When I was given the opportunity to travel to New York City to cover Capsule, there was one store on the top of my must visit list: Kamakura Shirts. Like so much of my menswear knowledge, I first learned of the brand on StyleForum, and I was intrigued at the prospect of a new shirt maker in America that offered affordable and well-styled shirts.
Founded in 1991 by Yoshido Sadusue, the brand tries to replicate the classic 1960s Ivy League Style epitomized by the Brooks Brothers oxford cloth button down, the staple of college campuses all across the East Coast. From their tiny shop – it’s really very small – on Madison Avenue in the Upper East Side, Kamakura sells Made in Japan shirts starting at $79 (cheaper than many shirts sold by Brooks Brothers today). The styles range from basic, standard oxford cloths to unique summer pique shirts that are an interesting combination of a polo shirt and a button-down.
I visited early in the morning on a weekday, and the store was quiet and relaxed. The staff was friendly, polite and knowledgeable, and was eager to make suggestions. I also appreciated that they kept a number of try on shirts on hand, allowing me to avoid the awkward “let me just open this sealed shirt to give it a go...” dilemma you find in many clothing stores.
I am a particular fan of their classic oxford cloth button down. Produced in casual, royal and pinpoint oxford cloths (covering pretty much every level of formality), they feature a substantial collar roll with long points and a pronounced arch as well as thick mother-of-pearl buttons. The workmanship is top notch with precise and neat stitching and a high stich per inch count and the fabrics feel luxurious at every price point. The buttonholes, while machine sewn, are neat and sturdy.
Beyond their oxford cloth button downs, Kamakura sells a varied selection of shirts. While I normally only wear button-down collars, I tried on shirts featuring classic spreads, wide spreads and Italian cutaways, and they also carry a line-up of formal shirts appropriate for black and white tie. The shirts come in four different fits in varying degrees of slimness. The slimmest fit is the “Tokyo Slim Fit” and is a slim fit with a pronounced V-shape and back darts. It is much slimmer than both Brooks Brothers extra-slim fit and Charles Tyrwhitt slim fits. The next step down is the “Tokyo Classic Fit,” which, will still slim, has less of a taper. For the American market they also developed two new fits, “New York Slim Fit” and “New York Classic Fit,” which are much closer to standard American dress-shirt sizing. Important to note is that Kamakura cuts their shirt with the assumption that they will be machine dried, and leaves a fabric allowance to account for shrinkage. If you plan on hang drying or dry cleaning, you can most likely size down. Although I’m a standard 16.5/35, when trying on shirts I found that the 16/35 fit well. For non-dress shirts, I found a large in the Tokyo Slim Fit is equivalent to a medium in most American brands.
Kamakura also recently unveiled their in-shop made-to-measure program. Shirts cost $180 – a price that includes Thomas Mason fabrics – with a turn around of 45 days. They also carry a more luxurious shirt line, the “300 Club,” which features shirts made of higher-quality fabrics and higher thread counts. While I didn’t have an opportunity to try one on, the fabrics were delicate to the touch, and the stitching looked similar to that found in extremely high-end Italian brands.
Since my visit, Kamakura has expanded their stock with a range of limited edition oxford cloth button downs commemorating the upcoming first-year anniversary of the New York store, as well as a line of vintage Ivy styled shirts in collaboration with Graham Marsh. While back in Japan Kamakura sells a full lineup of suiting, in America their shirts are only joined by a small selection of accessories. I got to see bowties, ties and cufflinks, and all fit in well with the store’s overall Ivy aesthetic. The store also carries a small selection of women’s clothing.
If you don’t live in New York, or don’t travel there regularly for Capsule, their shirts are available online. The website also includes detailed and accurate sizing charts
Edited by Teger - 9/25/13 at 7:39pm