Skin Tight Shirts
This image has been making the rounds on various menswear blogs as an example of a well-fitting business shirt. Far be it from me to criticize Matteo Marzotto, arguably one of the best-dressed men in the world right now, or the man behind Italian Industrialists and Intellectuals Style (one of my favorite style blogs, and the person who originally posted the picture) - but this is not a well-fitting shirt. 
If your shirt fits like this, you probably can’t sit down. Or eat a snack. Or possibly even exhale. 
In traditional men’s clothing anyway, clothes need not be skin tight to be well-fitting. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Our friend GW here is wearing something that I think sets a good example. There’s enough room in the waist to allow him to sit down and have a full meal, but not so much that excess fabric is bunching above his waistband. If a shirt is truly well-tailored, you can get the fabric to fall cleanly without vacuum sealing it against your body. 
To be sure, it’s hard to get something as nice as GW’s shirt off-the-rack (his was custom made for him), but it’s a good ideal to shoot for. One test you can use when trying on a new shirt is to simply sit down in it and see if the buttons strain at the mid-section. This will tell you if it’s too tight or not.
But hey, what do I know. I’m certainly no Matteo Marzotto. 
(Image via Italian Industrialists and Intellectuals Style)

Skin Tight Shirts

This image has been making the rounds on various menswear blogs as an example of a well-fitting business shirt. Far be it from me to criticize Matteo Marzotto, arguably one of the best-dressed men in the world right now, or the man behind Italian Industrialists and Intellectuals Style (one of my favorite style blogs, and the person who originally posted the picture) - but this is not a well-fitting shirt. 

If your shirt fits like this, you probably can’t sit down. Or eat a snack. Or possibly even exhale. 

In traditional men’s clothing anyway, clothes need not be skin tight to be well-fitting. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Our friend GW here is wearing something that I think sets a good example. There’s enough room in the waist to allow him to sit down and have a full meal, but not so much that excess fabric is bunching above his waistband. If a shirt is truly well-tailored, you can get the fabric to fall cleanly without vacuum sealing it against your body. 

To be sure, it’s hard to get something as nice as GW’s shirt off-the-rack (his was custom made for him), but it’s a good ideal to shoot for. One test you can use when trying on a new shirt is to simply sit down in it and see if the buttons strain at the mid-section. This will tell you if it’s too tight or not.

But hey, what do I know. I’m certainly no Matteo Marzotto

(Image via Italian Industrialists and Intellectuals Style)

Actor Jason Mantzoukas is one of the funniest guys I know, and he’s also a big Put This On supporter - he even appeared in one of our episodes. That’s only part of why I so enjoy the Tumblr Jason Mantzoukas Wearing A White Oxford Shirt And Blue Jeans.

Actor Jason Mantzoukas is one of the funniest guys I know, and he’s also a big Put This On supporter - he even appeared in one of our episodes. That’s only part of why I so enjoy the Tumblr Jason Mantzoukas Wearing A White Oxford Shirt And Blue Jeans.

Tartan Shirts for Fall
These old tartan shirts by Brooks Brothers are great examples of the kind of fall shirts that pair well with tweed jackets and corduroy sport coats. They have an autumnal sensibility where a smooth, light blue shirt might be lacking, and their bold patterns can help dress down the look of a tailored jacket. 
When you first delve into the world of tartans, you may come across some unfamiliar terminology that, at first glance, can be a bit misleading. For example, “ancient” and “modern” don’t refer to the age of a pattern. Instead, “modern” just means the pattern was made in its “standard” colors, while “ancient” refers to something made in lighter tones (e.g. this Lindsay tartan in both modern and ancient variations). As you can see, the idea for “ancient” is to create something with an aged or weathered look, not too unlike how denim producers sometimes create pre-distressed jeans. For tartans, that means making the blues and greens a bit more muted, and scaling back the intensity of the yellows and reds. The effect is a plaid that looks like it has been worn for years. 
It’s also common to see tartans described as either “hunting” or “dress,” but again, these don’t mean what you think they mean. Instead, hunting tartans are simply tartans that are based more in greens and blues, while dress tartans make more use of white. Despite the name, dress tartans are just as casual as hunting variations. See, for example, Hunting Stewart versus Dress Stewart.
This is all just background, of course. The most important thing is to find a pattern that you like. The first one you see above, set at the front, is blackwatch shirt, and can be bought this season through O’Connell’s, J. Press, and our advertiser Ledbury. The one behind that looks to be either a MacKenzie or Hunting Stewart, and can be had through Ralph Lauren in modern and ancient variations. The dress tartan furthest back is a bit harder to find, but you get similar designs through Gant (in two varieties), Ralph Lauren, and Brooks Brothers. Lastly, readers who have custom shirts made might want to enquire with their tailors. They should have lots of tartan fabrics to choose from, but if not, you can acquire some through Acorn. I’m having this Hunting Stewart made up for me now through Ascot Chang, and plan to wear it this fall with brown corduroys and suede shoes.  
(Photo via Glengarry Sporting Club)

