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How to tell Fused shirts?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by demeis, Jun 26, 2005.

  1. demeis

    demeis Senior member

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    With all the talk about fused suits/sport coats i was wondering how to tell if a shirts collar or cuffs are fused? What are the pros/cons of fusing vs non-fused?
     
  2. Shirtmaven

    Shirtmaven Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Most shirts have fused collars and fused cuffs.
    Cheap shirts as well as expensive ones.
    There are levels of quality in fusing as well.

    It is eaiser to make a fused collar then a non fused.

    Carl
     
  3. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    If you can't pull the "shell" (the same cotton as the body of the shirt) away from a piece of interlining, then you are dealing with fusing.  Bascically, two pieces of shirting cotton are heat-glued and then pressed flat at extremely high temperatures on either side of a piece of stiffish (but not as stiff as suit canvas) cotton interlining.  The result is that three pieces of cloth feel and perform like one.  Unfused collars and cuffs are merely stitched together at the edges.  If you pull at them and rub them together, you should be able to feel all three pieces.

    Also, unfused collars and cuffs are harder to iron, and really need to be done by hand.  If an unfused shirt is pressed by a commercial laundry, 99% of the time, fairly serious wrinkles will pressed in to the collar and cuffs, usually near the edge stitching.  Good hand pressing won't have that, because the presser will slowly smooth those wrinkles out.

    Benefits to fusing: easier to press and have the collars and cuffs look smooth.  Drawbacks: fraying will happen sooner.  Possible that you will see bubbles in the fusing after many washes and pressings.  (Though at the very upper end, this should not happen.)  Benefits to unfused collars and cuffs: softer, and therefore more comforatable.  Collar and cuffs will likely last longer.  Drawbacks: much harder to press; will likely look wrinkled at the edges.

    In my experience, no good shirtmaker fuses cuffs (unless the customer asks for it).  Many will fuse collars, but only a handful do it really well.
     
  4. demeis

    demeis Senior member

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    Thanks manton, very helpful as always
     
  5. Shirtmaven

    Shirtmaven Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Manton

    Thank you. I did not have the patience to typle all that out.

    Carl
     
  6. mkk

    mkk Senior member

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    For fused collars, the fabric of the outer part of the collar leaf, and the interlining, are fused together. The "bottom" of the collar leaf, the side on which the collar stay pockets can (usually) be found, is not fused unless it's somehow a doublesided fusible or a second layer of fusible is inserted in the collar. For collar bands, the better and more common practice among shirtmakers is to fuse the fabric of the outer collar band and the interlining together.

    Almost no British shirtmakers fuse collars. French Charvet does not. Lanvin does fuse its collars. Most Italian shirtmakers fuse collars by default. Italian collars tend to be thinner and "flatter," British-style collars tend to be "thicker."
     
  7. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    I don't mind fused collars and cuffs at all. In fact, I find that I prefer them. This is mainly because almost no one makes a good non-fused collar. Most high end Polo Blue Label does non-fused -- even the Lorenzini made ones -- and they are a bit prone to wrinkling. I'm not sure whether Manton is correct that almost "no good shirtmaker" fuses cuffs. I believe that Borrelli and most Italian makers fuse their collars AND cuffs. I personally don't notice much of a comfort difference. It's likely that nonfused collars and cuffs dissipate heat better, but I'm not a real hot person. Nonfused cuffs are certainly softer, but I for one think they look messier unless they are absolutely perfectly proportioned to one's wrist -- if they aren't, and if the sleeve length is just a dab long, there will be lots of wrinkling in the cuff. Not a good look IMO.

    That said, nonfused cuffs are physically softer for the most part -- I guess it's a pick your poison. Look good or feel good (others may disagree with me that fused cuffs "look" better). Some have suggested that nonfused collars have a more elegant roll or fullness over the tie. I certainly haven't worn good enough nonfused collars to have seen that.
     
  8. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I don't know of any bespoke shirtmakers who routinely fuse cuffs. Collars, about half do, half don't.
     
  9. Earthmover

    Earthmover Senior member

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    Have to disagree with Manton, although I am not disagreeing on the substance of it; simple the surrounding facts.

