish.
The inside of the jeans is pretty standard. The left pocket has a patch sewn on with information about the jean’s fabric, fit, care instructions, etc., and the fly also features a selvedge edge.
What really impressed me, however, were the buttons. I love the buttons on this pair more than any other jeans I’ve worn or seen.
The tops of the buttons feel thick, unlike other pairs where the fly buttons are almost sharp along the edges. The result is a more knob-like feel that buttons smoother and rolls along your fingertips better. It’s hard to explain why I’m obsessed with these buttons, but Gustin sourced unique hardware.
The seam rivets are also interesting. Rather than having tiny studs that stand up and protrude, their rivets are recessed and smoother as you brush over them.
Gustin also uses some subtle stitching details with red thread, placing it along the inside hem, the crotch seam and at the outside opposite the selvedge. It’s a small detail that most won’t ever see, but it’s a nice way to distinguish their pairs from others without going over the top.
Of course, a large selling point of jeans comes down to fit.
I’m a natural 33” waist and typically take a 32” waist in most raw selvedge denim jeans I buy. Gustin didn’t have a 32” available to send me, but did provide me with a pair in size 33”.
If you know your actual measured waist size, I’d recommend definitely sizing down 1” and perhaps consider going down 2” to account for stretching in the denim over time.
Regardless, I felt the jeans offered a good fit that was flattering and looked slightly better than a pair of Levi’s 501s would give you. The seat area of the jeans were comfortable and I felt that going down a size or two would still be pretty good and only slightly tighter. The rise was about where I’d like a pair of jeans to be — not too low, just slightly above a mid-rise.
For those of you who don’t like a straight cut, Gustin is now offering a slim cut. I’d perhaps also consider going with a slim cut if you’d like a smaller leg opening. You can see their size chart here.
In their post-Kickstarter phase, Gustin is now doing something similar on their own website. You can “back” a pair of jeans for pre-order and if enough buyers back a particular fabric, then the jeans begin production. Prices range from the original $81 to $99 — both of which I think are a very fair price for these jeans.
The one thing I cannot comment on yet is how Gustin’s jeans will look over time after many wears and a wash, but that’s a risk you take with any new pair of jeans. What I can say is that I think Gustin is bringing a lot of value and thought into their jeans and if you’re on the fence, then consider trying a pair.
If you’re the kind of guy who wears undershirts, then you’ve probably found your T-shirt of choice probably has some kind of problem that you don’t like — but you tolerate anyway.
I like undershirts as they generally keep pit stains from showing up on my dress shirts, but the standard white V-neck does present a few problems for me from a lot of brands.
First, a lot of undershirts are cut too short to tuck in and stay tucked in while under a dress shirt. If you have a longer torso like me, this is a constant frustration. And usually the few “tall” sized shirts you find aren’t often slim enough, typically starting in size “medium”.
Of course, guys who wear white poplin dress shirts know that if you wear a white undershirt underneath, you often have the ghost of the undershirt visible, which looks bad.
This is where Mr. Davis Undershirts come in and they offered me a free sample undershirt to try. I’m extremely resistant to change, especially when it comes to undershirts, but they definitely knock it out of the park in those first two categories I mentioned.
For one, their shirts definitely are long enough to stay tucked in. The hem length is sufficient that bending over the shirt won’t ride up past your belt line.
When it comes to staying invisible under your dress shirt, Mr. Davis shirts also excel at their goal. Here’s what my current white undershirts from Stafford look like under my white dress shirt:
And here’s the same dress shirt with a Mr. Davis Undershirts:
You’ll note in the first photo you can see the end of the short sleeves of the T-shirt as well as the outline of the V-neck, whereas with the Mr. Davis shirts you can’t see any of this. This is because Mr. Davis uses a weird beige-tan color that blends closer to your natural skin tone. I was pretty impressed at how well this worked.
It’s definitely also worth mentioning the fit of the undershirts. The fit is very form-fitting and tapers dramatically along the torso. I’m not a very muscular person, but it was essentially a second skin on me with a size medium (I’m a typical 38” chest in jackets). The fabric does have some stretch to it as it’s a bamboo-spandex mix (96-4),
I’m a bit torn on whether the fabric is for me. For a long time I’ve liked cotton-synthetic blends because it had the softness of cotton but the anti-shrinking properties of the synthetics. Frankly, I’m just not used to wearing something this tight and this stretchy. It took some getting used to when first wearing it, but for those who like this and find it preferable, you’ll like Mr. Davis’ fabric choice.