Tartan Shirts for Fall

These old tartan shirts by Brooks Brothers are great examples of the kind of fall shirts that pair well with tweed jackets and corduroy sport coats. They have an autumnal sensibility where a smooth, light blue shirt might be lacking, and their bold patterns can help dress down the look of a tailored jacket. 

When you first delve into the world of tartans, you may come across some unfamiliar terminology that, at first glance, can be a bit misleading. For example, “ancient” and “modern” don’t refer to the age of a pattern. Instead, “modern” just means the pattern was made in its “standard” colors, while “ancient” refers to something made in lighter tones (e.g. this Lindsay tartan in both modern and ancient variations). As you can see, the idea for “ancient” is to create something with an aged or weathered look, not too unlike how denim producers sometimes create pre-distressed jeans. For tartans, that means making the blues and greens a bit more muted, and scaling back the intensity of the yellows and reds. The effect is a plaid that looks like it has been worn for years. 

It’s also common to see tartans described as either “hunting” or “dress,” but again, these don’t mean what you think they mean. Instead, hunting tartans are simply tartans that are based more in greens and blues, while dress tartans make more use of white. Despite the name, dress tartans are just as casual as hunting variations. See, for example, Hunting Stewart versus Dress Stewart.

This is all just background, of course. The most important thing is to find a pattern that you like. The first one you see above, set at the front, is blackwatch shirt, and can be bought this season through O’Connell’s, J. Press, and our advertiser Ledbury. The one behind that looks to be either a MacKenzie or Hunting Stewart, and can be had through Ralph Lauren in modern and ancient variations. The dress tartan furthest back is a bit harder to find, but you get similar designs through Gant (in two varieties), Ralph Lauren, and Brooks Brothers. Lastly, readers who have custom shirts made might want to enquire with their tailors. They should have lots of tartan fabrics to choose from, but if not, you can acquire some through Acorn. I’m having this Hunting Stewart made up for me now through Ascot Chang, and plan to wear it this fall with brown corduroys and suede shoes.  

(Photo via Glengarry Sporting Club)

Six Great Types of Shirts for Fall

For nearly a century now, the most basic dress shirt for men is a solid white or light-blue button-up, made from 100% cotton, and usually coming in a plain or twill weave. It’s the default choice for dress shirts – something you can rely on year-round to look decent and acceptable, and is very rarely the wrong choice, assuming you’re dressing classically. 

There are times, however, when choosing something a bit different can yield a more harmonious look. Take, for example, the advantage of combining an airy, light-blue linen shirt with a tan cotton sport coat. The two textures are equally casual, and together, they lend a better presentation for summer. Similarly, a fine cotton dress shirt can look puny when set against a hardy Shetland tweed or mid-waled corduroy jacket. Better to pick something with more texture and “weight,” such as these following options, which I think make for excellent fall and winter shirts.

Flannels 

At the top of the list are flannels, which can come in a variety of forms. They can be solid or patterned (if patterned, usually checked), and made from either a softly brushed pure cotton or some kind of wool/ cotton blend. Viyella is particularly famous for their flannel shirtings (the word “shirtings” means “fabrics intended for shirts;” it is not a synonym for the word “shirts”). You can find them at a number of places, such as Dann Online, J. Press, and O’Connell’s. I unfortunately can’t say how any of those fit, but my guess is “traditional.” If you have a custom shirtmaker, they may also carry Viyella fabrics, which you can ask for by name.

Bold cotton plaids

Bold cotton plaids are different from flannels in that they don’t have that soft, brushed quality. They’re smooth like a fine cotton dress shirt, but remain a bit more autumnal through their patterns. Our advertiser Ledbury carries some through their short-run collection (they’ve got more coming down the pipeline, as they’re releasing a new short-run shirt every day this month). Brooks Brothers also has some designs, though mostly in non-iron fabrics, and Gant Rugger might be a good option for younger men. For something more affordable, there’s J. Crew. Just wait for one of their many sales. 

