This month, India’s leading shirt makers — Camessi, Bombay Shirt Company, 16stitches, Vitruvien and Threads & Shirts talk to MW about choosing fabrics, collars and the perfect fit.
How important is fabric in the process of having a shirt made?
Bombay Shirt Company (BSC): The fabric is essentially the soul of the shirt. Every detail, from the fit to the design details, depends on it. It’s not just the print, but the weave, the texture and the quality of the material that you choose which defines the rest of the look.
16Stitches.com (16S): It’s all about the fabric —whether it’s a plain white or a printed party shirt. Apart from the comfort, and sheen, it’s important to know the way it falls on your body type.
Vitruvien (V): The finer the yarn used to make a fabric, the better the end result. Finer yarns have minimum irregularities, thus resulting in silky and smooth fabrics. At Vitruvien, we use Egyptian Giza Cotton, which has one of the best uniformity indexes in the industry.
Camessi (C): Often, men choose their fabrics using only their eyes. Yes, the colour and pattern of the fabric are vital, but it is just one aspect of the fabric selection process. A gentleman knows that the feel, weight, weave and composition of a fabric are of paramount importance as well. He knows that any bespoke tailor worth his salt will have the same design that caught his eye in various fabrics, with different fibre compositions, counts and weaves.
Off to enjoy the Tuscan summer? A beautiful, bright, light-weight linen may be your best choice. Planning a business trip to New York in chilly February? A luxurious cotton or cotton-cashmere flannel will be an ideal companion.
How do I figure out what fit works best for me?
BSC: You need to ensure the shirt fits in three key areas — collar, shoulders and neck — and that is a good starting point. We provide both Slim and Relaxed Fits.
V: We recommend most customers opt for a slimmer look, where there is adequate fabric for basic movement, but not so much that it looks like a fashion faux pas. Of course, whichever fit you choose, some basics must always be tailored correctly — your collar must have two-finger room for comfort, your long sleeves should end about an inch-and-a-quarter below your wrist joint and your shirt shoulders must not droop.
Threads & Shirts (TS): We have the basic Slender/Slim fit or Classic/ Relax fit, which is offered to our customers according to their body types and daily styling needs.
C: What we usually encourage our customers to do is to reflect on their lifestyle choices. Is the shirt for work or for play? Is it going to be worn with or without a tie? Will it be worn under a jacket? Is the wearer going to spend most of his day in the office or will he be travelling? Will he be wearing an oversized watch? These are all questions that need to be answered before deciding what fit will be best suited for the customer.
There are so many kinds of collars. Which one should I specify when making a shirt?
BSC: It differs from the event you wear it for. The classic Prince Charlie, Spread and Ozwald Boateng collars are good for work and dressy occasions, and the Polo, Hipster and Evil Pandit collars are suitable for casual affairs.
16S: Collars are typically chosen based on facial structure and occasion — narrow collars for a thin lad or a wing tip for a bowtie event. But there are no rigid rules; it’s best to play around with different styles.
TS: For a formal approach, we recommend a wingtip or an edgy extreme cutaway collar,complementing it with a neck accessory. For a corporate approach, we would advise a lovely regular collar or button down collar, and for a casual occasion a rounded club collar works wonders.
C: Men with shorter necks shouldn’t wear collars with high backs. The length of the collar point should always be proportional to the height of the collar and to the height of the wearer. Pointed collars give a more conservative look. Skinny ties require collars with a smaller point, while broad ties look best with cutaway collars. A gently cutaway collar with a single button is the most versatile.
Short sleeves or long sleeves? I’ve seen people wear short sleeves to work, so what are the rules?
BSC: Given our climate and the increasing casualisation of dress codes, short-sleeved shirts are becoming more acceptable at work. The fit of the sleeves, however, is pertinent to how the shirt looks. Too large and flared, and they look drab; while the other way around would look effeminate.
16S: Short sleeves could be great for a casual affair, but when it comes to a formal setting, it’s definitely avoidable! If it’s the excessive heat, you’re better off rolling up your sleeves.
V: It depends largely on your work culture, but there are some basic rules on how to tailor an office-appropriate short-sleeve shirt. Firstly, go for a sleeve length that ends closer to your elbows, not the one that ends at your biceps and flaunts your muscles. Secondly, when it comes to fabric patterns, go for narrow stripes, checks or solids. Avoid bold, casual designs.
C: We believe that short-sleeved shirts must be restricted to casual wear. A gentleman never wears a short-sleeved shirt to work or, God forbid, under a suit. Short sleeves are for the beach; not at a conference table. Rolling up one’s sleeves when not wearing a suit on a hot day might still be considered acceptable.
Is Stitch Per Inch (SPI) really that important?
16S: Yes! Quality is depicted by the fabric of the shirt, but durability comes from SPI. A seam with low SPI may blow out when you least want it to. The strength of the seam depends on factors like type and weight of the fabric, stitch and seam construction, thread type and size and thread tensioning. The greater the SPI, the finer the finish of the shirt and the greater the durability of the seams. A general rule is that a stitch per rule is that a stitch per inch above 16 is considered excellent.
C: Stitches are not for show; they hold your shirt together. The more stitches a shirt has in its seams, the more laborious it is to make. The more stitches a shirt has in its seams, the less visible the stitches themselves are — the more seamless the shirt looks. The upper echelon of shirts usually have 23 stitches per inch in their seams, going up to 25 stitches per inch on the collars and cus. High SPI is a sign of quality.
Is it vain to monogram my shirt?
BSC: To each his own! Our suggestion would be to have it done on a more subtle part of the shirt, not visible to everybody.
V: It is said that ‘A garment that carries a personal stamp exceeds all other forms of luxury’. A beautifully embroidered or embossed monogram can help add that touch of luxury, such that fabric becomes the extension of one’s personality.
TS: One can choose a more traditional approach by monogramming the cuff, or try the Italian style, by placing your initials on the left side.
V: Is it also vain then to personalise one’s fit, one’s collar and one’s fabric? A bespoke shirt is an expression of your individuality, so why not personalise it?
What would you describe as the perfect bespoke shirt?
BSC: A white poplin shirt in a high thread count, mother of pearl buttons and a classic spread collar.
V: A shirt hand-cut and crafted with painstaking care, attention to detail and perfection; made from some of the most luxurious fabrics in the world. and fitted in a way that it feels like second skin. A shirt that is made for you, by you, in a style and fabric that suits you.
TS: It should speak volumes about its quality, construction and fit.
C: One that does not adhere to any rules other than the ones laid down by the wearer. It fits, feels and looks exactly as the wearer intends it to, whether or not it has society’s stamp of approval. After all, the shirt has been spoken for by the wearer, not by society.
Inputs by Akshay Narvekar, founder, Bombay Shirt Company (BSC), Punit Chokhani, co-founder, 16Stitches.com (16S), Rajesh Goradia, co-founder, Vitruvien (V), Anisha Chaudhari, founder, Threads & Shirts (TS) and Sanjiv Shroff, director, Camessi (C)
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