7 Signs of a Well-Made Shirt with Grant Harris

According to the Wall Street Journal, “the man’s shirt is having a moment.” But with more options than ever, distinguishing true quality from the smoke and mirrors has only gotten trickier. We tapped Washington, DC-based image consultant and style maven Grant Harris of Image Granted, for his guide to what makes a finely crafted shirt.

Grant Harris

Grant operates a District-based menswear consultancy, authoritatively dishing expertise on the complex image issues facing corporations and individuals there and beyond. Racking up features in the Wall Street JournalTIME magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, CNN, Men’s Health and more – he’s one of a handful of men in the industry with an MBA, keeping a grounded perspective on what’s really relevant to the high-power professionals he advises. Below, Mr. Harris tells us what he looks for in a quality shirt:


The Devil’s In the Details

When it comes to fine clothing and high quality tailoring there are some garments that receive the lion’s share of attention, and deservedly so. The suit, the jacket, footwear, even accessories; specifically the necktie. But ask any clothing enthusiast or clotheshorse; one of the most important but often overlooked elements of the proper wardrobe is the piece that lays closest to the skin. The piece that while mostly hidden from view frames the wearers face, and provides a bit of flash at the wrist when looking at the time or shaking a hand.

This all important garment is the dress shirt. Without it men would be degraded to wearing Neapolitan jackets and Savile Row double breasted blazers over bare hairy chests and pot bellies unworthy of mentioning much less being seen in public. Yes, the shirt is a necessity.  Here, we discuss 7 signs of a well-made dress shirt.



Egyptians are known for more than the pyramids. They also produce some for the best cotton shirting material in the world. Long staple, smooth, strong, breathable and crisp. All virtues of quality shirting material.

Egyptian Cotton

Cloth woven in Italy from Egyptian yarns has a luxurious drape and fineness.

Pattern Matching

Normally we advise against matching, but this is a rare exception. Aligning stripes at the shoulder, or checks at the placket, or any other pattern imaginable is a feature that creates symmetry in line and shows a level of attention to detail not often seen.

Pattern Alignment

The stripes of the body continue uninterrupted through the pocket and front placket.

Stitch Count

Just like batting average, SAT scores, or college basketball rankings, the higher the better. This principle also extends to stitch count. The more stitches the stronger, more flexible, and overall aesthetically pleasing the result.

Stitch Count

Dense, even stitching requires time and precision.

Single-Needle Construction

Take a look at the side seam of your shirt. You’ll most likely see two parallel stitches running together. You’ll also most likely see puckering and bubbling on that seam. This is the opposite of single-needle stitching. One needle, one visible thread sewn onto itself creates a smooth, flat seam (sometimes called a French seam) for comfort and aesthetics. The less needles used to create a shirt, the better.

French Seam

A French seam at the armhole takes twice as long to construct and gives a neat finish.

Split Yoke

No we don’t mean cracking eggs. The yoke extends across the neck and shoulders and can either be created with a single piece of fabric or two separate (split) joining pieces. Split yokes provide pattern matching, flexibility by placing the two pieces of fabric at angles that allow them to stretch, and lastly the lack of need to use unsightly darts at the shoulder. They also need to be aligned by hand, requiring a skilled tailor.

Split Yoke

The split yoke allows the fabric pattern to extend seamlessly across the shoulder, into the arm.

Mother-of-Pearl Buttons

Aside from the fabric and pattern of a shirt, buttons are another place to look for quality. Mother-of-Pearl is the industry gold standard. Iridescent, cool to the touch and much more authentic than plastic, MoP for short, is the only choice for high quality shirting. When attached with a hefty, durable shank, they are the epitome of quality.

Mother-of-Pearl Buttons

Genuine Australian Mother-of-Pearl buttons with a tight, Ascolite-sewn shank.


If there are buttons, then there have to be buttonholes as well. Using the high stitch count previously discussed, proper buttonholes made painstakingly by hand offer stability and guard against fraying over time and through stress.

Button Hole

High grade buttonholes are cut first, then hemmed with a dense line of stitching.

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2 replies
  1. Dave Anderson
    Dave Anderson says:

    I did not know that there were so many things that you could look for to see the quality of the shirt. I knew that the quality of the fabric could make a difference in how good of a shirt it was, but I knew nothing about stitch count. Now that I know the more stitched, the better the quality of the shirt I will look more for that when buying clothes. I think that I will be able to more easily choose a high-quality shirt after reading these tips.


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  1. […] our latest editorial piece we spoke with online custom dress shirt maker Manuel Racim about the 7 signs of a well-made dress shirt.  Keep reading and your next shirt may be your […]

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