Your Guide to Men's Bespoke Shirts

Your Guide to Men's Bespoke Shirts

Check out this guide to men's bespoke shirts. A classic and luxury item that men would love to have in their wardrobes. Here at Idle HQ, we'll take you through the steps on how to buy a bespoke shirt, and how they're made. 

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We all own a classic shirt, they're versatile and easy to wear, and sometimes very cheap to buy, especially when you buy them in bulk like most of us do. However, what many of us don't think of, or probably don't even know about, is the bespoke shirt.

Bespoke shirts are a classic and luxury item to own. Much like a classic Savile Row suit, they can be made and tailored to your exact body shape, but, I'm afraid these come at a cost. If you do want to go down the tailor made shirts road then here at Idle HQ we've got you covered. We're here to tell you everything that you need to know about the world of bespoke shirts, from how they're made, to how you can go about getting one.

bespoke shirts at norton and sons savile row
PHOTO CREDIT: Norton & Sons

Made to Measure Shirts

The most important thing when you're looking at buying a shirt is the fit. It doesn't matter whether you're buying bespoke or ready-to-wear, the fit is the most important factor. Many people will tell you that the fit is the make or break, and, there's nothing worse than seeing a man in a shirt that doesn't fit.

It's important to know that when you're looking at handmade shirts, you'll want to buy one that's a little bigger than what you are. This is because when you wash a shirt for the first time, it will shrink about 5 cm in length and in the collar. This isn't the case for many shirts, so it's important that you check the care label when you're buying it.

The one thing that I must stress to you all is to get yourself measured. Once you have yourself measured, either by yourself or a tailor, you'll know exactly what size you are. When they, or yourself, measure, they will go by the thickest part of your chest, and your collar.

Shirts differ on size and shape depending on your collar and chest size. So, for instance, you may be 38-40 inches around your chest, but you may have a 16.5 inch collar. If you're going to a specialist tailor, this is how they will measure and vary on their sizes.

shirt size guide
Mens Shirts Size Guide

Collar

  • Your collar shouldn't be restrictive.
  • You should be able to get two fingers in between your neck and your shirt and easily move your fingers around your neck.
  • If you can't get two fingers in between then it's too small, if you can get more than two finger in between then it may be too loose.

how a shirt should fit in the collar
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

Shoulders

  • You'll notice seems along the shirt that attach the sleeve to the torso of the shirt.
  • This seem should sit right on your shoulder.
  • If it's too high into the torso, then it's too small.
  • If it's too low, then it's too big.

how a shirt should fit in the arms
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

Arms

  • The length of your sleeves should sit no higher than your wrist bone.
  • There should be enough room so that, if your wear a watch, that half of the watch face should be visible.
  • Everyone is different, so if you're struggling to find the perfect length it will probably be best to buy a shirt with the sleeves slightly longer and have them taken up.

how a shirt should fit in sleeves
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

Chest

  • Again, it shouldn't be restrictive.
  • Your shirt should skim over the thickest part of your chest
  • You should be able to easily move in your shirt.
  • So, move around a little bit and feel whether you're being restricted at all.

how a shirt should fit in the chest
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

Length

  • The front length of your shirt should sit no lower than your hip bones.
  • The back length of your shirt should sit no lower than the centre of your bottom.

how a shirt should fit in length
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

Custom Shirts

Much like Savile Row shirts, a bespoke shirt takes a long time to make, and, a lot of skill and attention to detail. Shirt makers can train for up to six or seven years to become a fully qualified shirt maker. Even after that they're always learning, especially when they're faced with a certain body shape or build that they haven't worked with before.

shirt cutting knives at dege and skinner savile row
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

  • You will first be measured, everything from your collar, to your arms, and across your chest.
  • These measurements will then be made into patterns by a pattern cutter.
  • These patterns will then be taken to a shirt maker, who will then cut out the material.
  • These patterns will then be fitted to your body and remeasured.
  • The shirt will be taken apart again, re-cut and re-sewn until it is perfect.
  • This can take anything from a couple of hours, to a few days to get absolutely right.

Tailored Shirts

Many people believe that the idea of a luxury piece of clothing is something way out of their league. However, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong. The luxury market has never been more open; no longer are the best things only for the rich and famous, anybody can walk into a shop and order a bespoke shirt.

Now, I'm talking like these shirts are two a penny, but saving up your pennies (which most of us would have to) with that feeling of going in, being measured and able to design your own shirt, is a good feeling. The shirt will be made for you. You will pick the materials, collar and style that you want, and the shirt maker will take that into consideration when making your shirt.

shirt maker at turnbull and asser
PHOTO CREDIT: Turnbull & Asser

How To Choose The Right Collar

When purchasing custom made shirts, there are a few collar types out there for men to choose from, but it's best to stick with three main collar types that will suit most face shapes and styles. They are the spread collar, point collar and button down collar. These three collar shapes will be the most versatile and easy to wear when you're looking at a bespoke shirt.

