Men who covet the best shirts in the world, and have the wherewithal to buy them at any price, must seek out these specialist shirt makers based around Europe
The shirt of presidents and royalty around the world, Charvet, the world’s best known high-end shirt maker, has been run out of the same location since 1838. The seven-storied store on Number 28 Place Vendome in Paris, offers customers as many as 6,000 different fabrics (in bolts, not swatches) to choose from for their bespoke shirts to be made. Needless to say, it is the largest such selection in the world. Their famous Wall of Whites has over 400 varieties of white fabrics in as many as 104 shades. As one writer put it: “Customers can debate not just the shade of white, not just the choice of cuff, not just the angle, depth and proportion of the collar, but also the infinitesimal differences in the weight of the interlining in collar and cuff and how this can and should be varied between formal, semi-formal and casual shirts.” For around Rs 35,000, you can place your order online and have a ready-to-wear Charvet shipped to India.
This venerable 60-year old Naples-based company still makes shirts in the generations-old Neapolitan style: entirely by hand, using natural fabrics produced in the mills of northern Italy. It makes only 200 shirts a day, each one taking a minimum of 6 hours of work, requiring 22 hand-stitching procedures.
Borrelli shirts were first made by Anna Borrelli out of her home in Naples in 1900. The brand’s popularity among aficionados is thanks to her son Luigi. Each Borrelli shirt requires four hours to make through a nine hand-sewn operation. Its main features include basting the sleeve and collar to the body of the shirt, embroidered gussets at the bottom of the side seams and the attachment of mother of pearl buttons with the traditional Neapolitan three-point chicken-foot stitch. They retail at around Rs 25,000 a shirt.
This relatively young company, founded in 1990, is based out of Naples and was established by Anna Matuozzo, who worked with the famed Neapolitan tailor, Rubinacci, for over two decades. In recent times, it has become one of the most sought-after bespoke shirt makers by aficionados in Europe and America. Every shirt is still handmade by Matuozzo and her three daughters. Even the collars are woven by hand rather than fused.
Turnbull & Asser
With its distinctive three-button cuff and hand stitching at the cuffs and collars, Turnbull & Asser has been the shirt preferred by British royalty and the rich for more than a century. Winston Churchill was a customer, and so are British film stars. Men in all the big British movies from around the 1960s, most famously James Bond, wear Turnbull & Asser. The shirts are still entirely made at their factory in Gloucester, in south-west England. The ready-to-wear versions retail at around Rs 18,000 to Rs 20,000.
Based out of Bergamo in north Italy, near Milan, Emanuele Maffeis shirts — made with fabrics using Egyptian cottons, Irish linens, cashmere and Italian silks — have been known for their detailing and finishing for over 60 years. Details include 10 stitches per cm, 2 mm hem and pre-ironing of sleeves. There is a selection of 500 fabrics to choose from every season. The shirts retail for around Rs 20,000.
Every Barba shirt sold since its founding in 1964 has been cut by hand. Their highlights include cutting and finishing by hand; the front and the reverse of both the collar and the cuffs perfectly aligned in the lines; the sleeves hand sewn; the back and front side of the hips perfectly aligned; the placket seam following the fabric lines, etc. They are priced at around Rs 30,000 a shirt.
Based out of Bologna in northern Italy, this five-decade-old brand is known for its continuing use of traditional tailoring to the point where shirts are still hand ironed before being packed. The sides, sleeves, collars and cuffs are hand-cut individually to match the fabric grain, and also to guarantee continuity of the pattern. The stitching on the shoulders, sides, wrist slits and front buttonhole bands are performed keeping in mind the continuity of the design. The shirts retail for around Rs 30,000.
This nearly century-old shirt maker is based out of a town close to Milan in northern Italy. All shirts are made at its modern facility. Each shirt goes through 50 individual stages and takes about an hour to make. The sewing of the seams is carried out in two separate phases with two distinct, single-stitch seams to create a strong, soft seam. The finished sleeve is inserted into the shirt armhole which keeps the shirt from riding up when moving your arms. The yoke has no visible stitching – front or back – and the outer piece of cloth is cut on the vertical, which allows for more comfort. The reinforced collars and cuffs are attached with two separate seams – unlike regular shirts that are produced with a single seam. This extra seam produces a smooth appearance so that the shirt always appears fresh and immaculate. It retails at around Rs 15,000 a shirt.