Tattersalls

Tattersalls are symmetrical, thin-lined checks, usually made up of two colors for the lines and a plain-colored background. I find they’re a nice compromise between the dressiness of a standard dress shirt and the casualness of a bold cotton plaid. For something dressier still, you can go for a graph check shirt, which is exactly what it sounds like – a shirt with a pattern that looks like graph paper. Either would do well underneath a tweed or corduroy jacket, and you can find them at places such as Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, and TM Lewin.

Oxford Cloth Button-Downs (aka OCBDs)

OCBDs are versatile enough for year-round wear, but also have the weight and texture necessary to look great underneath fall jackets. What’s not to like? You can read my long-winded series about them here, or just skip to my recommendations.

Chambray

Another good year-round shirt that really comes into its own during the fall and winter seasons. You can find nice high-end options at Self Edge, Rising Sun, and Blue in Green. Mr. Porter also has some designer offerings, and J. Crew is again good for something more affordable (just wait for a sale). My favorite, however, is by Mister Freedom. I appreciate the emphasis they put into beautiful fabrics, and have found mine to age exceptionally well. When choosing one, keep in mind the kind of outerwear you might want to wear. Very casual chambray shirts with extra detailing should be kept with very casual outerwear, rather than traditional sport coats. 

Corduroys

Corduroy shirts are less versatile than any of the above options, but they’re nice to have if you’d like some more variety. Our advertiser Ledbury has one in brown coming out this month (it’s pictured above) and I like that it has a traditional looking collar and lowered second button (good for when you’re wearing the shirt casually and don’t want it buttoned all the way up). For something available now, there’s Michael Bastian, Beams Plus, and LL Bean.

Shopping Vintage: Big Mac flannels

When vintage shopping goes well, it warms the cockles of my thrifty heart. A great suit that can be altered to fit, like John’s Gieves and Hawkes featured in Derek’s post? Excellent. But I have a garbage bag full of shrunken sweaters and improbably proportioned suit pants that reinforces that for every vintage hit, there are misses.

One of my favorite and most reliable vintage brands to hunt for is Big Mac, a private label of workwear sold by JC Penney from 1922 to the 2000s. They made denim and outerwear as well, but for wearable value the flannel workshirts are the winners. Vintage Big Macs feature bias-cut pockets that set off the great plaid fabrics they use. Solid, chamois-style Big Mac shirts are out there, but I prefer the plaids, often colorful and large in scale. I picked up the red plaid shirt above at Mister Freedom a few years back, the blue is on ebay. The shirts have slightly long point collars, and in my experience, a larger yoke than most. They’ve inspired literal reproductions, and the influence of Big Mac-style plaids is visible in offerings from brands like Post Overalls. For anyone tired of the seasonal plaids at the mall and who balks at $200 workshirts, Big Macs are a great option.

The fit of Big Macs is less reliable. Like a lot of vintage work shirts, the arms are shorter than we expect on modern shirts (not a problem if you roll your sleeves a lot). Likewise, the armholes are usually generous. These features are helpful for not getting your sleeve caught in a machine and not limiting your movement, but these are not our prime concerns when browsing Etsy on our Macbooks. Big Macs are also difficult to date specifically to a particular era, since they were so common for so long. Most are cotton and many are made in the USA, but there are poly cotton blends (in my opinion, totally OK) and various countries of manufacture on the market (also totally OK).

The good news is that they’re usually cheap. Every one I’ve seen is machine washable, so they’re unlikely to have been damaged by a washer or dryer (of course, many are worn out, but that’s easier to see in photos). Most Big Macs sell for $30 or less on ebay, and for as little as a couple of bucks on the rack at the thrift store.

-Pete

Ramon Puig: La Casa de las Guayaberas

I was in Miami last week, and rather than visit South Beach, I thought I’d take my half-day of free time and go on a hunt for a guayabera. Thanks to a tip from Image Granted, I made my way from my hotel to Ramon Puig, one of the most respected guayabera shops in the world.

