Unlike many purists, I’m a fan of online custom clothing. For someone on a budget who prefers made-to-measure, it’s a real problem solver. Aside from the very occasional slight alteration needed on a new garment from my made-to-measure resources, the results I’ve gotten have been pretty damn good. There is something fantastic about opening a shipment box and putting on a suit, jacket or dress shirt that fits like it was made for you because it was – literally – made for you.
When a friend tipped me off about Son of a Tailor, the Copenhagen-based company that makes made-to-measure t-shirts, I was intrigued. I’ve never been disappointed with the slim fit tees from J.Crew I’ve been wearing forever, which means that, in my case, there was no problem to solve. But I was curious.
Last year, I wrote a piece about my first experience with Proper Cloth, maker of online made-to-measure dress shirts. Much like that experience, my first experience with Son of a Tailor was painless. A pleasure, actually. The measurement process was ridiculously simple, and the options for designing your t-shirt are plentiful without seeming too overwhelming. Do you want a crew neck or a v-neck? Short or long sleeves? Regular or heavy weight cotton? Single stitch or regular stitch neck? Which of the 10 available colors would you like? Nice options which, again, don’t seem overbearing or confusing for the uninitiated.
Being the basic bitch that I am, I ordered up a plain white, crewneck t-shirt in medium cotton for $64.
Beyond the custom angle, part of Son of a Tailor’s pitch has to do with quality and sustainability. Son of a Tailor uses “100% extra long staple cotton,” which is apparently the highest grade cotton in the world, making for longer wear and durability without sacrificing softness. With sustainability, each garment is made to order, as opposed to mass production. No garment is made that isn’t ordered, eliminating the problem of unsold stock that just goes to waste, heaped into a landfill. This is a genuinely compelling feature that I’ve always appreciated about made to order clothing.
Son of a Tailor has also picked up on the modern trend of transparency, using their website to explicitly explain their sourcing and their process, even introducing us to the people who are actually making the t-shirts. More companies should do this.
A couple of weeks after my order, the t-shirt arrived. Before writing this piece and photographing myself in the product, I wanted to give it some wears and washes so that it had some life and character. It’s a pretty good t-shirt. The fit is great, and the jersey cotton feels soft yet substantial. If I were to order another, I’d adjust my measurement profile slightly to shorten the shirt length by almost an inch and the sleeves by about a half an inch. (In the photo below, I’m wearing it with the sleeves folded up a notch.) My only other minor issue is with the collar. It stands up a bit instead of laying flat as a t-shirt collar should.
All in, this was a pretty good experience.
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But now for a little perspective. We’re not talking about complicated garments like suits or jackets. These are t-shirts, made literally with four panels of cotton jersey, not exactly a new, exotic, premium textile. Jean companies often do this with denim, which was created as a cheap, durable fabric for laborers and is now worshipped on an altar with fine wools and cashmeres.
That’s not to say that the cotton in my new t-shirt doesn’t seem nice. It really does. But we’re still talking about the same kind of garment that Hanes sells on Amazon in 3-packs for $10 and dubious labor practices.
So the question remains: Is a plain white t-shirt worth $64? I honestly don’t know the answer. Luxury maker Sunspel sells regular, off-the-rack t-shirts for $90. Would their t-shirts do something for me that my $20 tees from J.Crew can’t do, other than look good and last a few years? I feel nice knowing that people assembling the t-shirts for Son of a Tailor are being paid a fair wage and that there isn’t a heap of unsold garments going to waste. There is also the psychological satisfaction of knowing that my tee is made with a good cotton and will probably last longer than something like a Fruit of the Loom multi-buy. But is it necessary to spend $64 for a single tee to get this feeling, particularly now, when a lot of people who need staple garments are having a really hard time? Again… I don’t know. It’s up to the market to decide.
I can say that I was very happy overall with the Son of a Tailor experience. Great process and great product. And if I were a little stealthier of wallet, I’d likely go back for several more.