As far as details go, I liked how they went with a raglan sleeve rather than a set-in sleeve, which gives you greater movement in the arms. And the V-neck area is deep enough to allow for you to leave your top button undone and not worry about the undershirt showing.
If you want to give Mr. Davis a try, then visit their Kickstarter page (as of this writing there’s only 9 days to go), where they’ve already met their initial funding goal and are offering shirts for as low as $15 a shirt when you buy 10 of them. Or you can go more modest and try a single shirt for $25.
Overall, i like the shirt and think Mr. Davis is worth trying if you prefer your undershirts hidden, form fitting and with some stretch.
I want to make an admission: I’ve only owned one pair of khakis since getting into this whole menswear, dressing-better thing.
I know it’s a wardrobe staple, the bedrock of casual workplace wardrobes across the country, but I’ve really only owned one and even that pair I ended up selling after a few months. My preference has always been to wear wool trousers or denim.
(I will admit to buying a pair of beige canvas cotton trousers last year, however, I don’t consider them true khaki drill cotton trousers.)
For a while I was slowly considering several options from the usual suspects, but kept putting it off. After all, they weren’t a personal wardrobe staple for years, why rush a purchase now?
In a weird coincidence, Jim Ockert, the owner of J. Lawrence’s Khaki’s of Carmel, contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to review their new private label line of — what else? — khaki trousers.
Khakis from Khaki’s. Sure, I’m game.
(To get the obvious questions out of the way: No, they don’t just sell khakis at Khaki’s and the name “Khaki’s” was chosen by Jim because it was easy to remember — much in the same way “Polo” is identifiable with Ralph Lauren.)
When I first received the trousers, I took note of a few things. First, the fabric weight and density felt substantial. I’ve tried chinos and khaki trousers from several brands and some of their fabric just felt thin and cheap. Not the case with these pants, which are made of an English drill cotton.
Jim said the twill fabric he chose is unwashed and won’t stretch or change over time like some cotton fabrics do (indeed, I noticed such things happened on a pair of chinos from Brooks Brothers). The interior piping and pockets are made from Italian oxford cotton fabric.
In regards to the trouser’s construction, Jim said he instructed his manufacturer in New York to find details to add in rather than subtract out to save costs.
When it comes to fastening details, the trousers don’t cut corners. The trousers have a YKK metal zipper and a French fly with an extended tab on the front so the waistband stays straight.
On the interior, a two-piece pleated waist curtain gives the trousers better fit just below the waist and the waistband itself is split so you can alter it if you gain or lose weight (most cheap chinos will have a single-block waistband that’s unalterable).
The trousers completely lack branding with the exception of the center belt loop being a charcoal flannel material — a quirky signature from Jim (if this is too much whimsy for you, then a spare belt loop make of English drill is included, too).
While details are nice, cut and fit still matter the most. While the J. Lawrence line will feature two cuts, I asked to try the contemporary fit rather than the slim fit. Over the past year, I’ve come to find that slim trousers aren’t very flattering on me and combined with my larger feet, they can make me look a bit awkward.
I’m really happy with the contemporary fit. It’s relaxing to wear, but still very flattering. The trousers come unhemmed and I had them altered to just a bit past “no break” without a cuff. There’s enough room for movement in the seat and thigh area without it looking too wide and after a few wearings I’ve found them quite comfortable to lounge in while sitting down at my desk.
The rise is what I’d call a slightly higher mid-rise, which is another one of my preferences now. The legs taper slightly with a leg opening of 8” (on a 33” waist), which I guess one would call almost conservative by today’s standards.
Jim informed me that the cut of the trouser is unique to Khaki’s and their slim cut features a lower rise and more tapered leg, which may be the preference of others who are looking for that look.
“We’re not trying to make ‘candy clothing’ that looks good but you can’t wear it,” Jim said. “It’s wearable and approachable anywhere in the world.”
I’ve enjoyed wearing the trousers with a simple OCBD and a cashmere cable-knit crewneck sweater and penny loafers or chukka boots (as seen above), which all seem coherent with a casual trouser. Of course, I’ve also found myself wearing it with a navy blazer and wingtips.
