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Dress shirts that hold starch well? And athletic/tailored cut?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

1) This problem has been nettling me for a few years now. I probably have 25 dress shirts, half of which won't hold starch well and others that are outstanding at staying crisp. There's no rhyme or reason in terms of brand, material, or anything I can detect. I have asked at every single clothing store I've shopped in the last few years how to select such shirts, and I have been told things like "Just get 100% cotton and you're all set" and it simply isn't true. Is it the weave? The thickness? At any rate, I would really appreciate recommendations on where to find such shirts. Getting my hands on 5 white shirts that starch well would probably shut me up for a good while.

 

2) Another (secondary) thing is that I'm 6'4" and wear 16.5/36, and off-the-shelf shirts usually fit really well in the shoulders but are huge around the waist.

 

If I could solve both problems with the same shirt, I'd be forever grateful.

 

Thanks in advance -

 

B

post #2 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lyronva View Post

1) This problem has been nettling me for a few years now. I probably have 25 dress shirts, half of which won't hold starch well and others that are outstanding at staying crisp. There's no rhyme or reason in terms of brand, material, or anything I can detect. I have asked at every single clothing store I've shopped in the last few years how to select such shirts, and I have been told things like "Just get 100% cotton and you're all set" and it simply isn't true. Is it the weave? The thickness? At any rate, I would really appreciate recommendations on where to find such shirts. Getting my hands on 5 white shirts that starch well would probably shut me up for a good while.

 

2) Another (secondary) thing is that I'm 6'4" and wear 16.5/36, and off-the-shelf shirts usually fit really well in the shoulders but are huge around the waist.

 

If I could solve both problems with the same shirt, I'd be forever grateful.

 

Thanks in advance -

 

B

 

Oh, if it's not obvious for question 2, I will occasionally find cuts called Tailored Fit or Athletic Cut that fit the bill, but not with any regularity.

Thanks -

post #3 of 10
I can't help you with question 1 as I don't use starch, but as to question 2, look here: http://www.styleforum.net/t/35147/the-definitive-guide-to-slim-fit-shirts
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

KObalto, thank you for that - I will filter through there and look for some brands that I haven't tried, I'm sure there are good possibilities in there.

 

I do have a concern (echoed by others on the first few pages of the thread I flipped through), as I have even seen "Slim Fit" (Paul Fredrick, among others) that won't work for me, because they end up being for truly slim guys and are too small in the shoulders/chest for me.

 

For what it's worth to others, the best shirt of those 2 concerns I've found so far was a Black-Brown shirt (Lord & Taylor, I believe) - super crisp, cut perfectly. There was one problem though: it shrank like the bejeezus - this didn't affect the overall torso fit, but it took a shirt from a 17.5/36-37 (which would have been too big in the neck to wear a tie) to a 16.5/35 - which means I can wear it with a tie, but I am forced to roll up the sleeves, haha. When I go shopping lately and see this brand, the fabric isn't the same...sigh...

 

Many Brooks Bros starch pretty well, but it seems to be mostly button-down types (which is fine, but I'd prefer the choice to go more formal). Jos A Bank starch well also but are HUGE in the waist.

 

B

post #5 of 10
6'4 and everything else you're likely better off biting the bullet and having things made.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

That's a good point, I've never done such a thing. Any ideas where, or does this tend to be from an individual tailor and not a company? What's the ballpark cost for getting a custom shirt made?

 

Thanks -

 

B

post #7 of 10
The fabric has something to do with retaining starch but the interlining of the collar and cuff has more to do with it.

The excessive shrinking is from low quality fusing and poorly finished cottons combined with excessive heat at a laundry or too much time at high heat in a dryer.

If you do a little research you will see there is nothing good about using starch on shirts. The quality of interlinings today will provide enough body to keep a collar and cuff looking crisp without starch. Your shirts will feel better, wrinkle less and last longer if you don't use starch.
post #8 of 10
There are at least 6 issues to consider that, in combination, can affect the ability of shirts to "hold" starch. Here are some general rules of thumb:

1. TYPE OF STARCH USED

There are basically 3 types of starch used by commercial shirt laundries: synthetic starch, corn starch and wheat starch.

Shirt laundries/dry cleaners love synthetic starch because it is cheap and easy to use. Think of synthetic starch as a glue that bonds very easily to cottons and synthetic fibers and adheres to fibers like multiple coats of paint. The downside is that synthetic starch doesn't wash out of your shirts, that shirts become stiffer with each application of starch, and that this stiffness in shirts causes fibers to abrade rather quickly when a shirt is tumbling in a washer wheel.

Corn starch and wheat starch are superior natural starches. Corn starch is far more granular than wheat starch and doesn't coat the shirt as evenly as wheat starch. Natural starches are vastly superior to synthetic starch because both dissolve instantly in the washer wheel when coming into contact with water. So you can go from heavy starch to no starch and feel an immediate change in feel; with synthetic starch there would be no change in feel for at least 6 to 10 launderings.

