One of the best things about made to measure clothing is the wait one has to inevitably endure until the item is available for collection. The immediate satisfaction of ready-to-wear clothing is short lived; the anticipation, the stroll up to the cash desk, and the slideshow of potential uses running through the mind, are exciting moments. However, as soon as the plastic has been swiped, the thrill subsides. It’s the waiting that makes it worthwhile. Waiting, in today’s world, is rather a novelty. We fly to places our ancestors endured weeks to travel to; we no longer expect communication to take more than a second through email; we microwave; we broadband; diets and exercise routines are fast, fast, fast. And in the midst of all this speed, it is strangely satisfying indeed to know that craft does, and will always, take time.
Cad & The Dandy, who made my superb double-breasted suit, offer a mixture of the new and the old; the craft and the speed. Although it still takes time for items to be made, the system of ordering is remarkably easy and very quick. Once your measurements have been taken, they are stored on your online account – to order more takes a few simple clicks of the mouse. So to order a shirt, all that was needed was a little use of the ‘design’ tool, a few more clicks and the order was complete. When it came to the exciting day of ‘collection’, the anticipation that had been building – mixed with a little trepidation as the shirt design was unusual – reached a high point. When I saw the shirt, this gave way to a sense of relief and satisfaction. Not only had I received a shirt cut correctly to my juvenile, awkward shape but also a shirt of a design for which I had searched high and low; horizontal stripes.
Horizontally striped shirts are near unicorn; they are almost never seen. I once spoke to a rather aloof assistant on Jermyn Street of them, of how interesting and attractive I thought them, and of my vain search for one. “Well” he scoffed “that’s probably because vertical stripes look infinitely better.” When I asked him whether he had seen one he responded in the negative claiming that it was probably a fad, an illogical foray into “being different for the sake of it.” I suggested to him it was the shirting equivalent of unbuttoned suit cuffs as it is more expensive to use striped material horizontally. He laughed derisively and attempted to persuade me to purchase a butcher stripe. Fortunately, though you won’t find them on Jermyn Street (or any other street for that matter), it is possible to twist a tailors arm into making you one. And, from my experience of the quality and the aesthetic of the result, I am rather rueful that I haven’t taken up the opportunity of made-to-measure shirts before.
Apart from the fact that Cad & The Dandy have thousands of fabrics to choose from, and countless configurations – yokes, collar types, placket types etc – the enduring appeal of such shirts is that they fit so extraordinarily well. Though off the rack shirts are of a high quality, they often have folds of material that I need to squeeze into my trousers and hide behind my waistcoat. It’s a depressing feeling that my gigantic collection of Jermyn Street shirts, though wonderful, has been comprehensively outshined by the new arrival. The arms, although I have been satisfied with them until now, feel unnecessarily baggy; even the sides of my slim-fit shirts are inches away from my body. And yet it is very pleasing that the shirt that I received is exactly the shirt I envisaged in my time of anticipation. “If this is going to happen” I told myself “it’s going to be something special.” The pattern matching is of a very high standard – a covered placket means that the horizontal lines are not broken at all by the buttons. Even the shirttails are well finished with rounded edges, complementing the club collar and cuffs perfectly. A friend of mine, considerably well-heeled, switched to made-to-measure shirts after leaving school. I consulted him about my excitement and his experiences. “In many ways” he told me “I don’t regret it at all – I feel and look better because of them. If I should lose everything, I’ll rue the day I thought I was grand enough to start.” I asked him whether there was any turning back, once you had started. His response; “None. Frankly, you’re doomed.”