Q & Answer: My Arms Are Long. Where Can I Buy Clothes?
Abe asks: My question to you is how to shop if you have long arms? 
 In my case, I am 6’3” and my arm length is almost 40 inches. Given that tall/long clothing usually has 37 inch arms, what can I guy like me do in terms of off the rack clothing? Surely I am not the only one with this problem!
We get questions like this all the time from readers with extraordinary physical proportions. (I’m 6’3”, with longish arms, and they’re four inches shorter than Abe’s.) The truth is that you’ll simply have to go custom.
There are many retailers which offer tall sizes - online, I’d say you can check out LL Bean, Lands’ End, Banana Republic and J. Crew, for starters. That’ll work if you’re just a little taller than average. But if you’re way taller than average, or have much longer legs, or much longer arms, or a very, very small neck, or some other physical proportion that makes you Very Special… off the rack isn’t going to work for you.
The good news, though, is that we live in a golden age of custom clothes. It can sometimes take a few tries to get the fit right without an in-person consultation (and if you can afford it, I’d recommend a local, in-person maker), but if you can’t buy off the rack, it’s absolutely worth it. Derek wrote a series about custom shirts, and you can start there.

Q & Answer: My Arms Are Long. Where Can I Buy Clothes?

Abe asks: My question to you is how to shop if you have long arms?

 In my case, I am 6’3” and my arm length is almost 40 inches. Given that tall/long clothing usually has 37 inch arms, what can I guy like me do in terms of off the rack clothing? Surely I am not the only one with this problem!

We get questions like this all the time from readers with extraordinary physical proportions. (I’m 6’3”, with longish arms, and they’re four inches shorter than Abe’s.) The truth is that you’ll simply have to go custom.

There are many retailers which offer tall sizes - online, I’d say you can check out LL Bean, Lands’ End, Banana Republic and J. Crew, for starters. That’ll work if you’re just a little taller than average. But if you’re way taller than average, or have much longer legs, or much longer arms, or a very, very small neck, or some other physical proportion that makes you Very Special… off the rack isn’t going to work for you.

The good news, though, is that we live in a golden age of custom clothes. It can sometimes take a few tries to get the fit right without an in-person consultation (and if you can afford it, I’d recommend a local, in-person maker), but if you can’t buy off the rack, it’s absolutely worth it. Derek wrote a series about custom shirts, and you can start there.

Madras Shirts for Summer

I love madras - the colorful, airy fabric named after the Indian city from which it originally came. The stuff is lightweight and very breathable, which means it makes for the perfect summer shirt. Madras shirts are a wonderful accompaniment to trousers or suits made from cotton or linen, and of course should be worn with summer appropriate footwear, such as loafers or suede bucks. Unfortunately, good madras shirts are hard to find these days, and not because all the new stuff is colorfast, instead of bleeding and fading easily like the ones from yesteryear (for that truly dégagé look). Rather, it’s because most don’t fit me well or they lack the design details I want. 

My solution has been to get ones custom made. You can buy madras fabrics online through Atlantis Fabrics. They have two web pages - here and here - dedicated to them, and many are just $6 a yard. Given that the average sized man only needs about two yards per shirt, that’s just $12 for materials.

You can also check fabric stores to see if they have anything suitable. Above are some swatches from Rosen & Chadick, a fabric shop in Manhattan. Though they’re in New York City, they’re more than happy to send out fabric swatches for free. After you’ve figured out what you want, you can call them and pay for your order with a credit card. Most selections are $15 a yard. 

Once you have your fabrics, you’ll need to find a shirtmaker who is willing to take them from you. If you don’t have someone local you can go to, I recommend Cottonwork. They can custom make something to your body measurements or, if you’re hesitant about the process, they can copy any existing shirt you have. Just send them your best fitting shirt along with any notes about things you’d like tweaked (if any). They charge about $45 per shirt if you’re supplying the fabrics. 

If you’re reluctant to go the custom route, there are a bunch of ready-to-wear companies you can consider, such as O’Connell’s, J PressBrooks Brothers, and Dann Online. Some of these will fit quite full, such as the ones at Dann Online, while others can be very slim, such as Brooks’ Extra Slim Fits. 