Curious, I asked Jim how he’d choose to style the khaki trouser on one of the 98 mannequins in his store and he responded by styling three of them at his store with the trousers in their various colors.
If you’re interested in purchasing a pair, Jim said you can e-mail him personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at 1-800-664-8106 and he’d be happy to chat with you.
And if you haven’t read it yet, check out brokeandbespoke’s profile of Jim Ockert and J. Lawrence Khaki’s of Carmel. It’s a good read and after my chats on the phone with Jim I can honestly say it’s an accurate portrayal of Jim’s enthusiasm for menswear — and I genuinely hope to make it out to his store in the future to see it in person.
Commonwealth Proper was kind enough to send me one of their wool flannel neckties for review about a month ago and after wearing it a few times, I’ve shifted my views on wool neckwear.
Before getting into that, I want to go over the details of the necktie itself. The tie’s fabric is a rather substantially thick wool flannel from Italy. It feels about as heavy as any wool flannel trouser I’ve worn, but perhaps slightly scratchier to give it some slight texture.
The tie’s interlining is what I believe to be wool and is of moderate thickness, giving the flannel even more weight in the blades. This is not a light and airy necktie, it’s definitely denser. The tipping is a vintage silk with an ivory ground and burgundy print that features a floral scenery.
One of the details I always look for on a necktie are the bar-tack stitches. As you can see below, the bar tack on both blades are done quite well. From experience, bar tacks like these won’t come undone — unlike some lesser-constructed ties I’ve had in the past that were surprisingly priced similarly.
In terms of how the tie knots, this is where I go back to my initial thought of changing my mind on how wool ties knot. Frankly, I’ve been slowly more indifferent or against wool neckwear in the past. Either the tie is too thick to be knotted well — even with a four-in-hand — or the tie is too flimsy and the fabric too much like a sponge that it turns into a mushed ball at the knot that lacks substantialness. Other times I found the wool fabric too rigid and lifeless to work.
But, the flannel of this particular tie has worked quite well for me in the few times I’ve found to wear it. It knots well and forms a dimple that looks substantial. The knot doesn’t feel obtusely large nor too compacted. The tie has enough mobility in it not look stiff as a board when worn. It’s my opinion that the tie is extremely well-balanced.
I should note that the tie’s width is smaller than my preferred ideal — measuring in at 3”, whereas my typical preference is for 3.5” — but I found it’s worked well with parts of my wardrobe for the cooler months. I feel the tie works best for casual evenings, against a white shirt and darker jackets in grey, charcoal and navy, preferably with some texture — like a tweed or heavy flannel. I’ve paired it with and OCBD and a chunky-knit cardigan as well as my grey donegal tweed suit (as seen below).
Commonwealth Proper’s neckties are made in the U.S.A. and they seem to be producing small numbers of each type of design that arrives in stock. You can find the tie in dark grey flannel (the one they sent me), mid-grey and also black. Check them out as they continue to release new items to their online store.
“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.
Frank & Oak received some early buzz because of their premise: limited runs of clothing with each item priced under $50 and only available for a month. Coupled with an “invite-only” model (that’s my referral link above) and a few sport coats at launch, there was a considerable amount of interest.
I’ll admit to being interested, but not necessarily buying anything for myself. I hesitated to buy shirts in alpha sizing (i.e.: S/M/L) because of my longer arms and skinnier neck. In fact, I passed along my early referral credit to my brother, who’s enjoyed several neckties from them (he likes skinny ties, I prefer no less than 3.5”).
But Frank & Oak contacted me asking if they could send me some products to review and I figured it’d be worthwhile to readers interested in their budget-focused line of clothing. I received one of their flannel gingham shirts and a pair of chinos.
The shirt actually fit me better than I thought it would. The sleeves were nearly perfect for my 35” arms in a size medium. The shirt fits slightly trim, but not overly so — I’d hesitate to call it “slim” — and the hem is long enough to be worn tucked in or out.
The shirt’s fabric feels really nice, a bit thicker than your average sport shirt (since it’s flannel) and the material is 100% cotton. It’s a decidedly casual shirt, but probably appropriate for most young professionals or college students who don’t need to dress up beyond business casual on a regular basis.
