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 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 Journal, TIME 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.