You can also check out Gant Rugger and Ralph Lauren. Gant Rugger’s shirts are very slim and mostly meant to be worn untucked, while Ralph Lauren has the fuller ”Classic Fit” and slimmer “Custom Fit.” Finally, for something cheaper, try J Crew. In the past, they offered disappointingly drab designs, but this season’s are pleasantly colorful (as madras should be). If you wait till the end of the season, you can easily find their madras shirts discounted by 40-50%. 

(Cottonwork will be a Put This On advertiser next month, but our advertising and editorial processes are separate. - Jesse)

Cut, Make, Trim
If you enjoyed our series on custom shirts, and are now thinking about having some made, consider supplying a tailor with your own fabrics. The process is known in the trade as “cut, make, trim,” or simply CMT. By giving the tailor your own cloths, you can save money on the mark up that the tailor would otherwise charge for the fabrics in his books.
Supplying your own fabric is easy once you know where to go. For good, affordable basics, I strongly recommend Acorn, an English shirting merchant that is known for selling quality, workhorse fabrics. They have a variety of weaves and designs. Those above a 150 thread-count can be fairly expensive, but much of their stock is priced affordably. Their oxford cloths, for example, are about $20 per yard, including shipping. The quality is as good as, if not better than, most of what you’d find in stores.
To go about this process, you just need to figure out which shirtings you’re interested in, and then ask Acorn to ship you some sample swatches. They’ll arrive in small, clipped books like the ones you see above. You can sit on these for a bit. Figure out which you like best, consider their texture and color, and put them against the various trousers you think you might like to wear them with.
Once you decide what you’d like, find a tailor that will take CMT and have Acorn ship them the materials. Of course, which tailors are available to you will vary by region, but two online custom shirtmakers, Cottonwork and ModernTailor, confirmed with me that they would take CMT orders. Cottonwork charges $45 (including shipping) and ModernTailor $25 (not including shipping). ModernTailor is a bit cheaper, but their workmanship isn’t as good. One of my shirts from them, for example, had its seams fall apart in the wash, which is something that has never happened to me before. Still, if you’re on a very tight budget, $25 plus the cost of fabric can be very attractive.
Most men will need about two meters of fabric, depending on the width of the roll and their body size. You should confirm with your tailor exactly how much he thinks you need. Assuming you’re of average size, however, that means you can get a custom shirt made from good fabric for about $75. If you’re feeling iffy about the process of measuring yourself, remember that both Cottonwork and ModernTailor can copy an existing shirt if you send it to them. Your new shirt will fit in the exact same way. 
You can take a look at Acorn’s shirting selections here. Fabrics in 36” width tend to be of higher quality, but they’re also more expensive. My favorite (affordable) lines in the 60” range are King, Oxford, and Windsor. Check out their full collection to see what else you might like. 

Cut, Make, Trim

If you enjoyed our series on custom shirts, and are now thinking about having some made, consider supplying a tailor with your own fabrics. The process is known in the trade as “cut, make, trim,” or simply CMT. By giving the tailor your own cloths, you can save money on the mark up that the tailor would otherwise charge for the fabrics in his books.

Supplying your own fabric is easy once you know where to go. For good, affordable basics, I strongly recommend Acorn, an English shirting merchant that is known for selling quality, workhorse fabrics. They have a variety of weaves and designs. Those above a 150 thread-count can be fairly expensive, but much of their stock is priced affordably. Their oxford cloths, for example, are about $20 per yard, including shipping. The quality is as good as, if not better than, most of what you’d find in stores.

To go about this process, you just need to figure out which shirtings you’re interested in, and then ask Acorn to ship you some sample swatches. They’ll arrive in small, clipped books like the ones you see above. You can sit on these for a bit. Figure out which you like best, consider their texture and color, and put them against the various trousers you think you might like to wear them with.