I only have two points of criticism. First, the collar is skinny and really wouldn’t work very well with most neckties. For what it’s worth, the collar does manage to stay up decently and not flop over like some shirts I’ve worn. Second, the side seams are double-needle stitched, which is a cheaper construction method for shirts. However, considering the price of this shirt is south of $50, I wouldn’t expect single-needle stitching.
The chinos were nice to wear. Comfortable and had an almost pre-washed feel to them. They didn’t fit too baggy, nor too slim. I’d definitely would consider them to be in the casual realm and wouldn’t do anything like iron a crease in them.
The only criticism I have would be the sizing: they’re vanity sized for sure. I currently have a 32.5” waist and received a pair in size 32”. The actual measured waist on the chinos is 34” (and this is after I warm-water washed them and put them in a dryer). So, you’ll want to size down if you’re considering a pair.
The chinos have what I would call a mid-short rise, which seems to be the preferred standard these days for most brands, and a single-button fly front. There’s also a coin pocket on the waistband and the rear pockets have a button each.
In regards to fit, I’d say it’s actually decent for something made ready-to-wear. In the past, I’ve certainly bought baggier and paid more than $95 for a shirt and chinos together. I think these two items would look perfectly fine styled as you see above. Just add a shawl-collared cardigan sweater and you’ve got a great casual fall outfit.
Frank & Oak clothing seems to aim their company to find a balance between being affordable, casual and with some trend-focused details. There’s probably a few items each month that most will take an interest in potentially getting.
I think the prices are fair, however, they do seem to be in the same competitive space as Lands’ End Canvas. But if you’re budget focused, Frank & Oak will provide you with another option to what’s currently out there and their monthly new releases will mean a great deal of choice.
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.
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.
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.
I’m a very skeptical person. When a men’s footwear brand contacts me about reviewing one of their pieces of footwear from a new heritage line they’re producing, I’m often cautiously interested. But Johnston & Murphy’s new “J&M 1850” line has a surprising gem in it that I feel is worth talking about.
Plus, Johnston & Murphy is letting me run a contest to giveaway a pair of their shoes or boots to one lucky Chicago-area reader (details at the end of the review).
The “Gannett” boot caught my eye for several reasons. First, the boots have a Goodyear welt, which I feel is a necessary minimum for shoe construction if you’re going to be paying decent money and expecting the shoes to present a decent value in the long term. Shoes with a Goodyear welt are able to be resoled more easily, which means you can wear them for a whole lot longer.
Secondly, this pair got my attention because they’re made from Horween leather. This leather, of course, comes from the Horween Tannery in Chicago and has a well-regarded reputation.
Finally, what surprised me is that the boots are priced at $275, which places them well under the price of other Horween leather boots from other competitors by at least $100, if not more.
Johnston & Murphy’s representatives sent me a pair as a review unit and I must say I’m rather impressed. If you’ve been hanging around places like StyleForum for a while, then you know that many of the posters there have a less-than-favorable opinion of the brand’s products from the past decade or so, despite having at one time been regarded as one of the premiere made-in-the U.S.A. men’s footwear brands.
Indeed, these boots were made in India, which may account for the ability to hit a lower pricepoint. Regardless, the quality of materials and construction is — as far as I can tell so far — still there and they’re quite comfortable to wear.
The leather seems about as good as pairs of Allen Edmonds that I own, although time will really only tell how it develops a patina. The suede portion of the boot feels durable and a bit waxy, so I wouldn’t worry about wearing these in bad weather. The interior of the boot is lined with leather as well.
One thing I liked about the boots is that the sole is a bit of a hybrid between a leather sole and a lug sole. Outright lug soles can be a bit clunky looking and in my mind limits them to being worn only with denim. These have a slimmer profile with a semi-lug sole and it’s hidden from view, making them wearable with chinos. Still, I wouldn’t wear them with dress trousers, as they’re definitely a more casual piece of footwear. And I do think they go best with denim.
Naturally, I do have criticisms. I wished the stitching was a darker brown or black colored thread instead of being contrasting — and the stitching could’ve been cleaner, too. This would’ve given the boot a cleaner look, in my opinion. Also, the laces felt kind of cheap and given the extreme amount of tension you’re probably going to put on these, I’d recommend getting thicker laces with better durability.
