Review of shirtmakers & shirts I’ve owned

Lucca — My favorite shirtmaker in Paris. An attention to detail like I’ve never experienced anywhere else. No standard collars, each collar is cut as a trial paper collar on the customer’s neck, which allow you to instantly gauge the result, in terms of opening & point length. Also, he’s my only shirtmaker so far to have checked on a half-made shirt where the ideal positionning for the second button should rest, by testing the open-neck closure with a needle stuck at different heights. This allow you to see how the shirt’s collar should ideally fall open if you decide to wear it open-necked. Most every other shirtmaker uses standard collars and sets the second button at a standard height. Also, Lucca only cuts from bolts of fabric he has in store on the shelf, so you get to see the full drape, not just some tiny swatch of fabric in a book, which is a better way to visualize the future shirt.

Courtot — My second-best shirtmaker in Paris. Alsmost as good as Lucca, just not as detail-obsessed. Greater choice of fabrics than at Lucca, with fewer bolts on display but more swatch books.

Charvet — I’ve only ever tried their RTW line which is already stunning by the quality of the cotton and the uniqueness of their stripes. I have seen some amazing bolts upstairs in the bespoke selection, it really makes me want to try one of their 5000 bespoke references, but the price-tag is hefty, twice as expensive as Lucca and Courtot, who offer a comparable standard of handiwork, so I have difficulty even condining it let alone buying it.

Ripense — Great bespoke shirt at a price similar to Lucca and Courtot. Just a bit more hassle to order, as they are based in Rome and travel infrequently to Paris for trunk shows.

New Kingston Fashion — This Hong Kong tailor’s shirts are not as good as his suits, the fused collars are super stiff and bubble too easily over time, proving once again the adage that you shouldn’t buy your shirts and your suits from the same place, as it’s extremely rare to find a tailor who does both equally well.

Jean-Manuel Moreau (Tailormail) — Pricey for an MTM shirt, but I’ve found some of the nicest shirt fabrics here, among a huge and wonderfully chosen fabric collection, so I’ve gone ahead and paid the price, and not been dissapointed.

Swann & Oscar — VERY competitive MTM pricing. Now offers CMT as well, so potentially very attractive for making shirts from thrifted fabrics.

Louis Purple — Very inexpensive MTM offering as well, but I wasn’t so satisfied by the measurements and had to ask them to redo the collar, but I may have just as well asked them to redo the whole shirt, as that was not the only sub-optimal measurement on the finished product.

Café Cotton — For a number of years, in the early days, this was the best deal in town for inexpensive yet nice RTW shirts, particularly during sales. However, a few years ago, they modified their cut for the worse, the shirt seems more cheaply manufactured, and the fabrics are just not as nice as they used to be.

Alain Figaret — Would someone please explain to me what the whole fuss is about this brand ? It’s actually nothing special, and the cuts are not that nice, and the RTW line doesn’t even have removable collar stays. I mean, come on.

Canali — Super expensive for RTW, as with everything else from Canali, but also super nice, as with everything else from Canali. I’ve said it time and again, the internet is not giving this brand the credit it deserves.

Corneliani — I would write exactly the same comment as for Canali above. Probably the choice of fabrics is even more luxurious, we’re talking 200/2 RTW shirts here. Don’t ever buy this stuff at RRP kids. I got mine at 80% off when TheoFil Destock closed.

Boggi — Amazing value-for-money, given the rock bottom pricing. Great choice of fabrics, especially the few high-end Albini references each season which are sold at only a marginal markup compared to the rest of the line. The only downside is the non-removable collar stays. Also, they have a great selection of OCBD’s with a perfect collar roll. Lastly, for summer, they have these wonderful splayed-collar shirts made from fine ‘fil d’ecosse’ jersey knit, at around only 70 euros, whereas I’ve seen similar jersey-shirts sold 3-4 times that price because of the novelty and rarity effect. (And yes, I’m talking of full-button shirts made of jersey here, not your usual polo-style cut.)

Turnbull & Asser — I’ve only tried the RTW line. Very nice stuff, but at that price, as with Charvet RTW, why not just go bespoke elsewhere, honestly ?

New & Lingwood — Very nice for RTW, especially when on sale, because otherwise it’s also too pricey for what it is. Special thumbs up to their detail of having extra fabric hidden inside the sleevehead, allowing you to easily lengthen the sleeves by a centimeter. A life-saver I wish I’d had on many many shirts that shrank over time.

Brooks Brothers — This stuff is made cheaply in Malaysia these days, and the classic BB cut is parachute-baggy by today’s standards. They offer a non-iron line which is convenient if you need to stay crisp while travelling. It’s quite impressive in fact, don’t knock non-iron until you’ve tried it. I certainly wouldn’t wear non-iron every day, but every so often, when you need to look great coming off a train or a plane and going straight into a meeting, it’s really great to own a few. I prefer the Charles Tyrwhitt non-iron line however, the cut is better.

Charles Tyrwhitt — Super cheap, in every sense of the word, and entirely non-essential. They do however offer the cheapest 180/2 in the history of shirtmaking, which is a great way to get acquainted with luxury shirt fabrics. The non-iron line is worth owning for travel purposes, and only that.