Once you decide what you’d like, find a tailor that will take CMT and have Acorn ship them the materials. Of course, which tailors are available to you will vary by region, but two online custom shirtmakers, Cottonwork and ModernTailor, confirmed with me that they would take CMT orders. Cottonwork charges $45 (including shipping) and ModernTailor $25 (not including shipping). ModernTailor is a bit cheaper, but their workmanship isn’t as good. One of my shirts from them, for example, had its seams fall apart in the wash, which is something that has never happened to me before. Still, if you’re on a very tight budget, $25 plus the cost of fabric can be very attractive.

Most men will need about two meters of fabric, depending on the width of the roll and their body size. You should confirm with your tailor exactly how much he thinks you need. Assuming you’re of average size, however, that means you can get a custom shirt made from good fabric for about $75. If you’re feeling iffy about the process of measuring yourself, remember that both Cottonwork and ModernTailor can copy an existing shirt if you send it to them. Your new shirt will fit in the exact same way. 

You can take a look at Acorn’s shirting selections here. Fabrics in 36” width tend to be of higher quality, but they’re also more expensive. My favorite (affordable) lines in the 60” range are King, Oxford, and Windsor. Check out their full collection to see what else you might like. 

A Word of Warning About Online Made-to-Measure
I get a lot of questions about online made-to-measure services. There’s been a proliferation of these outfits in the past few years, as (mostly Chinese) production has modernized and sped up to allow for factory one-offs, and the internet has allowed consumers to connect with makers.
These companies offer a compelling proposition: a custom suit for less than the price of an off-the-rack suit at Macy’s or The Men’s Wearhouse.
The reality is much more fraught. The value of custom clothing comes largely from the fitting expertise of an experienced tailor… and even an experienced tailor often requires two or three shirts or coats to get a pattern exactly right. A novice at home with a tape measure simply can’t replicate that skill.
The result, frankly, is ill-fitting clothing. There’s a thread of photographs of suits by Indochino, one of the leading purveyors of this type of service, at StyleForum. I’d say half to 3/4 of the suits fit poorly. Not just less-than-ideally, but poorly. Indochino pays for some alterations, but that’s no panacea.
The reality is that with online made-to-measure you should expect to go through a number of iterations - at least two, maybe three or four or five - before you get your pattern correct. Even yet, not every service is consistent in their production, so getting your measurements right still isn’t a guarantee.
It’s possible to get this right. I know my colleague Derek has had some good success with some shirtmakers, for example, and he’s not alone. Shirts are also relatively inexpensive, which makes errors less painful. Still, the advantages (cost, lack of geographic limitations) don’t necessarily outweigh the benefits.
If off-the-rack clothing altered by a local tailor fits you well, or if you have the access and budget to use a quality in-person service, there’s no compelling reason to use go online. The benefits are unlikely to outweigh the disadvantages. Frankly, 90% of American men are well-served by off-the-rack clothing.
If you can’t wear off-the-rack clothing, or find it very difficult to find, the pain may be worth the reward. If you’re 6’3”/150, or 5’1”, or if you’re a weightlifter or a serious swimmer with a very athletic figure, there’s tremendous benefit to online custom. If you don’t have the money for in-person, it may still be worth a couple failures to get to the point where you’re getting a product that fits at a reasonable price.
Similarly, for something like shirts, where the cost of failure is low, you can make a few mistakes before sorting out your exact preferences. In that case, you can benefit… especially if off-the-rack doesn’t fit.
Whether you fall into those categories, of course, is a question only you can answer.

A Word of Warning About Online Made-to-Measure

I get a lot of questions about online made-to-measure services. There’s been a proliferation of these outfits in the past few years, as (mostly Chinese) production has modernized and sped up to allow for factory one-offs, and the internet has allowed consumers to connect with makers.

These companies offer a compelling proposition: a custom suit for less than the price of an off-the-rack suit at Macy’s or The Men’s Wearhouse.

The reality is much more fraught. The value of custom clothing comes largely from the fitting expertise of an experienced tailor… and even an experienced tailor often requires two or three shirts or coats to get a pattern exactly right. A novice at home with a tape measure simply can’t replicate that skill.

The result, frankly, is ill-fitting clothing. There’s a thread of photographs of suits by Indochino, one of the leading purveyors of this type of service, at StyleForum. I’d say half to 3/4 of the suits fit poorly. Not just less-than-ideally, but poorly. Indochino pays for some alterations, but that’s no panacea.

