Made-to-Measure Shirting is the Only Way to Sartorial Joy

On Wednesday night I wore an off the rack TM Lewin shirt to dinner, and it was a living hell. It sounds pathetic but it’s not, and I’ll give you some context. I’ve got a few made-to-measure shirts, and a whole lot of other shirts from various brands that were gifted to me, or that I purchased some time ago. However, if I can help it, I never wear shirts that aren’t made-to-measure because they just don’t fit – it’s that simple.

Of course, fit is the most important factor when it comes to your wardrobe, and this chat applies to suits, trousers, all of it, but I feel like shirts fly under the radar. People think they are getting away with it, but they’re not. I’m talking about sleeves protruding three inches from the cuff of a jacket and breaking on the wrist. Or cuffs that, once buttoned up (with the only single button available), have a circumference twice as large as your wrist and thus have enough space between your skin and the inside of the cuff to cloak a Rolex Deepsea or G-Shock with ease. Then there are shirts with horrid, starchy, small collars, which sit an inch off the neck, squeezed and strained by a thick Windsor knot that isn’t resting on the neck. What I’ve come to realise in the last three years is, it’s possible to pull off a mediocre suit that fits well, but you can’t pull off a shit shirt. Ever.

Anything that doesn’t fit properly isn’t worth a moment in your wardrobe. Period. You’ll notice that the moment you take the plunge into made to measure. I used to think a huge selection of shirts on rotation was the way to go, but I only ever wore four – all made-to-measure examples. One well made, white, spread collar MTM shirt from a quality tailor, will be worth ten shit shirts, even if you wash it every night and wear it to work every day. Of course, I knew it already, but it slapped me in the face on Wednesday night as I sat there wishing I hadn’t left the house in the monstrosity I was wearing.

Prepping for my Italy trip I washed my four favourite shirts and retreated to the wardrobe to get a fill in for my event on Wednesday. A shirt I bought for my friend’s wedding last year. Top of the line from the brand, but a travesty when compared to my ‘go to’ shirts. I ironed it and put it on and hated every minute of it. The same hate I recalled from the only other time I wore it. The collar was too tight, the sleeves were too long, and the cuffs could have accommodated Jonah Hill’s wrists on the set of War Dogs. It was a nightmare. I spent the whole night worrying that I looked like a pre-pubescent year ten student at his first formal. I left and thought, I’m going to write an article about this. Then burn all of my off the rack shirts (and by burn I mean drop them off at Vinnies).

Fellows, made-to-measure shirts are expensive ($180+), I do not deny that, but god damn it, they are worth every penny. It doesn’t matter who you go to, any shirt made for your body will be worth its weight in gold. Not only will it fit, it’ll be made from a fabric that is more durable than your other seven shirts put together, and whether you want to admit it or not, you could wear it every day (and hope everyone at work assumes you have five of them (and they will)).

It’s time gentleman. Drop the garbage and go and get at least one shirt that matters. And if you don’t want to spend the money on made-to-measure, select your best fitting shirt, buy five more and take them to an alterations specialist and get the arms and waist sorted out. It might cost $30 each, but you’ll look a million dollars every time you button them up.

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James is the Founder and Editor of The Versatile Gent.

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