Reader Question: Upgrading Shirts

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Chris (Westie): I want to move on from wearing M&S/Next shirts that don’t fit me properly. Would my next step be to go straight to a tailor? How much can I expect to spend and do I need to know what kind of material and colour or pattern I want?

Going straight to a tailor is always going to be the preferred option if you can find one that is easily accessible and not too expensive. I couldn’t afford the majority of tailor-made shirts in London. The cheapest I have found are at SuitSupply for individual shirts (around £80) and at Brooks Brothers for bulk orders (around £70). Both are too expensive for me to use as my regular shirt suppliers.

I was fortunate enough to go to Hong Kong a few times on business, and having now had my measurements taken by a reliable tailor there, and had them adjusted a few times, I have a reliable source of new shirts that fit well and cost around £25, which is much more reasonable. This is the option to go for if you can find a comparable service – but I’m aware that may not be possible.

There are options to have shirts made to measure over the internet. Manning & Manning over at www.shirts-custom.com is one example. However, I have never tried any of these services and so cannot vouch for them. What’s more, I wouldn’t trust myself to measure myself. Something is bound to be altered in the very act of measuring, rather like quantum mechanics. And getting someone else to do it might be even worse. Better to have a proper tailor involved.

So, Chris, your next best option is to spend a lot of time trying on shirts in slightly more upmarket shops. This will take a while but is worth it. Think about the experience as all the shopping you’ll ever have to do, rolled into one weekend.

Essentially, every brand will cut their shirts in a slightly different shape, with the width of the neck being the only constant. Try each of them on and you will eventually find one that fits you pretty well. Here is a rundown of my experience of mid-range shirts in London:

Massimo Dutti
– Some of the best shirts for value for money. Two lines around either £40 or £60. There are more tailored options, as well. Rather too short in the tails, but that is inevitable these days as manufacturers want to save money by using less material, and men often want to wear their shirts untucked and therefore do not want dress-length tails.

Reiss
– Some nice shirts but a very slim fit. Many fit me well around the waist but are too tight across the chest. Collars also a little too large for my taste. Also rather expensive – usually £60 to £80. You might as well order a bunch of made-to-measure shirts for that price.

Hackett – Probably my favourite off-the-peg shirts that I still own. Good quality. Could be a little narrower in the waist but not bad considering. Also a little short in the tails. £50 to £70.

TM Lewin
– Again, good value. In the sales often reduced to £25. And there’s always a sale. Good long tails but far too large in the waist for me. They now have a semi-fitted line but I haven’t tried them. £25 to £50.

I hope this is useful, Chris. Another option would be to go to a department store and try on a lot of different brands. Stand in front of three mirrors, to show you every angle. And bring a girlfriend with you, or a man with at least as much interest in clothes as you. Looking at the folds across your back will be key (see my posts on the fit of a suit).


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Simon Crompton is a journalist and a style enthusiast living in London, who blogs at permanentstyle.blogspot.com. He has too many suits.