The reality is that with online made-to-measure you should expect to go through a number of iterations - at least two, maybe three or four or five - before you get your pattern correct. Even yet, not every service is consistent in their production, so getting your measurements right still isn’t a guarantee.

It’s possible to get this right. I know my colleague Derek has had some good success with some shirtmakers, for example, and he’s not alone. Shirts are also relatively inexpensive, which makes errors less painful. Still, the advantages (cost, lack of geographic limitations) don’t necessarily outweigh the benefits.

If off-the-rack clothing altered by a local tailor fits you well, or if you have the access and budget to use a quality in-person service, there’s no compelling reason to use go online. The benefits are unlikely to outweigh the disadvantages. Frankly, 90% of American men are well-served by off-the-rack clothing.

If you can’t wear off-the-rack clothing, or find it very difficult to find, the pain may be worth the reward. If you’re 6’3”/150, or 5’1”, or if you’re a weightlifter or a serious swimmer with a very athletic figure, there’s tremendous benefit to online custom. If you don’t have the money for in-person, it may still be worth a couple failures to get to the point where you’re getting a product that fits at a reasonable price.

Similarly, for something like shirts, where the cost of failure is low, you can make a few mistakes before sorting out your exact preferences. In that case, you can benefit… especially if off-the-rack doesn’t fit.

Whether you fall into those categories, of course, is a question only you can answer.

CottonWork Deal
If you’re a college student* and have a job interview coming up, CottonWork is running a promotion where they’ll make you a free custom shirt. Just apply here. The offer is good for the first hundred entries, but it renews itself every month. So if you miss out this month, just go back in January. 
I’ve used CottonWork before and in my experience, they’re one of the better online made-to-measure shirt companies. It can be nicer to get a shirt made by an experienced local tailor, but if you don’t have that available to you, online made-to-measure options are a good alternative. They’re also much cheaper. 
When getting measurements, I strongly suggest that you get them from five to ten different people. Weed out the anomalies and figure out the averages. The quality of a custom shirt largely depends on how good your measurements are, so get them from people you trust. 
If you’re not a college student, you can still take advantage of their “Essential” collection for promotional offer price of $40. My gut says it would be better to buy from the “Luxury” line or higher, but if you’re looking to just get a test shirt made, this can be a good place to start. 
* Note: Offer only available to students at one of the twenty-two colleges CottonWork has selected.

CottonWork Deal

If you’re a college student* and have a job interview coming up, CottonWork is running a promotion where they’ll make you a free custom shirt. Just apply here. The offer is good for the first hundred entries, but it renews itself every month. So if you miss out this month, just go back in January. 

I’ve used CottonWork before and in my experience, they’re one of the better online made-to-measure shirt companies. It can be nicer to get a shirt made by an experienced local tailor, but if you don’t have that available to you, online made-to-measure options are a good alternative. They’re also much cheaper. 

When getting measurements, I strongly suggest that you get them from five to ten different people. Weed out the anomalies and figure out the averages. The quality of a custom shirt largely depends on how good your measurements are, so get them from people you trust. 

If you’re not a college student, you can still take advantage of their “Essential” collection for promotional offer price of $40. My gut says it would be better to buy from the “Luxury” line or higher, but if you’re looking to just get a test shirt made, this can be a good place to start. 

* Note: Offer only available to students at one of the twenty-two colleges CottonWork has selected.

The second part of the video we posted yesterday on Alexander Kabbaz custom shirting.  More valuable information in this one.

Alexander Kabbaz’s shirts are insanely expensive.  Like off-the-charts expensive.  Two or three times the cost of bespoke at Charvet in Paris.  So I’m not saying you should run out and buy one.  HOWEVER, he is wonderfully eloquent about the value of a custom shirt, and this is a nice little video.  We’ll post the second segment tomorrow.

From The Coyle & Sharpe Podcast, a custom shirtmaker tries to draw attention to his shop by having children eat rocks in his window.  A real recording from the early 1960s.