Over the last few years, some of the biggest retailers – J.Crew, Brooks Brother’s, Banana Republic and the like – have caught on to men’s increasing desire for better fitting shirts. Most, if not all, of these companies now offer varying degrees of “slim” or “tailored” shirts to appeal to increasingly scrupulous taste of guys looking for shirts. I’m a pretty lucky guy when it comes to this sort of thing. Clocking in right around 6’ and at an average build, most of these shirts fit me pretty well right off the rack. The issues arise when you’re a bit more out of the spectrum of what is considered “normal.”
For example, J.Crew sells its shirts in the standard S, M, L, and XL rather than by neck and sleeve measurements. If you’re my size, this is fine. However, this does mean that a heavy guy and a built guy are reaching for the same L or XL shirt on the rack, despite having completely different measurements.
This difficulty has led to a host of new companies offering custom tailored shirts at around the same price point as the big box retailers. There is a handful up here in Boston alone, one of which contributed to our blog just the other day.
To learn a little more about this trend, we caught up with Parker Simon, the creative director of Blank Label, a custom suit and shirt maker with a shop in Boston and two more coming to Chicago and New York City down the road. Down at their brick and mortar shop on Newbury Street, Parker offered us a little perspective on the rise custom movement:
Why custom? Well, there’s this problem in the clothing industry in which men haven’t been introduced to products that are actually made for them. So you see guys shopping off-the-rack and accepting that their shirts might fit in the neck, but not the sleeve, length, shoulder, chest; something always looks off. Mass-market brands simply aren’t making the effort to create for the individual.
The opportunity we see in making custom the new standard is that it changes guys’ wardrobes completely – to the point that they can pull out any shirt, without looking, and not question that it will fit them damn well in every single way.”
More than being about measurements, it’s a process that asks guys to step up and finally have a voice in the way they’ve always wanted their shirts to fit.
I’m of the belief that if you can afford it (or the shirts are cheap enough), going custom is a no brainer. The only issue is that it takes a little more leg work on your end. You have to pick the fabric, cut, details, etc. This is great if you know exactly what you want (and have good taste), but can be a little trickier if you’re new to the game. My advice in this regard is to stick to the basics and only go for one or two additional details. Skip the contrast collars, the crazy linings on the suits and the bizarre buttons. The advantage of custom comes from the fit, not from piling on the not-so-necessary details.