For a few years now, the world of shirts has been rapidly shifting.
After a long status quo, with no progress in terms style, cuts or materials, we have recently started to see an explosion of – more or less fortunate- creativity: collars buttoned in the middle, contrasted buttonholes, fancy buttons, double (and even triple) buttoned collars, excessively slim or fitted cuts, flashy colours…
Not that this renewed interest of men for their own style is a bad thing, but after pondering on it for a long time, I remain more than ever a strong partisan of classic and discreet shirts and, above all, to flawless cuts and materials.
For those interested in this fundamental section of their wardrobe, here are my highly subjective shirt recommendations. Just as in the choice of a suit or shoes, not all white shirts are created equal.
In this matter as in others, making the right choice is crucial, no matter the price you are willing to pay for it.
It is my hope that this selection will help you make a decision.
In this category, we managed to single out a few labels that respect the fundamentals in terms of quality of make, comfort, durability and finishing touches.
Famous London “Jermyn Street” British shirts makers get this price range’s lion’s share with very affordable shirts (30 to 40 euros). Charles Tyrwhitt, Pink, and TM Lewin, among others, are very important in a market segment in which they, without a doubt, offer the best value for your money.
Competitive online sales policies (Lewin almost always has promotions, e.g. 4 shirts for 100 £) are serious assets to attract those who refuse to fall between the clutch of low-quality makers. Nevertheless, I feel that only one label is truly acceptable in this price range, despite faltering quality due to massive production outsourcing (“English shirt makers since 1850” no longer means anything: the vast majority of the products are now made very far from the City).
MY RECOMMENDATION: TM LEWIN (30£ per shirt)
– Very wide choice of colour and fabric
– Wide range of collar choices, some with removable collar stays
– Impeccable and swift delivery service
– Constant promotions (at the time of this writing: 19£ per shirt!!)
TM LEWIN is a good compromise if you do not want to invest too much into a shirt. Despite barely acceptable quality and debatable durability (the shirt won’t be as crisp after ten washes or so), at this price range, TM Lewin defeats all competition.
NO: PINK and CHARLES TYRWHITT
The prices and range of selection offered by these famous British shirt makers compare to TM Lewin, but I think their cuts are MUCH too wide (almost parachutes at CT) and therefore not a good choice for an elegant gent mindful of shirt fit. Other than that, these labels remain respectable.
NOT TRIED: Hawes and Curtis (same price range)
Higher cut quality but, more importantly, greater durability. In my opinion, two labels stand out.
MY #1 RECOMMENDATION: TURNBULL & ASSER (115£ per shirt)
Probably the last British shirt maker whose entire production is still made in the United Kingdom. To say the least, we are taking a large step forward from what we described earlier.
– Good cuts, reasonably fitted
– High-end details: hem gussets, quality seams, buttons and collars.
– Above all, an excellent durability, for shirts that hold up almost perfectly even after several washes. Incomparable price quality ratio in my book.
MY #2 RECOMMENDATION: FIGARET (90 € / shirt)
– French label one good notch below T&A for price and quality, but remaining a good alternative nonetheless. In the 90s, many middle execs adopted the classic Weston/Smuggler/Figaret trifecta.
– Quality cuts and fabrics. Very wide array of choices.
– But a few blots remain: the durability is not as good as T & A’s, and some the absence of some details might deter purists (like non removable collar stays).
NOT TRIED: New and Lingwood (though I heard good things about them).
We are now reaching another level of quality (although Turnbull & Asser really can compete with the following labels in my opinion). With no hesitation, I give my highest mark in this range to a very small French label, confidential but uncompromisingly managed (in terms of sourcing) by an exceptional true aesthete.
MY RECOMMENDATION: MARC GUYOT (180 €/shirt)
In his quaint little boutique, whose production seems straight out of an Apparel Art drawing, sells a limited range of fabulous shirts made by hand in the best Italian workshops. The only downside is the low availability of the products, with wait times that can exceed bespoke delays.
– Purist construction and finish: hem gussets (the red triangle is the label gimmick), skewed sleeve seams, non-fused stiff collars etc.
– Long and ample collars. Straight cuts
– High quality fabric (be warned though, as they can be rather thick)
NOT TRIED: UDESHI (very positive a priori)
IN A CLASS OF ITS OWN
This short (incomplete and highly subjective) list is topped by a French artisan unlike any other in the world. Wearing one of his shirts is akin to touching the Holy Grail.
MY RECOMMENDATION: CHARVET (280 € RTW, 350 € special order and from 450 € bespoke)
Those who know this venerable Place Vendôme house know what I am talking about. Charvet is unique, and the quality of his products is unparalleled. There is nothing to add as we have reached the height of shirt making art: incredible fabric choice (over 8,000 references), masterful construction, and everything to make the dreams of the most demanding of purists come true. Essential, if you can afford it.
I can’t sign this article without naming two reasonable priced French shirt labels: HALARY and COURTOT. I am personally not a client of either label, but I have had the opportunity to see their shirts: impeccable and reasonably priced for true bespoke (~300 euros)