If you’re not familiar with the shirt, the guayabera is a pleated, button-down shirt with four front pockets. It’s often worn with short sleeves, though a long-sleeve version is worn in the tropics for business and formal occasions. It’s most associated with Cuba, though you can find it throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, and a sister shirt, the Barong Tagalog, is worn in the Philippines. You can basically find a version of the shirt anywhere tropical trade traveled in the 19th century - even Africa. The name is purportedly derived from the guava plantation workers (guayaberos) who wore them originally, though that’s in much dispute.

The guayabera, like the Aloha shirt, is perfectly suited for tropical weather. It’s also a genuine classic, a garment that blends form and function close to seamlessly. These days you’re much more likely to find American-style dress on younger folks in the third world, but like the Aloha shirt, the guayabera has made a comeback on the strength of cultural pride.

At Ramon Puig, the style is traditional, conservative and distinctly Cuban, but there are racks upon racks of shirts in a dizzying variety of fabrics and colors. There are only two styles: long sleeve and short, but when you multiply those by regular and long sizes, then numerous fabric levels, then colors in each fabric, you get a store filled to the brim. Prices range from $40 for the basic poly-cotton blend shirts to $140 for Irish linen.

Besides all this, there’s also a custom operation. Sr. Puig died a few years ago, but there’s still a tailor making shirts that run upwards of $500 each in a shop in the back. I was lucky enough to fit comfortably in a size medium-tall (be sure to size down one for a slimmer fit if that’s your preference), and walked out with a souvenir I couldn’t get anywhere else.

The Basic Shirt Wardrobe
I recently accepted that my shirts don’t fit me anymore. Every time I sit down, the placket gapes, which either means my shirts have magically shrunken just at the midsection, or that I’ve gotten fatter. Whatever the reason, I’ve asked my shirtmaker, Ascot Chang, to make me a new set of shirts, which means I’ve had to decide what’s the bare minimum I need, based on what I wore most often before. Of course, what’s basic and essential for you might be totally different, but I thought I’d share my list, in case some readers find it helpful.
Three blue oxford cloth button downs (aka OCBDs): I realize that not everyone likes OCBDs and they can be too American for some. However, I’m unapologetic in my love for them and find they go really well with a range of casual ensembles – from being worn underneath sport coats or sweaters, or just alone with a pair of chinos, corduroys, or wool trousers. If your tastes run even more American than mine, you can add another OCBD in a solid pink or light blue Bengal stripe. White OCBDs can also look pretty good with a pair of jeans. 
Two solid white shirts: These can be worn during the evenings, with suits, or just when you’re feeling fancy. I’ve found that light blue is much more wearable than white, but it’s good to have a couple of these on hand. I recommend getting them in either a basic poplin or twill fabric. You can also get them with French cuffs, if you’d like.
Five solid light blue shirts: It’s almost impossible to go wrong with a solid light blue shirt. The color complements any complexion and can be successfully paired with almost any suit, sport coat, or tie (the exception is maybe a light blue jacket, but who owns those?). You can get these in a plain poplin weave, but I find end-on-end and a dressy chambray to be much more interesting. They have a crisscrossing of blue and white yarns that make them look more appealing, but aren’t so busy that they force the shirt into casualwear. 
Two shirts in a mix of pin and dress stripes (either one of each or two of one): Striped shirts are really useful if most of your tailored jackets are in solid colors. They help add a bit of visual interest and keep your patterned tie from looking too lonely. For what it’s worth, I find the wider-spaced dress stripes to be easier to wear than more densely striped ones, and light blue to be easier to wear than dark blue (reason being that it’s easier to wear things with tonal variation, so dark jackets go well with light blue shirts and dark- or medium-toned ties, rather than a mix of darks in all three). Darker blue dress stripes can be nice, however, if you want a bit more variation in your wardrobe and don’t wear ties often. Brown pinstripes are also a good choice. 
Three shirts in a mix of Bengal and candy stripes: Same logic as the pin and dress stripes, but just in a bolder pattern. Mix your pin and dress stripes with boldly patterned ties, and your Bengal and candy stripes with subtle ones. By varying the scale of the two patterns, you ensure that your shirt and tie will never compete for attention. Light blues are again great, but if you want darker blues, I find they’re easier to wear here, for some reason, than in pin or dress stripes. 
Four casual weekend shirts: Finally, some casual shirts for the weekend. Depending on how hot or cold your climate gets, I recommend getting these in seasonal fabrics. For spring/ summer, you can go with madras, linen, or voile. Those will be very airy and breathable, making them nice for hot, humid days. For fall/ winter, you can swap these out for brushed cottons, wool/ cotton blends, and heavy twills. I find that graph checks and tattersalls also look good underneath tweed sport coats, and can be worn alone with a pair of corduroy trousers and a sweater.
This gives you a total of nineteen shirts for each season. Fifteen for the workweek, and four for the weekend. That should be enough to get you through two weeks before laundry day, with enough extra so that you’re not in danger of being shirtless if you go a few days past or stain something during a particularly good meal.
And that’s my version of a basic shirt wardrobe.

