Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Alexander Kabbaz, Dec 4, 2004.
Dear Mr. Kabbaz,
First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to write the answers and to share your knowledge with us. Very much appreciated.
Regarding the drop and darts, If I understand correctly, the best seamstress/ster would achieve drops of up to 14 in. without the use of darts, whereas a less competent one can only go around it by sewing darts. So basically darts are not a sign of a quality shirt, but just a styling option, just like pleats are. Very interesting.
On the buttoning of casual shirts sans tie, your assertions make sense. Many men unbutton the 1st button and I though this was some kind of rule, good to know this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, collars tend to rest in a sloppy manner with the 1st button undone. What you say about the use of interlining, to provide better lay of the collar when worn open, I find most interesting.
Great post, thanks. Â I officially nominate it be added to the HOF. Â Couple of follow ups:
How can this be recognized?
I understand that with your methods, a gusset would add nothing to the shirt. Â On lesser shirts (ie, up to $200.) does a gusset add anything structurally? Â And I certainly can't imagine that it *detracts*. Â
I'm sure there are others here with this same problem: Â I spent too much money on shirts before knowing about this board, and am loathe to simply toss them aside. Â Can a tailor fix this after the fact? Â Even if it were to cost, say, as much as a replacement shirt.
Thanks again for the great info.
Many thanks for sharing this with us and I greatly appreciate you using size 15.5/34 as a reference This has been a great beginning of my Sunday. One lingering question I've had: Wearing shirts in the smaller sizes has got me thinking about how a shirt should reflect the proportions of the smaller and slimmer wearer. One of the tricks attributed to the Duke of Windsor's tailor was that he was able to make him look good even if he was on the short side. The magic was simply to keep all proportions appropriate for the Duke's frame. Is there a guideline/tradition regarding, for example, the front placket width, cuff length and height of yoke ? I've got a suspicion that most RTW shirts will use the same front placket and cuffs for all their sizes. This will leave a short armed 14.5 looking like he's more petite than he really is, with cuffs up to his elbows and the placket covering half of his front. I'll sneak in another question that I don't expect you to answer, but here goes: What do you feel about those carved-in-stone rules that Flusser and others state regarding the relation between the shape of a face an its optimal collar type? My view is that it's a lot of manure, except in the extreme cases and 80% of people can wear the collar they like regardless of their facial structure. The outliers, such as those with the longest of faces should perhaps stay away from extreme point collars and people in possession of a few extra chins should perhaps stay away from the full spread collar. I'll admit that the shape of the face is a factor but in most cases, other factors will overshadow it. BjÃ¶rn
I second Tiger's nomination.
Thank you very much for this post. It's a lot to digest, and I'll watch other people's questions to see if asking my own will be necessary. I will link it to the HOF right now.
J - Thank you very much. That is quite a nice thing for you to do.
If I may permitted, I will copy the post on the AA forum, including DeanK's original question and Mr. Kabbaz's (may I call you Alex? We are all pretty informal here on the SF forum after all...) response and copyright information: Dear Mr. Kabbaz: We have heard about the decline of suitings over the years. Has there been a decline in shirting, and if so, can you please explain where things were, and what they have come to. Thanks, Dean I'm not sure that I agree with the hypothesis that we have seen a decline in suitings over the years. Nonetheless, your question addressed shirtings. No, I would not say there has been a decline. There have been many, many changes, however. In my opinion, the majority of those changes have been for the better; some have not. THE WEAVING You cannot understand fabric quality without a basic knowledge of the manner in which it is created. Fabric is made of yarns which run in two directions. In the length, the yarns are known as the warp. The warp is made by rolling up a whole lotta yarns on a metal tube called a warp beam. These yarns are then threaded into the loom. The other yarns run across the fabric and are known as the weft. These yarns are actually (usually) one long yarn on a cone which is fed in sideways through the warp yarns. In broadcloth or popline, the warp yarns are fed over one warp yarn, under the next, over the next, and so on in a 1:1 regular pattern. For other fabrics (i.e., oxfords) the pattern might be over 2, under 1, over 2, under 1, etc. Back in the old days (sounding your age, Kabbaz?) weaving was a much more mechanical process than it is today. In shirtings, this topic centers primarily around the shuttle. The shuttle of old was a wooden device which had points on both ends and a spool of yarn in the middle. It literally flew back and forth across the loom going inbetween the warp yarns. The faster it travelled, the greater the strain on the yarn coming off the spool. If it ran too fast, or came to a weak spot in the yarn, the yarn would break. The loom would have to be stopped, the broken end tied (by hand) back to the yarn it broke from, and the loom restarted. Practical experience netted the realization that about the smallest yarns which could withstand this process were the 120's ... and then only if the loom was run quite slowly. Lo and behold (OMG, Kabbaz) in the last quarter century or so, some smart inventor said, "Why can't I shoot this thread through on a fine jet of high-speed air?" And so the 'air shuttle' was born. Now that the yarns would no longer be broken by the friction of the shuttle, the weavers could use finer ones. Hence the birth of the 2x2 140's, the 160's, the 170's, 