The break-in period isn’t terribly long and they don’t feel extremely too-stiff to walk in on the first wear. You can even wear them with thinner socks and not feel like your ankles have been rubbed raw. Still, there seems to be enough room for slightly thicker socks for the cold-weather months.
These boots have changed my perception of Johnston & Murphy (much how the Veblens changed my perception of Florsheim) and I think it’s worth taking a look over the future shoes in the J&M 1850 line to see what could be a good value from them — especially if better materials and construction are being used.
And about that contest: I’ve got a voucher for one pair of J&M 1850 shoes or boots at Hanig’s Slipperbox, 2754 N. Clark Street, Chicago. The winner will be mailed this voucher and has to redeem it in-store — so, I’m making this contest for Chicago-area folks only (because if you don’t live in the area it’d be really hard for you to pick up your pair of shoes).
How to enter:
- Tweet this review using the hashtag #jm1850 and the URL: http://bit.ly/TS30YP
- Shoot me an email at email@example.com with your tweet.
- Do both of these things by 12 noon CST, Friday, November 2nd.
- Actually live in the Chicagoland area.
I’ll take everyone’s names, do a random sort, assign a number and then use a random number generator to pick a winner. The winner will be contacted by email for their address so I can mail the voucher to them (or we can meetup in person).
One of the most under-appreciated details on a necktie is the bar tack. I’ve had neckties that I’ve paid a hefty sum for that lacked a decent bar tack and came undone after a few wears, which is a moment of disappointment when you think back to how much the tie cost. It’s a tiny detail, unnoticed by so many — wearers and manufacturers alike — but I happen to enjoy the tactile feel of a well-sewn one.
Louis Walton’s bar tacks are impressive, as you can see above. I consider it on par with those found on Vanda Fine Clothing’s and Panta Clothing’s neckties. It’s better than the bar tacks found on Drake’s London and Polo Ralph Lauren, in my opinion. It’s the first thing I noticed when I received a review necktie, handmade by owner Gregory Walton (he named the company after his father) in San Francisco.
“I started making ties because I realized the things I liked were very expensive and I felt that with practice I could make something just as nice as the things in the shops I liked,” Gregory said. “In my family it has been a practice to learn to make the things or do the services we like.”
Gregory’s been sewing neckties since 2008 and initially gave them away as gifts until a friend asked him to design a line of ties and pocket squares for his shop.
The tie Gregory sent me is this navy Japanese cotton with white flowers in a six-fold design. The tie is lightly lined and untipped, two details I particularly enjoy. It also features a hand-sewn slip-stitch to allow the tie to recover after being worn.
I asked Gregory about some of the technical challenges of learning how to sew ties by hand, and unsurprisingly he said it’s not easy. One of his mentors taught him how to make patterns for shirts and trousers, which helped him develop his own patterns for neckties.
“There is still a measure of trial and error involved because I make each tie with the client in mind,” Gregory said. “Therefore, the shape and length of each tie is different depending on the size and preferences of the client. I am constantly learning and trying different things.”
Another challenge is sourcing fabric and thread, because they’re not available at just any fabric store, often needing to be sourced from mills directly. Finding good fabric is extremely important to him because it affects how the tie drapes and knots.
While the design and pattern of the fabric is originally what caught my eye (I’m always a sucker for navy ties), the light cotton actually goes nicely with a variety of summer and warm-weather jackets and the “neat” flower pattern gives just enough visual variety to break up an ensemble of solids. I liked it in particular against a light blue linen shirt and a white linen-cotton jacket.
If you’ve been following the Louis Walton tumblr, you’ll notice that Gregory’s also been expanding his skillset into leather goods, including belts and keyholders. If you took a look, you’ll see they look damn impressive.
“I am very excited to be branching into leather work and find it o be very rewarding,” Gregory said. “I am starting with small pieces like keyholders and wallets, and I hope to offer larger items like briefcases and bags for men next year. I do everything by hand and it leads to pieces that are very strong and structured, while still being soft and pliable.”
Gregory also mentioned he’s working on outerwear pieces with a local tailor to be offered as made-to-measure items.
It should also be noted that Gregory’s training under Beatrice Amblard of April In Paris fame. For those who don’t know, Amblard is a former Hermes artisan that now has her own label designing custom leather accessories in San Francisco.