The Basic Shirt Wardrobe

I recently accepted that my shirts don’t fit me anymore. Every time I sit down, the placket gapes, which either means my shirts have magically shrunken just at the midsection, or that I’ve gotten fatter. Whatever the reason, I’ve asked my shirtmaker, Ascot Chang, to make me a new set of shirts, which means I’ve had to decide what’s the bare minimum I need, based on what I wore most often before. Of course, what’s basic and essential for you might be totally different, but I thought I’d share my list, in case some readers find it helpful.

Three blue oxford cloth button downs (aka OCBDs): I realize that not everyone likes OCBDs and they can be too American for some. However, I’m unapologetic in my love for them and find they go really well with a range of casual ensembles – from being worn underneath sport coats or sweaters, or just alone with a pair of chinos, corduroys, or wool trousers. If your tastes run even more American than mine, you can add another OCBD in a solid pink or light blue Bengal stripe. White OCBDs can also look pretty good with a pair of jeans. 

Two solid white shirts: These can be worn during the evenings, with suits, or just when you’re feeling fancy. I’ve found that light blue is much more wearable than white, but it’s good to have a couple of these on hand. I recommend getting them in either a basic poplin or twill fabric. You can also get them with French cuffs, if you’d like.

Five solid light blue shirts: It’s almost impossible to go wrong with a solid light blue shirt. The color complements any complexion and can be successfully paired with almost any suit, sport coat, or tie (the exception is maybe a light blue jacket, but who owns those?). You can get these in a plain poplin weave, but I find end-on-end and a dressy chambray to be much more interesting. They have a crisscrossing of blue and white yarns that make them look more appealing, but aren’t so busy that they force the shirt into casualwear. 

Two shirts in a mix of pin and dress stripes (either one of each or two of one): Striped shirts are really useful if most of your tailored jackets are in solid colors. They help add a bit of visual interest and keep your patterned tie from looking too lonely. For what it’s worth, I find the wider-spaced dress stripes to be easier to wear than more densely striped ones, and light blue to be easier to wear than dark blue (reason being that it’s easier to wear things with tonal variation, so dark jackets go well with light blue shirts and dark- or medium-toned ties, rather than a mix of darks in all three). Darker blue dress stripes can be nice, however, if you want a bit more variation in your wardrobe and don’t wear ties often. Brown pinstripes are also a good choice. 

Three shirts in a mix of Bengal and candy stripes: Same logic as the pin and dress stripes, but just in a bolder pattern. Mix your pin and dress stripes with boldly patterned ties, and your Bengal and candy stripes with subtle ones. By varying the scale of the two patterns, you ensure that your shirt and tie will never compete for attention. Light blues are again great, but if you want darker blues, I find they’re easier to wear here, for some reason, than in pin or dress stripes. 

Four casual weekend shirts: Finally, some casual shirts for the weekend. Depending on how hot or cold your climate gets, I recommend getting these in seasonal fabrics. For spring/ summer, you can go with madras, linen, or voile. Those will be very airy and breathable, making them nice for hot, humid days. For fall/ winter, you can swap these out for brushed cottons, wool/ cotton blends, and heavy twills. I find that graph checks and tattersalls also look good underneath tweed sport coats, and can be worn alone with a pair of corduroy trousers and a sweater.

This gives you a total of nineteen shirts for each season. Fifteen for the workweek, and four for the weekend. That should be enough to get you through two weeks before laundry day, with enough extra so that you’re not in danger of being shirtless if you go a few days past or stain something during a particularly good meal.

And that’s my version of a basic shirt wardrobe.

The Onion: Report: Some Shirts Good, Other Shirts Not Good
A report released Thursday by the Brookings Institute confirmed that some shirts are good and other shirts are not good.
The research, conducted over a 10-year period, concluded that the average American has five to seven good shirts, and eight or more not-good shirts. Good shirts, the report confirmed, typically have collars on them.