  • Point Collar
    • This collar is best for a wider face as it gives the illusion of a slimmer face.
    • Worn with a slimmer tie to enhance the illusion of slimmer proportions.
  • Spread Collar
    • This collar is best if you have a slimmer face shape and neck as it gives the illusion of wider proportions.
  • Button Down Collar
    • This is the most common collar type when looking at shirts.
    • This collar is best worn undone as it's more casual.

mens collar shapes spread collar point collar button down collar
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

Detachable Collar

A detachable collar is another option when picking out collars for your bespoke shirt. A detachable collar simply means that it can be removed from the shirt to be washed or ironed separately. You can get a detachable collar in any collar style that you like, whether it's spread, pinpoint or button down. (Just remember to put it on in the morning).

mens detachable shirt collars at norton and sons savile row
PHOTO CREDIT: Norton & Sons

How To Choose The Right Cuffs

Much like the collar, the cuff comes in various shapes and styles for you to choose from. Again, much like the collar, there are three main cuff styles for you to choose from, and they are the button cuff, cocktail cuff and the French cuff. These depend on what you need the shirt for, as certain cuff styles are appropriate for the office, whereas others are better for a more formal occasion.

  • Button Cuff
    • Fastened by one or two buttons (funnily enough).
    • More of a casual style.
    • Better for the office than a formal occasion.
  • Cocktail Cuff
    • This is a double length, barrelled cuff.
    • It folds back on itself creating a different, yet detailed look.
    • Perfect for work or smart-casual occasions.
  • French Cuff
    • Usually a one hole fastening.
    • Fastened by cufflinks.
    • Suitable for more formal occasions.

mens shirt cuffs
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

Choosing The Right Material

The greatest luxury of buying a bespoke shirt is that you have complete control over everything that goes into making the shirt. This also means you get to choose the material that you use. Of course, the price point of your shirt depends on what kind of material you use, with the more rare or exceptional the material, the higher the cost.

Cotton

Cotton will probably be the most common material that you will find when looking at shirts. No matter what the price point of your shirt, or, whether it's bespoke or bought off an online retailer in bulk, you'll see that it's made from cotton. Now, the quality and durability of cotton is what makes it so sought after in shirt materials.

  • Pros
    • Cheaper to use and more readily available.
    • Natural material, meaning it's breathable and soft.
  • Cons
    • Cotton can shrink easily.
    • Wrinkles or creases.
    • Because it's a natural material, it can be damaged quite easily.

mens cotton shirt
PHOTO CREDIT: NM Wiliiams

Sea Island Cotton

Sea Island cotton is a type of cotton that many of you, including myself, have probably never even heard of. This particular cotton is grown in its own micro-climate (sounds fancy already) to achieve the highest quality possible.

The great thing about Sea Island cotton is that every time you wash it, it becomes softer and more supple. This may sound a little bit odd to some of you, as it did to me, but when you feel the difference, it's mad how soft it becomes, almost like butter.

  • Pros
    • Gets better with age.
    • Becomes softer each time when washed, but it's naturally soft and durable.
  • Cons
    • Very expensive and difficult to get ahold of.

sea island cotton shirt for men
PHOTO CREDIT: Proper Cloth

The Different Types Of Weave Available In A Classic Shirt

There are different types of weave available when you're looking at materials for your bespoke shirt. Although this is a detail that many people wouldn't even notice, it's nice to have that option when you're picking out components of your bespoke shirt.

Oxford Weave

  • Created by weaving thick yarns into a basket weave.
  • Thicker fabric that has variations in shade, creating a detailed fabric.
  • Reserved for more casual shirts.
  • Warm and breathable.

oxford weave shirt for men
PHOTO CREDIT: Proper Cloth

Poplin Weave

  • Poplin is made with thinner fabric.
  • Creates a smooth, thin and long lasting material.
  • Keeps its smooth integrity once ironed.
  • Thin and breathable.

poplin weave shirt fabric for men
PHOTO CREDIT: Lesouk

Twill Weave

  • Weaved diagonally.
  • A twill shirt wrinkles a bit easier.
  • Not as breathable as poplin or oxford weaves.
  • Can be tricky to remove stains from.

twill weave shirt fabric for men
PHOTO CREDIT: Fabrics

Herringbone Weave

  • Made with twill fabric that's been woven in an alternating diagonal pattern.
  • The width of the alternating diagonals can differ.

herringbone shirt fabric weave for men
PHOTO CREDIT: Wise Geek

British Made Shirts

Turnbull & Asser

If you've decided to do a little bit of research into the world of bespoke shirts, then you would have heard of the name Turnbull & Asser. These are the finest tailor made London shirt makers, probably, in the world; with over 130 years of experienced shirt making under their belt, they certainly know what they're doing when it comes to bespoke or tailored shirts.

turnbull and asser shirts in their shop
PHOTO CREDIT: Turnbull & Asser

With their factory in Gloucester and main stores in the heart of London on Jermyn Street and Bury Street, Turnbull & Asser have some of the most experienced and talented shirt makers under their wings in the world. Since their beginnings in 1885, they have gone on to dress some of the most famous people in the world, including royalty. In 1980, Prince Charles gave his first ever Royal Warrant to Turnbull & Asser, a Warrant which they still hold today.

