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Why Bespoke Shirts?

post #1 of 133
Thread Starter 
As I've watched over the years, there has been thread after thread comparing the virtues of many Ready-to-Wear brands, R-T-W Brands vs. Bespoke shirts, and at the top of the food chain, comparisons among the various bespoke makers. This series deals with only the second thought, that of Ready-to-Wear in contrast to Bespoke. I shall neither comment on Arrow v. Borelli (except to say that the Arrow is probably a better value), nor shall I opine on whether Charvet out-gussets Turnbull or Paris is more beautiful than Geneva. My sole goal here is to explain why bespoke shirts will serve you better than the pursuit of the ultimate R-T-W. Future threads in this series will deal with fit, quality of construction, levels of craftsmanship, and choice of styling options such as cuffs, collars, yokes, pockets, front center treatments ... but that's for later. This thread will explain in very simple terms the primary and overarching advantage of Bespoke vs. Ready-to-Wear: Selection of the Fabric. The average well-stocked specialty menswear retailer will have in current season stock somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 different R-T-W shirts, each in a variety of sizes ranging from 14-32 to 17.5-37. A large department store may as much as double that. Within that selection must be included button cuffs, French cuffs, self-collared shirts, white-collared shirts, as well as perhaps a few tabs and button-downs. Hence, for the person seeking a specific type of shirt, that 100 shirt selection gets divided down by at least a factor of four, leaving a universe of maybe 25 fabrics from which to choose. It is different at a reputable bespoke maker: One of the advantages is that you will be offered not only current season stock, but due to the long lag time in the Ready-to-Wear trade, you will even have the privilege of choosing from Next Season's offerings. New fabrics are offered at the same time to Bespoke as well as R-T-W makers. The major difference is that a bespoke maker can have a shirt made for you within days or weeks whereas even the fastest R-T-W production process requires a minimum of six months ... and usually longer. Advantage One: Be the first on your block It is different at a reputable bespoke maker: Though specialty menswear and department stores will usually have an oxford and maybe a jacquard, the vast majority of their offerings will be broadcloths. Of these, the overwhelming number will be single ply 80's; the 'special selection' on the top shelf will consist of a few two ply 100's and perhaps one 'World's Finest' 2x2 120s or a Sea Island. Not so in the world of custom. Any good shirtmaker will stock oxfords, broadcloths, voiles, jacquards, meshes, basket-weaves, blends of linen & cotton, pure linen, silk and maybe even a cashmere-cotton or cashmere-silk. Most of those will, in turn, be offered in 80's singles, 100's singles, 80's 2x2, 100's 2x2, 120's 2x2, 140's 2x2, 160's 2x2, 180's 2x2, and the pinnacle of all, 200's 2x2. Heck, the bespoke maker has more variety just in types of fabric than a menswear store can carry in their entire selection of patterns. Advantage Two: You order type of fabric which suits your purpose It is different at a reputable bespoke maker: The bespoke maker cannot survive by offering 100 fabric designs. In order to satisfy the variety of needs of a group of sophisticated shirt clients, the average custom house will stock a few more than that. This is where words fail. Enjoy: [b]Advantage ... the Ultimate: You order type of fabric which suits your purpose ... from a selection of thousands. More to come. Thanks for reading. A quick note: Please do not cut and paste the fabric photo with any questions or comments you may post. It is large and will consume a great deal of bandwidth. Thank you. Copyright © 2005 Alexander S. Kabbaz. All rights reserved.
post #2 of 133
<drool>
post #3 of 133
I bought bespoke shirts because I was bored, probably. Thought I'd give it a go. Maybe some snobbery motivated my decision. Now while I haven't patronized the great AK, I've have had Harvie & Hudson and Ascot Chang (mainly before they set up in the US) make shirts. They're nice, but I find that a Gitman fits me pretty well. And I happy with them.
post #4 of 133
I have recently transitioned from RTW to MTM and now on to bespoke shirts. Undoubtedly, bespoke shirts are the way to go. There is simply no comparison; the choice of material, styling options, fit and yes, relatively value, make bespoke an outstanding choice. But ofcourse you will need to work carefully with the shirtmaker and expect to refine your shirt style over a number tries. The ultimate result will be very rewarding. Infact, bespoke shirts are a great introduction to the world of bespoke at a relatively low entry cost compared to suits, shoes, etc. As to comparative value, the top end RTW shirts cost now around $250-350, near to what many bespoke shirts cost, I believe. So why buy an off the shelf product when, with a little investment in time, involvement and thought, I can get a custom made product to my specifications with literally 100s of options and variations available. No need to go back to RTW for business wear anymore. And am now looking at what shirtmakers can do in designing for "smart casual " (uggh.., that description) , say nice weekend sport shirts worn with coats, going to restaurants, whatever....
