Today I want to give you a complete run through of what I believe makes the perfect shirt. I've been in the shirt making business for 6 years and whilst I continue to learn new things, I believe I'm also in a position to pass a few nuggets of information on.
Starting from the top, a floating non-fused collar inner lining is a must for me. You can find this out by pulling the collar apart from either side. If one or both sides stick that means the lining has been fused. When the shirt gets washed this adhesive will react over time with the fabric and cause it to perforate or bubble.
I've had a few debates over edge stitching but I'm sticking to my guns. It makes sense to me the closer the edge the stitch, the harder it is to achieve. Less room for error agreed? The removable collar stays are also a must. Like the fused lining and collar stays that are fixed will react when washed over time.
Generally the yoke should be split on the rear so that the shoulders have more freedom of movement. Cheaper shirts will have one yoke running from shoulder to shoulder because they are easier to produce. A split yoke will just give the shoulder line more structure.
Having consistency throughout on the shirt pattern is key and a great barometer for knowing whether the shirt is luxury or not. On a polka dot shirt it might be imperceptible. But something more pattern protruding like a thick candy stripe shirt will be very telling if it doesn't match up.
We could do an entirely separate blog on what cottons are the best for a luxury shirt. For the Hawkins & Shepherd range we use only the finest cotton with a 2x2 warp to weft weave. I believe this ratio is the best for balance, structure and drape.
It infuriates me when I see a really nice shirt with very ordinary buttons on the placket. It really lets the side down. Mother of pearl buttons are beautiful to look at. They are stunning under the right light and must be sewn on with purpose. If they feel flimsy to the touch they won't last five minutes and you'll be forever back and forth to the dry cleaners.
Personal preference but I prefer the straight lines of an uninterrupted seamless placket. Having stitching or double stitching running the course of the placket from collar to hem can be a real distraction to the overall aesthetic.
Having something handmade is an investment. You're no longer going through shirts every 2-3 months and you'll feel the immediate difference of having something tailor made for your specifications. Our cuts at Hawkins & Shepherd are form fitting and have the overall silhouette of a modern cut.
Pay close attention to the detail of the stitching around the side seam. If it's single stitched it was done with confidence and accuracy. It didn't need the failsafe of a double stitch which is superfluous to requirements so long as the stitching is strong and well done.
This might be missed first time round as the buttonholes will be concealed by the buttons themselves traditionally. You need to get very forensic when buying a shirt. Make sure they line up correctly and there is no unwanted distressing around the buttonholes.
You may have heard me talk about this on the From Tailors With Love Vlog where I talk about some James Bond inspired shirts from my collection. Having a horizontal buttonhole at the bottom is a must because it's the area of the garment that will be called into action the most. With a horizontal button hole the shirt will be allowed to move more in sync with your movements and not crease or pull the look out of place.
Devil is in the details. But the sleeve placket does not require the same sized buttons as the one on the front placket. They are really there to support the shape of the sleeve rather than control the overall and fit. Therefore the smaller buttons are necessary so as not to have too much ornamentation on the garment.
Always look at the gussets on the side seam. You will notice that they either have the extra panelling or not. With the reinforcement the shirt is less likely to split under duress, plus it will ensure further freedom of movement around the hip area.
As the saying goes; as long as the collars and cuffs match.
All Hawkins & Shepherd shirts come with spare mother of pearl buttons on the inside of the front placket. These will come in useful should it come time to make any adjustments to your shirt. Shopping round for buttons is by no means a chore, but getting the right size and colouration to match the rest of the buttons can be tricky.
Fairly self explanatory but I always prefer the extra fabric when buying a shirt so that I don't have to keep wrangling it into my pants or trousers. When I sit down I like to know that my shirt has kept its shape and I don't need to keep shoving it back into place.