Buying a shirt to wear with a suit should be a straightforward process. It’s the item of clothing most men possess more of than any other – but getting the right one can be vexing. Given the complexity of the human body and the variety of physiques out there, the chances of finding a shirt that fits the contours of your anatomy are rare. When you’re only given a collar size to work with, the odds get slimmer still.
Look around any office, in fact, and you’ll see plenty of chaps in shirts that don’t really fit them – they’ve been forced to accept a compromise, with baggy shoulders, unflattering collar and too tight belly, simply to avoid the effort of having to search for the perfect shirt.
What they should really consider is getting their shirts made on a bespoke basis. The increase in cost is arguably offset by the increase in quality, in fit and just how easy and stress-free the buying process is. After you get measured up the first time, your measurements are kept by the tailor so that any time you require new shirts, you can order them without needing to be re-measured.
“The fact is that 99 per cent of people are uneven in their body shape, a bit up and down on one side, and we take those things into consideration,” says Darren Tiernen of the famous Piccadilly shirtmaker Budd. “Even people who go down to the gym a lot and would seem to have the perfect physique will end up with muscular, sloping shoulders which will mean that run-of-the-mill off-the-peg shirts will look strange on them.”
Budd’s bespoke shirts, which are cut on the premise, start at £195 each, with a minimum first order of four shirts. After that, order them as and when you want them.
For the ultimate in luxury bespoke shirts, Bond Street menswear boutique Zilli has its own dedicated shirt room above its ground floor showroom. Here, in opulent surroundings, you’ll be measured up for a shirt requiring 42 seamstresses and 95 different operations to be made.
“The last time I visited the factory in France, I saw a lady throwing away a collar that looked perfect to me,” says manager Arnaud Corbin. “She said she made a slight mistake that you won’t see because it’s underneath, but it’s not perfection – and that’s the point.”
Indeed it is – since a bespoke shirt means a garment completely designed to your body shape, there’s no need for annoying compromise. And if the collars and cuffs get worn out, a good shirt tailor will be able to replace them.
“Off the peg will never fit you perfectly, so the trouble is that once you go bespoke you find it very difficult to go back,” says Corbin.
“But why would you want to?”