    From about 1991 to 1998, I used to iron shirts for my parents', so I speak from a lot of experience. The reason that unfused collars come out badly on machine presses on commercial laundry is predominantly due to time spent (and to a much lesser bit, expertise). In fact, using a machine press for ironing collars is far superior to using a hand iron in 99% of the cases with regards to getting the unfused collar to come out completely unwrinkled. It's difficult to explain this without a physical comparison and demonstration, but the trick is to lay out the collar properly before pressing. Most unfused collars, even the really low quality shirts, have the three layers shrink at the same ratios, therefore, properly stretching out the fabric right before pressing means it will come out perfectly when done by a moderately experienced presser. And if they did shrink at different levels (usually the interlining shrinks more), the hand ironer will actually have to "cheat" by ironing the top layer stretching from one side, then doing the other side stretching the opposite way, leaving them floating after ironing instead of being laid flat like they should be. In those cases, wrinkles are mostly inevitable, although with ingenious stretching of the collars, you can even avoid those on a machine press.

    The reason this is not so is because shirts are loss leaders for most drycleaners, and they do everything imaginable to save costs. For example, the machine I worked on was a non-full body shirt presser, which had a realistic limit of 24 shirts/hour. Most commercial shirt plants use a body presser and a sleever, which increases production to about 60 for a single body, and 100 for a double body. Because the collar/cuff pressing part is done separately, and takes the most time when done right, almost every discount shirt plant (and almost all commercial shirt presses are indeed "discount") rushes these, which leads to wrinkles. If they spend and average of 10 seconds more for the collar/cuff, they can eliminate 90% of wrinkles in nonfused collars. If they spend 15 seconds, 99%. But people that do these jobs these days are minimum wage, and the managers all insist on speed over quality, mainly because it's the only realistic way to operate at the prices most places charge.

    My parents charged $1.50 per shirt from 1991 to 1996, which was probably around 95th percentile of all drycleaners the US. They had to raise it to $2.00, because they were losing too much money; and they lost money even at $2/shirt. Only reason the price was so low was because we had extremely high customer loyalty due to shirts, and it attracted more. And being a small store, we were able to keep production low (400/week at the highest). Only my dad, myself, and one presser that worked for us for 3 years ever worked on the shirts, and my father's insistence on quality really made a huge difference. They definitely come out better than hand ironing, in my opinion.

    Anyway, the point is that commercial laundries do mess up unfused collars, but it's not because it's impossible to get right, but because the shirts are not finished with an emphasis on quality. The economics simply can't allow it. There are rare exceptions, but very difficult to find in any case. And as a final catch, the wrinkles made by commercial laundries are by no means permanent. However, the only way to get them out is by using a machine press; hand irons simply do not generate the pressure and heat to get all the wrinkles out perfectly. And since no one presses collars correctly with a machine press, it just seems like it's permanent. It's a vicious cycle.
     
  10. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Interesting. Thanks for the explanation.

    All I know is, when I sent unfused shirts out, they come back wrinkled. When I do it myself ... well, they're not exactly unwrinkled, but they do look better. Ditto when I shell out for an expensive laundry that hand presses.
     
  11. mkk

    mkk Senior member

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    Earlier I didn't read the first part properly. That said, unless it's a folding cuff (e.g. French/double cuff or 007-style cocktail cuff) there's no reason not to fuse.
     
  12. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Yes there is.  Softness; heat; fraying.  

    I like soft because the cuffs give more easily when I bend my wrists. I find that non-fused cuffs with thin interlinings are less hot. And fusing against a stiff interlining accelerates fraying, in my experience. I don't have any bespoke shirts with fused cuffs.  Some MTM, but no bespoke.
     
  13. Luc-Emmanuel

    Luc-Emmanuel Senior member

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    I will have to agree with JN3 there, non fused french cuffs are not only a mess to iron, but really look sloppy.
    I iron all my shirts myself, and I find it extremely difficult to achieve good results (i.e. no wrinkles) on unfused french cuffs, not to mention they have a tendency to bend and rest unelegantly if the sleeves are a bit too long (which is always the case for me on RTW shirts).

    .luc
     
  14. ernest

    ernest Senior member

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    Not true. It is easier to make a bad fused collar.

    I have heard that a good fised collar was slightly more difficult to make than a non fused.
     
  15. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    Ernest, you tell that professional shirtmaker that he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.. [​IMG]
     
  16. jcusey

    jcusey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Most shirtmakers do a crappy job with cuffs, French or otherwise. They use too much fabric on the outside of the cuff, and that makes it difficult to do a good job ironing. If the shirtmaker uses an appropriate amount of fabric and makes the cuff the way he's supposed to, ironing a non-fused cuff becomes much less difficult.
     
  17. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    Tis true -- but tis precisely the reason that it's hard to do a nonfused cuff. Fused cuffs are normally, shall we say, self-correcting. When fused cuffs and collars go wrong, it is not so much the quality of construction, but rather the quality of the fusing itself that goes wrong. Those more knowledgeable can correct me if I'm wrong.
     

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