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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top Things To Look For When Buying A Shirt Off The Rack

A number of my friends refuse to have their shirts made for them because they feel that with so many companies offering shirts at below $40 AUD there is no reason they should spend the money on a bespoke or custom made shirt when considering that, even with alterations costs included, the $40.00 shirt will never exceed more than $90.00 including alterations. A bespoke shirt, usually starting at around the $250.00 AUD mark, therefore equates to anywhere between 3 and 6 cheap off the rack shirts.

I can completely understand this logic. I have seen the volume based business shirts offered by some of these companies and in fairness the quality isn't bad. It's not great quality, not in fabric nor in stitch work, but it's a case of horses for courses. For a man who wears 5 business shirts a week and doesn't want to outlay a great deal for his wardrobe each year, it makes good financial sense. The prices of Sydney housing, food and education of one's children mean that there isn't a great deal of the pie left over for his wardrobe. I find it hard to argue against these men any more because they are calling it straight down the line and there is little pleading to a man with these kinds of financial concerns. In the seminal stand up comedy film 'Raw' by Eddie Murphy he asks his woman 'Wassup?' to which she responds 'the rent mother-fucker'. Brazen, yes, but perhaps these same men have wives with equal concerns about home finances.

So, if you were to buy an off the rack shirt for $40.00 what should you be looking for?


The most important aspect in my opinion to get right first is the collar size. It's very hard to find anyone that can make you a new collar and if they can it will only be in a contrast fabric since the shirt body will invariably be impossible to match. Collars can be altered up to about 0.5cm by repositioning the button without it affecting the way the collar sits and that's about all you will get before you need to have a new collar made.

How are the shoulders fitting on the shirt. This is the first sign of an off the rack shirt. If you can see the shoulder seam is a long way off the nub of the shoulder this shirt will always strike others as a sack of potatoes. The cost of altering this is probably not worth it so it's important to get the shoulders right to start with. Tight with no flexibility is no good. Too loose and the shirt will have no personality. The seam which runs across your shoulders from the collar to the armhole, which is what we call the front yoke seam, should sit comfortably on the ridge of the shoulders. The back yoke seam, which will either be split down the centre, or a single piece, should not billow and follow approximately the curve of the back and should only be taught when you curl your shoulders.

Sleeve length

The most common reason customers come to us for bespoke shirts is when their arms are too long for the standard sizes offered by off the rack customers. Either that or they are too rotund in the belly. For sleeve length it's a lot better if the sleeve is a little too long than if it's too short. The only answer to too short is to cut a brand new cuff in a contrast colour which is not really an answer. So that's an easy one to remember, if it's short in the arms, put it back.

Chest & Stomach

There is very little room to let out a shirt from any fabric left in the seams of a price-point driven shirt. For this reason it's always better to buy a shirt that's too big because it's easy to bring it in from the side seems from the bottom of the armhole down to the hem than to try and squeeze anything out from the opposite direction.

Back & Darts

To be fair I don't have much experience with putting darts in shirts because we mostly never do them owing to the way in which we measure and fit shirts prior to cutting them. However, I am told that the fastest and most inexpensive way to get the balloon out of the back is to use darts. Darts can be on the front or in the back. The problem with darts is that they are a cheap way to get a fitted look and amongst shirt aficionados they are sometimes frowned upon.

Shirt Length

The length of a shirt is imperative for the use of a shirt. Never buy a business shirt if it's sitting on the line of which you wear trousers. There is nothing more displeasing nor downright uncomfortable as a shirt which continually lifts out above the trouser line. You do not want to be tucking your shirt in all day long. You do not want to have a scruff look around your waist. Be generous with your length because in business and in suits it pays to look tidy. Always separate your shirts for weekend casual from the shirts you use during the working week and don't try merge the two unless you plan to tuck your shirt in. Another point to note is that most trousers which are cut for suits will sit higher than your low cut jeans so there is even more scope to make your shirts extra long if you intend to tuck them in on the weekend. 

A Le Noeud Papillon Bespoke Shirt With High Collar Stand And Dual Function Cuff Using SIC Tess Fabric & Australian Mother Of Pearl Buttons -

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