post #5 of 133
I just never found a RTW shirt that fit me. They all look like a tent with slleves too short on me. I bought MTM before I could afford it.
post #6 of 133
I can barely make out the patterns of the stripes and checks, but I can see them just clearly enough to drool.
post #7 of 133
Thread Starter 
Quote:
(uppercase Posted on Feb. 19 2005,02:16) And am now looking at what shirtmakers can do in designing for "smart casual " (uggh.., that description) , say nice weekend sport shirts worn with coats, going to restaurants, whatever....
Next in the Why Bespoke Shirts? series is a short compendium of ideas for "sport" or "weekend casual" shirt designs. Just post a note if you have specific design features about which you would like to learn more.
post #8 of 133
Alex, I don't recall if you weighed in on this before, and I can't find the thread I started about it. What do you think of a white linen shirt with double cuffs? I am envisioning wearing it with a light grey summerweight suit. Thanks.
post #9 of 133
Thread Starter 
Ah lovvvvvvvves white linen. Especially with a lightweight Summer suit - which I assume you'll be wearing in the Summer - 'cuz if you're wearing it today you're gonna freeeeze your ba**s off. I don't know if I would go with the standard handkerchief linen weight on this one or a stiffer, crisper, more 'starched-looking' variety. If your shirtmakers offers them, do look at both even though the stiffer will empty more of your wallet. My only objection to your concept would be the thought of heavy double cuffs on an otherwise light, crisp, clean shirt. I would most certainly select single link cuffs.
post #10 of 133
Do you advocate actual starching for linen (either for day wear or pleated)? If not, do you make the collars/cuffs especially stiff to hold up over a hot night, or just resign yourself to the more casual look of wrinkled/droopy cloth?
post #11 of 133
Thread Starter 
Quote:
(Concordia \tPosted on Feb. 20 2005,20:10) Do you advocate actual starching for linen (either for day wear or pleated)? If not, do you make the collars/cuffs especially stiff to hold up over a hot night, or just resign yourself to the more casual look of wrinkled/droopy cloth?
In answer to the first question, No. If that is the purpose for which you intend the shirt to be used, I would use a stiff linen to make the shirt in the first place. As regards your second question, Yes. I would make the collar and cuffs especially stiff. An "Especially Stiff" Kabbaz collar is not something you want to toy with. Clients have been know to test them by running them over with their limo, which invariably results in a dirty collar and a punctured tire. If, on the other hand, the shirt were for casual use, then let the Wrinkling begin. I would use "handkerchief" linen (that would be new, not used) which is the lightest available, most wrinkle-prone weight. Due to its light weight, however, the wrinkles are 'soft' rather than 'hard' and the overall appearance is ... well, let's just say I make quite a few of them. Just to give you an idea of the complexity of the issue you have raised, we have at least 50 different types of linen that we use. My answer is as specific as I can make it in less than a book.
post #12 of 133
Thanks. You have whetted my appetite.
post #13 of 133
I always pictured a white linen shirt with a cutaway and double cuffs, paired with a linen / wool weaved tie and a linen / silk / cashmere suit as something quite out of the ordinary, yet refreshingly crisp. Ah, Alex if you only allowed one shirt for your initial order. Jon.
post #14 of 133
Thread Starter 
Quote:
(imageWIS \tPosted on Feb. 21 2005,10:52) Ah, Alex if you only allowed one shirt for your initial order.
Dear Jon, Would you like salt and pepper ... or mustard ... for that foot? The six minimum is only on bespoke. We make single R-T-W shirts all the time - and they use client measurements, not stock patterns. Would you like to make your appointment now, or call when it is more convenient? BTW, just received a new shipment of white linen about an hour ago. Should I post a photo?
post #15 of 133
Quote:
We make single R-T-W shirts all the time - and they use client measurements, not stock patterns.
I'm confused. How is a shirt that is made to a client's measurements RTW?
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