The Onion: Report: Some Shirts Good, Other Shirts Not Good

A report released Thursday by the Brookings Institute confirmed that some shirts are good and other shirts are not good.

The research, conducted over a 10-year period, concluded that the average American has five to seven good shirts, and eight or more not-good shirts. Good shirts, the report confirmed, typically have collars on them.

Being slightly less boring with Ed Morel and Panta

Ed Morel, proprietor of Panta, poses the central question of classic mens clothing in terms of high school: “I went to prep school and I had to wear a tie every day. I could wear a navy or burgundy blazer, but everyone wore the navy. After school we’d go out, try to talk to girls. How do you stand out a little bit within that realm?”

It’s that quality of standing out in a quiet way that many of us are looking for when choosing what we wear. “It’s classic menswear. You’re not reinventing the wheel. You’re wearing a shirt, you’re wearing a tie, you’re wearing a jacket and pants. Ties are within certain widths. Lapels, too. Maybe I’ll wear an eff-you sportcoat and plain pants, or eff-you pants and a solid jacket, and that’s very boring”— he laughs—”It’s incredibly boring.” (Eff-you, in this case, means louder, plaid-er fabric. Ed is pictured above with Bruce Boyer at Carl Goldberg’s Madison Avenue workroom, wearing a shirt and pants.)

The start of Panta

As we step from booth to booth at MRKet, a men’s clothing tradeshow in New York, Morel shops for clothing and shoes to carry at Panta, and with characteristic rapid-fire cadence and self-deprecation, tells me about founding the company. “It would be great if I could tell you a nice romantic story, like my parents came from some country, but… I always did like clothing. Living in New York, having access to the clothes and deals here, it led me to realize I could buy more, sell it, and pay for more clothes for myself.” Ed would buy low on high-end clothes, notably pants, at closeout sales and discounters, then sell high online. “But that inventory is limited, and I thought, ‘What if I had access to great pants all the time?’”

Ed set out to have pants made to his specs—fabrics from sources like Loro Piana and Dormeiul, in sometimes exotic blends and textures, finished by hand, in a signature cut with only one rear pocket—in New York. “Most makers don’t want to deal with the small guys. When I started, it was during the financial crisis,” and a lot of bigger customers were scaling back orders, leaving room for Panta’s business. The good reviews rolled in. Now Ed has developed relationships that allow him to regularly make trousers, ties, and shirts under his own ready-to-wear label, as well as custom tailoring, shoes from Heinrich Dinkelacker, and more to come. Made in small runs with refined cloth, the trousers have cost over $300, but Ed’s adding less expensive options, with some customization available even on the least dear (about $200—less expensive is relative). Fabrics come from top-end Italian and English mills, rare to see off-the-rack, and the make varies according to price point, with truly custom options made in New York by Rocco Ciccarelli.

Ed’s store, Ed’s taste

We stop while Ed places an order with Ron Rider for a Cortina-made split toe derby and a chukka boot, both in shell cordovan. He asks my opinion, and I admit that I don’t generally like split toe shoes. Ed’s OK with that. Panta’s stock is small and focused on what he likes to wear himself. “I’m not going to sell double monks because I don’t wear double monks. I’m not ordering 40 different ties, 40 different pants. I carry four or six styles. The shoes go great with the types of pants that I sell, that go great with the shirts.” With his custom pant program, “We can do pretty much whatever you want, except anything that I find in bad taste.” E.g., no camo.

Ed’s not the only guy to turn personal taste into a small business, but he’s got his eye on bigger things. “It started off as a hobby, but now I’m looking to build something that’ll be around long after I’m gone. I’m working on building something that, if you see a shirt or a tie, you know it’s one of my things.”

Pictured are some of Panta’s fall 2013 silk ties (the silk has a very “dry” feel), as well as new scarves, and a pair of downright beefy Heinrich Dinkelacker brogues.


—Pete

Shopping Kamakura Shirts, New York

After reading Derek’s thorough oxford cloth button down (OCBD) shirt series and some background on Japan’s Kamakura Shirts over at Ivy Style, I ordered a Kamakura OCBD in university stripe from their recently opened e-shop with great expectations. The shirt I ordered was well made but a little slimmer than I prefer, and I determined I’d have to visit their retail location before ordering more, so I could better assess the fabrics, cuts, and sizing in their purported throwback Ivy glory.

