Menswear

How Kamakura Shirts Saved My Life

Last week, I wrote a post about how I solve my dress shirt problem, specifically accommodating the list of “musts” I have with dress shirts. It turns out that my problem wasn’t totally solved to my complete liking.

When I wrote the post, I had just received four dress shirts from a company I wanted to try out. Prior to writing the piece, I put one on and was very happy with the fit. After I wrote and published the post, I washed and ironed them. The same problem that plagues too many dress shirts had plagued me again: the no-iron/easy-iron/wrinkle-free dress shirt problem.

Thanks to a tip from a reader on Twitter, my life was saved by Kamakura Shirts.

The Japanese shirtmaker makes beautiful handcrafted shirts that hit all the marks I want in a dress shirt. My ideal dress shirt must have…

  • a plain white or pale sky blue color
  • a slim-fit
  • a classic, semi-spread, 3″ collar
  • French cuffs
  • 100% real, untreated, cotton poplin (no texture or special weave)
  • a price tag of $80 or less

Kamakura Shirts not only hit all the marks for $79, but they have a feature I never would have expected with a shirt in this price range. Unlike most non-button-down dress shirts on the market today, which fuse the collar fabric and press it together to create a stiff and starched look, Kamakura’s shirt collars are not fused. The result is a more natural and genuine look and feel, without any chemical or adhesive “enhancements” one finds in many modern dress shirts.

Kamakura Shirt - blue

I’m late to the Kamakura train, but the company is not new to discerning menswear afficionados. It’s a family run company that started in 1993 in Japan with a continued commitment to creating the finest quality handcrafted dress shirts made with luxurious cotton. The feeling of slipping on the finished result is like sliding into crisp, high thread-count bed sheets.

The only drag about Kamakura’s shirts is that the sleeves come in limited lengths. My real sleeve length is 35″. The closest Kamakura makes for me is 35.5″, which means I need them altered. Perhaps they will one day make a more refined selection of sleeve lengths or offer a free alteration, but an exquisite dress shirt with a $79 price tag that requires a minor alteration is workable for me.

As of this writing, their online store is under reconstruction and due to re-launch this month. Fortunately for me and any other New Yorker, they have a smart little shop at 400 Madison Avenue, between 47th and 48th Streets. (In addition to the ready-made shirts in the shop, they also offer made-to-measure.) Less than a week after I made my first visit to the store to purchase two more of their shirts in that fabulous pale blue, I received a handwritten postcard from the store manager, thanking me for my business, hoping that I was happy with the shirts and offering help with any problems I may have had. How fantastic is that?

kamakura-postcard

Basically, Kamakura Shirts not only saved my life with a fabulous dress shirt, but they did it with a winning touch of class.

And to Mr. Mitsuzumi… Thank you. You’ve got a happy new customer.

kamakurashirts.com

9 Comments

  1. Very nice! I’ve been wanting to try out Kamakura and this post just sealed the deal for me.

  2. Hello George a, after reading this post I went to Kamakura with high hopes as I am a weird fit. The sales lady there was nice enough but and took my measurements and let me try 3 shirts on to determine my size. Once my size was established she went to the rack and told me they do not carry my size. She then tried to push me to a style that fit me like a tent. When I asked if she could order the size that I really was, she handed me a card and rushed me to the door and told me to order from the web site. Maybe I caught them on a bad day but I was not impressed with the service. The Quality did seem great though.

    • George Reply

      Sorry to hear, Anthony! That should’t happen. They do offer made-to-measure in store.

  3. George, your site is brilliant and most helpful. I would welcome your recommendations for a few custom a short makers that meet your tasteful eye. Many years of off the each shirts leave me desperately in need of custom. Shoulders are to wide and waste to small. Good value is always appreciated but I am willing to pay more if I get more! All the best and please keep writing!

  4. You are absolutely right Paul this post just sealed the deal. However, I think it’s my bad luck that I have already contacted Cutnstitch for custom made dress shirts to gift my friend on his birthday.

  5. Anthony Prima Reply

    Hey George, I have been a follower of your website for about a year and just wanted to let you know its fantastic, keep up the good work. I was wondering if you could tell me the difference between the Kamakura New York slim fit and the Tokyo slim fit? I have been checking their site periodically the last couple months waiting to pull the trigger on a new dress shirt, but the New York slim is almost always sold out in every size for plain white. Would you recommend the Tokyo slim instead? Thanks.

    • George Reply

      Hi, Anthony! Sorry about the delay. As I understand it, the Kamakura’s New York slim fit is wider in the shoulders, which is better for me. I think there is information on Kamakura’s website with more details about the fits. I do know that they are a small company that can only make shirts in limited batches. Get on their mailing list for more info or just keep checking back on their website. The feel of the shirt is worth it.

  6. Jorgen Jevne Reply

    Hey, George.

    How would you compare Kamakura to much (much!) more expensive dress shirts in the high-end range, like Borrelli?

    I bought two Borrellis on sale a year ago and I love them, but I simply cannot justify the spending, still being on 50% sale it is just too ridiculous.

    And I gotta say I love the way you talk about clothes and spending “less on more” and have a healthy and environmental take on the whole “dresscode” thing!

    Thanks!

    • George Reply

      Thanks, Jorgen! The only differences I’ve noticed between well-made affordable clothes (like Kamakura’s excellent shirts) is the price and the psychological feeling that I’m wearing something expensive and exclusive. That feeling we get from more expensive and “exclusive” fashions gives us a scientifically proven sense of superiority to others. Nothing wrong with it. It’s just how were wired. But as I get older (and hopefully wiser), that feeling loses its meaning.

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