Synthetic starch was invented in the 1950's when polyester shirts were introduced. Men who liked starch complained that their polyester shirts had no body even though they had requested starch. The truth, of course, was that natural starches could not bond to synthetic fibers. Hence the need to invent this abomination.

So ask your shirt laundry/dry cleaner what type of starch they use. It's my opinion that shirt laundries/dry cleaners that use synthetic starch or corn starch should be forced to post a sign at the entrance to his business stating "WE USE SYNTHETIC OR CORN STARCH. SYNTHETIC OR CORN STRACH HAS BEEN DETERMINED TO BE DETRIMENTAL TO THE LIFE OF YOUR SHIRTS".

2. TYPE OF SHIRT FIBERS

The type of fibers will affect how well the shirt "holds" the starch. Most "quality" dress shirts are 100% cotton; some "lesser quality" dress shirts are a combination of cotton and synthetic fibers (such as 95% cotton, 5% spandex). Cotton fibers will hold natural starches; synthetic fibers cannot -- ever -- hold natural starch.

So don't expect 2 identical shirts from the same manufacturer -- one 100% cotton and one 95% cotton/5% spandex -- to feel the same after they have been starched in the same load.

3. THICKNESS OF SHIRT FIBERS

Even if your shirt laundry/dry cleaner uses the very best natural wheat starch, the thickness of the fibers will dictate how well those fibers absorb the starch. A fine Egyptian cotton woven by a fine Swiss or Italian mill will absorb less starch than a relatively thicker oxford cloth cotton.

So you might want to consider varying the level of starch you request based on the thickness of the fibers.

4. CONSTRUCTION OF COLLARS/CUFFS

Despos covered this point in his comments above.

5. CONSISTENCY OF THE SHIRT LAUNDRY'S STARCH PROCESS

For all of the above reasons, were you to take 5 identical shirts (each brand new out of the original wrapping) and drop them off at 5 different shirt laundries on the same day with a request that you want the shirt laundered and pressed with "medium starch", I'd bet you that all 5 shirts would come back with a different hand or texture. How so? Because each laundry has a different approach as to how they classify their starch requests and how much starch is used for how many shirts in the load.

Many shirt laundries could not be bothered with YOUR desire for no starch, light starch, medium starch or heavy starch. They toss all no starch and light starch requests into "no starch" and all medium and heavy starch requests into "starch". By grouping shirts into "more economically viable batches" they can dramatically improve processing times at the lowest possible cost.

Most cleaners do not count the number of shirts in a load and determine, accordingly, how much starch should be added depending on whether the load is light, median or heavy starch. They either pour the synthetic starch into the washer wheel or add a cup of natural starch into the washer wheel on a "best guess basis".

If you switch cleaners on a regular basis (or even if you visit different branches of the same cleaner on a regular basis), you'll never be able to figure out what level of starch is just perfect for you.

6. HAND PRESSED SHIRTS VS. MACHINE PRESSED SHIRTS

In a typical shirt laundry, one presser will kick out 40 to 50 shirts per hour by machine (even if that presser has poor to moderate skills). A shirt laundry that hand presses shirts will get about 10 to 12 shirts an hour per presser (if that presser is highly skilled). There will be a vast difference in the hand or texture of a machine pressed shirt vs a hand pressed shirt.

SOME ADDITIONAL READING

Blog post: Why your light starched shirts feel stiff.

Link: http://www.ravefabricare.com/true-quality-cleaning/2010/8/19/why-your-light-starched-shirts-feel-stiff.aspx

Blog post: When a hand ironed laundered shirt isn't hand ironed.

Link: http://www.ravefabricare.com/true-quality-cleaning/2010/6/16/when-a-hand-ironed-laundered-shirt-isn't-hand-ironed.aspx

Blog post: You have shirt laundry rights. Exercise those rights.

Link: http://www.ravefabricare.com/true-quality-cleaning/2011/1/13/you-have-shirt-laundry-rights-exercise-those-rights.aspx
Edited by stubloom - 9/3/12 at 11:17am
post #9 of 10
Agree with Despos. Don't use starch. Regarding getting shirts made, you can go online through MyTailor, ModernTailor, Cottonworks, or many others. There are a bunch out there now. Or you could try to find someone locally. The price depends on who you get to make the shirt and what they make it out of. So it can be anywhere from $50 to over $1k. You could also take a ready-made shirt to a tailor to have the waist taken in and darts put in. This should cost around $15.
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

This is all very helpful information (particularly even the ones that don't apply to my experience but may influence the life of my shirts). I have found that with the (albeit small) number of cleaners that I use, that the condition of the shirts stays consistent for a given shirt. But I will inquire about the starch process, material, etc. I haven't noticed any undue wear or anything as a result of the treatments, but it may be because I rotate through so many shirts that it's not as evident.

 

And the suggestion to take an existing shirt and have it altered, also a very good idea, and maybe one I should have considered myself. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to answer this post - good day -

 

B

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