Mr. Alan Flusser, in the book Dressing the Man – Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion, states that one of the most important but least understood functions of male attire is to lead the viewer’s eye towards the face, understanding the subtle balance that should exist between a man’s most visible and expressive body part – his face – and the clothes that lead up to it is a prerequisite of fine dressing. He adds ‘the shirt, more so than any other male garment, has served to distinguish a man’s wealth and social class‘.
In the last 20 or so years, men have moved from tailored shirts to ready to wear shirts for various reasons, such as 1. easy and wide availability; 2. accessibility, 3. variety of fabrics and patterns at different price levels; 4. numerous brands; 5. cost effectiveness, especially during sale season, 6. advertisements. As you are aware, in India, ready to wear shirts, have meagre styles of collars in uncharacteristic patterns and most men, buy them, without considering the fact whether configurations of such collars would enhance a man’s countenance or ruin it.
To be honest, getting shirts tailor made (bespoke or made to measure) is not a cake walk and requires patience and planning. To add to that unreliability of tailors and dearth of good tailors is another factor why men have grown averse to the practice of having shirts tailored. Trust me, I was in the same boat as most of the men out there until 2013 when I got a couple of shirts made from Raymonds and Bombay Shirt Company (BSC), after which I get most of my shirts tailored except ready to wear casual shirts.
The main reason for me to go for tailored shirts was that I had lost weight and could not find the right fit for myself paired with the choice of patterns and designs available in the ready to wear shirts did not attract me. Whereas, after a couple of shirts from Raymonds, I never had anything made from them, I am still getting shirts from BSC. The main reason I continued with BSC is that they provided with consistency in the fit and the choice of fabrics they provide. Apart from BSC, I also get shirts made from Govinda Mehta’s Raisson d’etre who provide bespoke services, though are a bit more expensive than BSC. However, the quality of fabrics, choice of fabrics and the fit provided by him is the best I have come across.
It’s true that getting a bespoke or made to measure shirt is time consuming and in some cases, expensive when compared to ready to wear shirts. However, what you get in return is wide choice of fabrics and different quality of fabrics to choose from, for different budgets, a shirt which is made to fit your body measurements, styling options for collars, cuffs, placket, buttons, length, pocket or no pocket etc. I have set out certain attributes of tailored shirts below:
The fit of a shirt is of utmost importance; even a shirt made out of cheap fabric will look nice and sharp with the right fit. A man would not look good in a shirt with drooping shoulders or loose and long sleeves or a loose fit around the chest and torso. On the other hand a shirt should not be too tight as well. I often see people who wear a tie and cannot close their collar button because their collar size does not match with the chest size in ready to wear shirts. This is one of the prominent giveaways of a ready to wear shirt.
A well fitted shirt one that fits right on a man, perfectly aligned to the shoulders, leaving much needed space around the chest and torso area for you to breathe when seated and sleeves not being loose should end right above your wrist. In most ready to wear shirts, you will face some issue related to fit since they are made in standard sizes and all men do not have same measurements.
In case of a tailored shirts, you have a better control over the fit of the shirt according to your body measurements. However, one needs a good tailor who understands the basics about how a shirt should fit and how the main components of shirt viz. collar and cuff should fit and be angled.
A good thing about tailored shirts is that one can choose among different quality of fabrics, mostly single ply or two ply fabric and different weaves. Ply, for the people new to fabrics, indicates the number of yarns twisted together to make a single thread. Two-ply means that two yarns are twisted together to make a single thread that is then woven into the fabric. Two ply fabrics are generally more expensive that single ply ones and they make up for the cost by being more durable as well, depending how well are the shirts treated.
In a ready to wear shirt, you do not have control over the quality of fabric that you are buying, however, you do have options of single or two ply shirts depending on the brand and the price of the shirt. The drawback is that if you are looking for a shirt in particular pattern or colour, it may not always be available in two ply fabric. There are certain brands like Zodiac, Louis Phillipe etc. who sell shirts in two ply fabric, but it will be in limited patterns and colours.
When you go to a mall, you get to see limited choice of ready to wear shirts from certain brands which fit you well.
In tailor made shirts you have wider choice of fabrics to choose from. I got shirts made from Raisson d’etre and they have files with around 2000 swatches of shirt fabrics. Bombay Shirt Company for that matter also has a really wide variety of single ply and two ply fabric with new options added every month. The quality you choose is up to your budget and purpose for which shirt is going to be worn.
With ready to wear shirts, you get what you see and there is no room for customisation. However, in tailor made shirts you options to customise the collar, cuffs, plackets, addition of piping in collar or cuff or placket etc.
When you have a shirt tailored, you can always have the collar shaped and angled to compliment the shape of your face and length of your neck. Additionally, you have options of customisation, like a pink piping in the collar, pocket or no pocket, panel or french (clean) placket etc.. This is one of the reasons I prefer tailored shirts over ready to wear. Certain customisations can make a boring shirt interesting and make you stand out of the crowd.
If one gets the basics right and compliments it with right kind of customisation, a tailored will definitely add on to your gentleman’s quotient.