Turnbull & Asser claim that "a button will break before it comes off". The quality and durability of these shirts speaks for themselves; it's no wonder why they hold a Royal Warrant. The price point, which I'm sure is at the top of everyone's list, varies, like with any bespoke service.

being measured for a shirt at turnbull and asser
PHOTO CREDIT: Turnbull & Asser

If you were to buy a ready-to-wear piece, for instance, you're looking at anything from £150-£300, depending on what material you go for. A bespoke shirt, however, can be anything from £500+, again, depending on the material you pick and the time it will take to make.

turnbull and asser shop bury street
PHOTO CREDIT: Turnbull & Asser

When you walk into Turnbull & Asser looking to buy a bespoke shirt, they will run you through exactly what the process is. They will take your measurements and take you through all of the options for your bespoke shirt. Every detail will be covered so you know exactly what your shirt will look like.

pattern maker at turnbull and asser
PHOTO CREDIT: Turnbull & Asser

Many of you may be thinking that you simply couldn't justify the price of a bespoke shirt. Now this may be true, but you might want to think of it like this. When you've bought a bespoke shirt, you're probably going to wear it a lot, especially if it's a classic white shirt. So, if you add up the cost per wear, with the shirt being approximately £500, and wearing it for three years, you're looking at about £3.65 per wear.

Affordable Alternatives

Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to go and spend a months rent on a shirt, no matter how much I try and justify it. So, we all need that alternative option to have in our wardrobes season to season, and here at Idle HQ, we've always got you covered.

Whether you want a shirt for work or to wear for a more casual event, you can always find a cheaper alternative to fit your needs. It's always best to stick with the classic, basic colours, such as white, pink and blue. These colours will be the best option when you're looking at teaming them with different pieces in your wardrobe.

Take the classic white button down. It will go with pretty much anything in your wardrobe arsenal; for a smarter, more office appropriate look, then team your shirt with a pair of black suit trousers and jacket. Throw on a pair of formal shoes to top the look off, and you'll be good to go.

If you're going down the more casual route, then why not partner your white shirt with a pair of raw denim jeans and, either, a pair of white trainers, or, a pair of brown penny loafers with a detailed sock.

white shirt pink shirt blue shirt on a rail
SHOP: Shirts

Further Reading: A History Of The Shirt

One of the first shirts was discovered in an Egyptian tomb, and is believed to date from 3000 B.C. However, the modern, Oxford style shirt was born in the 19th century in, funnily enough, Scotland. Mills at the time were experimenting with different fabrics and weaves and created four different weaves and named them after the four most famous universities of the time, Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, and, of course, Oxford.

You may probably have never heard of the other three fabric weaves, that's because they stopped producing them a long time ago. The Oxford shirt has been popular ever since, and, in the 1950's American Ivy League college students adopted them into their everyday wardrobe, completing the look with chinos and casual shoes.

american college students wearing oxford shirts
PHOTO CREDIT: Vanity Fair

The Oxford shirt was also adopted by sportsmen during the 1930's and 40's, with polo players wearing them to play. This may seem like a bit of an odd item of clothing to wear during an aggressive sport, but, the shirt's breathable material and ease of wear made it the perfect option.

polo players wearing an oxford shirt
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

The classic shirt has had its fair share of re-makes and models over the years, but we can't deny the classics. Whether you're buying off the rail or going bespoke, you know that the classic shirt will always be in style.

Your Quick Guide to Men's Bespoke Shirts

  • Firstly, measure yourself properly. When buying any piece of clothing, it's important to get the right fit. Especially when it's a shirt.
  • Find a good tailor. When it comes to bespoke shirts, there should be no half measures. The extra cost you'll pay will definitely be worth it.
  • Choose the right collar. Point, spread or button down are the three most common styles. It's up to you.
  • Choose your cuff. The most common cuffs are button, cocktail or French. They all have pro's and con's for you to choose from.
  • Choose your material. This is going to be a shirt you'll probably wear a lot and have for a long time. Investing some time into choosing the right material for you will be worth it.

On That Note

Buying a bespoke shirt isn't the mean feat it once was. The first step is knowing what you want from your shirt, and what you want the shirt for. Knowing this will help you narrow down all the options that you have available to you. You then have all the choice of the collar, cuff and the fabric, now this is all down to personal preference and the reason why you want the shirt.

Of course, you have plenty of choices when it comes to shops or shirt makers you want to go for when it comes to your bespoke shirt. The most popular choice, however, is Turner & Asser, shirt makers since 1885, they certainly know what they're doing when it comes to men's bespoke shirts (if it's good enough for Prince Charles, then it's good enough for me).

So, the world is your oyster when it comes to bespoke shirts, whether you decide on a pink paisley number with a french cuff, or keep it simple with a classic white Oxford shirt, you can be rest assured that a bespoke shirt will be worth the investment.

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