180's, 200's, and 200's x 240's. ANSWER #1 Improvements in weaving technology have lead to the greatest and most rapid improvements in shirting quality ever - in the field of cloth fineness. For a chronological measure, the first 170's I remember came from Alumo in 1985; 200's - also from Alumo - about 1996. ANSWER #2 Improvements in weaving technology have lead to the virtual elimination of the Knots discussed above. These were quite numerous in older fabrics. either the cutter used a great deal of extra cloth to cut around them ... or they ended up in your shirt. Needless to say, it is taboo for a cutter to use a lot of extra cloth. So you can kinda guess where the knots went. THE FINISHING Fabric which emanates from a loom and is meant to have a finished width of 60" comes from the loom at a much greater width, usually about 72" or so. It then goes through one or all of a variety of 'finishing' processes. These include dying, sizing, sanforization, and pre-shrinking to name just a few common ones. Side Trip - You've probably heard of the 47 common varieties of Scotch whiskey. One of the primary factors in the variety lies in the water used in the fermenting process. Just as Scotch, water is one of the key components in many of the fabric finishing processes. Not so strangely, many of the fabrics used to be finished in Scotland. Variety in fabric finished was obtained, in part, by the weaver's selection of which of those 47 waters was to be used. Now, thanks to population increases and pollution, that wide variety is no longer available. Now, thanks to environmental regulation, the use of formaldehyde in the finishing process, along with the use of other questionable chemicals, is either discouraged or outlawed. Due to this, certain of the 'antique' fabrics I own which were made back in the 1930's and 1940's, have such a high sheen to them that they appear almost as silk satin. Without the availability of the 'right' waters and the discouraged chemicals, these sheen qualities are no longer possible. ANSWER #3 Due to environmental restrictions, the super high sheen has dissappeared from the surface of shirting fabrics, never to be seen again. LONGEVITY I have a few yards of some 200's x 240's woven for me in the 1990's. In order to do so, the mill had to run the loom at a rate of 35 meters per day. Even so, there were still some broken weft yarns and the requisite knots therein. And that was the fastest they could be run. Loom speed today is measured in the tens of thousands of yards per loom per day. The better shirtings (Italian, Swiss - best mills) are made on looms running from 1000 to 3000 meters daily. And this is what happens: The faster you run the loom, the greater the inherent tension in the yarns of the resulting fabric. Additionally, on the super high-speed looms, microscopic breaks in the yarns are caused. These do not become evident until the tension begins to really relax. This happens when the fabric is wet (in the laundry). As the number of launderings increases, those fabrics begin to degrade rapidly. Fabrics woven on the slower looms - in other words those without the high tension breakage - do not begin to degrade anywhere near as rapidly. This is why I can show you a 2x2 170's shirt made in the mid-1980's and laundered more than 200 times which is perfectly serviceable while a new shirt made of high-speed woven fabric is virtual garbage after 25 washes. ANSWER #4 Better quality fabric is available, albeit expensive. The vast majority or fabrics affordable to the R-T-W trade, however, are of inferior longevity characteristics. DESIGN There exists an adage in the shirting business: Every design pattern will come 'round again in seven years. By and large, this is true. My library dates back to the 1930's. During the last 30 years, I have seen the vast majority of those older patterns come back, exist for awhile, and go 'out' again. But with every year which passes, new designs are created and offered. Therefore, the great library-in-the-sky of shirting designs is forever growing. More and more is available to choose from. Now, you may not like some of the "more" ... you may not even like anything which isn't sky blue or white. Nonetheless, my opinion is that 'more' in the area of available designs is a good thing. ANSWER #5 The quality of available designs, simply by the addition of more and the resulting range of choice, is ever improving. SUMMATION In my personal opinion, the quality and breadth of top-quality shirting fabrics have undergone exponential improvement during the 30 years of my shirtmaking career. At the same time, however, the ability of public relations and marketing campaigns to spin the attributes of an otherwise poor fabric into making it sound like golden threads of gossamer silk have also improved exponentially. Therefore, the phrase caveat emptor has never been so important as it is today in the determination the quality of a specific piece or shirt fabric. Copyright Â 2004 Alexander S. Kabbaz. All rights reserved. Forum members may quote from and print for their own individual personal use. Any other reproduction by whatever means is prohibited.
Just call me Jon. Jon.
Interesting reading as always.
How much magnification would one need to be able to detect these imperfections in shirting material? Could it be done with a 10x gem loupe?
Also, could one learn how to spot these imperfections simply by examining some high quality fabrics followed by some of lower quality?
I have used a 5x and a 10x, but I actually prefer my printers screen-checker glass which magnifies a square inch. The gem loupe is so small in circumference that you really can't see very much. The magnifying light we use for monogramming is also great because it is 7" across, but it isn't much magnification. It can also be done with the naked eye if the eye is trained - or at least it could when my eyes were in their thirties. Also, you really have to be more specific about what you are looking for. Cloth is really very interesting when magnified and there is a great deal to look at.
I wouldn't know. I have none of the latter.
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