Di Castri — Great shirts, be they RTW, MTM or Tutto Fatto a Mano MTM. Great fabric choices as well. Same price conundrum as with Jean-Manuel Moreau: while the product is indeed great, is it still worth paying a price close to that of bespoke for something that remains after all an MTM shirt ?

Albert Arts — Great RTW shirts, just don’t ever buy at the high RRP. I got mine at -70% off, and at that price it’s probably the best RTW deal out there.

Van Laack — I was always suspicious of this widely distributed luxury shirt brand, probably for the same reason that some people are suspicious of Canali or Corneliani: if you see it too much in men’s magazines and luxury boutiques at airports and hotels, how can it be good, right ? I decided to try anyway, and I must say that I was quite contented, and felt stupid for not having tried earlier. Again, never pay the ludicrous RRP for this stuff, I only tried it because I stumbled upon an end-of-season clearance sale one day in a backwater in Bavaria during the month of August…

Cifonelli — Great RTW shirts, only available at their boutique. Be sure to wait for sales though.

Arthur & Fox — These guys must not be making their shirts all at the same factory, as they have so many different cuts and qualities. I picked up a wonderful shirt on sale once, but it was sitting there mixed-in with a bunch of unremarkable shirts that could not have possibly come from the same source.

Hartwood — Great RTW shirts, consistent with their similarly great offering of RTW suits, shoes and ties. If I were given a desert island choice, I would probably pick Hartwood as the one brand where to dress from head to toe, if they just weren’t so damn expensive given that it does remain RTW after all, when all is said and done.

Hackett — Some nice fabrics in some lines & models, but I’m not a huge fan of the collar shape, which does not extend the points out far enough to reach under the suit collar — that’s mandatory in my book.

Nodus — This shirtmaker had a brief moment of worthiness in the early days, when they had a classic offering. Then they went faux trendy, and have been worthless ever since. I’ve always wondered what happened — a change of management or creative direction undoubtedly.

Hilditch & Key — Some very fine fabrics, but intolerable (in)hospitality at the Paris boutique. Ruins it for me. I’d love to buy from them, but I just can’t endorse such a shitty attitude towards walk-in customers. And this is not a one-off occurence — there are a number of documented occurences with many different customers.

Gant — Wholly uninteresting, I don’t even know why I’m bothering to even write this sentence about them.

Vicomte A. — I absolutely loathe their faux trendy detailing, like the contrasted colouring of a few boutounnieres, or exagerated cutaways on some collars. However, I do admit that they have chosen some fabrics in their topline, mostly from Thomas Mason, which are positively divine, and truly surprising to find in such an overdistributed and otherwise uninteresting RTW brand. I had Courtot change the boutonnieres and collars of a few shirts I grabbed on clearance sale, and I’ve made them into very nice shirts, as the purchase price plus the alterations came out to less than what I would have been willing to pay for a proper shirt in these exquisite Thomas Mason fabrics.

Comptoir des Cottoniers — Cheap uninteresting RTW shirts, but the selection of tab-collar RTW shirts is impressive, given than you seldom find that type of collar in RTW anymore. This allowed me to test the tab collar shirt on the cheap, before adopting it. The store has a great selection of pocket squares, bow ties and knit ties, from reputable makers such as Boivin, sold year round at a RRP of about half of what these same makers fetch in retail elsewhere.

Old England — The Old England brand itself was by far not the best brand sold in that store, which had some truly great brands.

Cotton Park — Cheap RTW, but certainly nice enough given the lowball price. It’s mainly a brand that makes shirts for others.

Thomas Pink — The worst collar in the industry — it’s impossible to keep your tie up on a Thomas Pink shirt. This has been tested time and again across a large panel of gents, and still no plausible explanation. One of the great mysteries of #menswear. Pink has some nice fabrics however, usually woven exclusively for them — I know because I’ve searched high and low for matching fabric. I ended up switching my Pink’s to white collars at Courtot or Tailormail and am now happy with the shirts.

Les Dandys — A great MTM offering, made in Italy. Same apprehensions as with Di Castri and Moreau about paying that much for MTM when bespoke is just a bump up.

JLR — I used to llike this place when I had my very first MTM shirt made 20 years ago. I’m not sure where they stand today.

Barba Napoli — High-end RTW, but I was not blown away like I expected to be, given the all internet groupthink in praise of this brand.

Finamore — Wonderful high-end italian RTW, more deserving of internet praise than Barba IMHO.

Truzzi — Perhaps one notch below Finamore, but still above Barba.

Profilo Italiano — Perhaps the best MTM value-for-money in Paris. Priced as low as Swann & Oscar, but has much nicer finishing touches, including hand-stiched sleeveheads with a neapolitan sleeve setting, like on a jacket.

Façonnable — Cheaply manufactured shirt, but nevertheless sometimes interesting fabric choices, such as oversized gingham check button down shirts in bright colors, such as bold apple green, like I’d been looking for, not easy to come by.