I was not let down when I finally got to Kamakura this week. Kamakura’s New York shop occupies an unassuming storefront at 400 Madison Avenue, a block north of J. Press’s flagship, with Paul Stuart a little further south. Those are beautiful spaces, with some of the finest American classic menswear on display, but right now I’d prefer to buy my shirts at Kamakura.

Shirt Design and Construction

If you aren’t familiar with the history of the American oxford cloth button down, I recommend Derek’s introduction. Like Derek, I wear button-down collars almost exclusively. Straight and spread collars I reserve for the occasions for which I must wear black shoes like weddings and job interviews. In his OCBD series of reviews, Derek concluded that several shirtmakers produce excellent button-down collars with the sought-after “roll,” but that Kamakura is the top choice for the right collar, a more modern fit, and a reasonable price. Most Kamakura shirts sell for $79; Mercer and O’Connell’s OCBDs are over $100, and Brooks Brothers non-non-iron, American-made OCBD is $95 (Brooks shirts are regularly available at a discount).

The workmanship on Kamakura’s shirts is quite good—stitching is even and clean, and seams finished well. Collars are cotton lined but not fused (lining and fusing help a collar keep a consistent shape, but make a collar stiffer; not the goal on OCBDs). The shirts are made in Japan, while similar shirts from Brooks, Mercer, and O’Connell’s are made in the United States. Kamakura’s standard fabrics are mostly 100% cotton, often Xinjiang cotton, a long-staple variety grown in China that has a reputation for softness. Some shirts use Italian or American cottons and are labeled accordingly. The standard Kamakura oxford fabric seems to have a little less heft than beefy American OCBDs. All shirts use trocas/takase shell buttons, which look better than the plastic buttons on mass market shirts but are not as thick or iridescent as true mother-of-pearl. The basic OCBDs hit the right notes for Ivy-influenced shirts, although they omit some arguably traditional details like a third button at the back of the collar, a locker loop, or a flapped chest pocket. As a rule, Kamakura makes well-built, straightforward shirts.

Shirt Cuts and Sizing

Kamakura cuts both traditional and slim shirts, and the biggest barrier for new customers will be getting the right cut and size. For dress shirts, there are four cuts. In order from fullest cut to trimmest: New York Classic, Tokyo Classic, New York Slim, and Tokyo Slim. The New York Classic is a traditional, full-cut shirt; the Tokyo Classic a little trimmer, and the slim versions are darted and hence slimmer still. Darts are not a traditional OCBD detail, but they effectively reduce billowing fabric at the waist. Shirttails on all cuts are long and intended to be tucked in to pants, so these are not ideal substitutes for short, ultra-casual OCBDs like those from Band of Outsiders or Gitman Vintage.

It’s great to have different cut options, and the shop offers try-on shirts, but Kamakura’s shirts are not clearly individually labeled according to cut. The help of a sales associate is recommended—on my visit, the two associates working were attentive and knowledgeable. The marked sizing can also be confusing to Americans. The tagged sizes are neck/sleeve measurements in centimeters and they don’t translate evenly to inches, which is one reason the e-shop’s style guide can be confusing (thirds of inches?). In addition, the sport shirts are sized S, M, L, and LL (i.e., XL), but the cuts vary greatly. Some of the issues with cuts and sizing can be chalked up to the ongoing process of expanding a well-established Japanese brand to a single location in the United States. The e-shop is adjusting some size notations.

Other Offerings

Although the exemplary OCBD is the centerpiece of Kamakura’s shop, other items are worth considering. I purchased a button-down collar shirt in a knit pique cotton fabric that’s also available as a spread collar model. Shirts in 100% linen would have turned my head were fall not already on my mind. Ties are generally in the prep tradition of stripes, solids, and silk knits (made variously in Japan, Italy, or Germany), and fairly priced at $69. Silk or linen Italy-made pocket squares with hand-rolled edges are $30. Kamakura also makes shirts and shirt dresses for women.

Right now, web orders ship from Japan, and customers in Japan have access to a wider range of goods, including pants and a small selection of jackets. The Madison Avenue store plans to launch a made-to-measure shirt service in August, pricing shirts at $180 regardless of fabric choice. But the off-the-rack shirts are reason enough for a visit. In my opinion, once you determine your preferred cut and size (and if you dig shirts in the prep/Ivy/trad style), Kamakura is the best bang for the buck (collar for the dollar?) out there right now.

-Pete