Menswear

My Dress Shirt Solutions

Until years ago, my dress shirts were almost exclusively from Brooks Brothers. Aside from their long (and now lost) heritage with dress shirts, they had a great fit and wonderful fabric until they went down the no-iron/wrinkle-free rabbit hole. Wrinkle-free is the crystal meth of menswear. Since my distaste for the substandard, formaldehyde-soaked, toxic, no-iron phenomenon is no secret, even earning me a quote in the Wall Street Journal, Brooks Brothers completely lost my business.

My preferred collar and cuff combination for dress shirts is a semi-spread collar with French cuffs. Same with my formal shirts. For handsome, well-made, affordable dress shirts, where to go?

White poplin extra slim-fit from Charles Tyrwhitt.
White poplin extra slim-fit from Charles Tyrwhitt.

In the wake of my distress about the wrinkle-free plague, I remember lamenting about the issue over lunch with my friend Kevin over at Condé Nast. “Get your ass over to Charles Tyrwhitt,” he said. “They have great shirts, great fabrics… and you can get four great shirts for 200 bucks.” Kevin was right. British shirtmaker Charles Tyrwhitt took over the lane on the highway that Brooks Brothers abandoned by making wonderful, well-made shirts with real cotton for an incredible price. While they have a lot of wrinkle-free on the menu, their selection of 100% real cotton shirts is terrific, available in a variety of patterns, weaves and colors and in three different fits: classic, slim and extra slim. (I’m 5’9” and 150 pounds, putting me comfortably in their extra slim.) They have all the good choices of collar and cuff combinations, too, whether you prefer a wide spread, semi-spread or button-down collar, barrel cuffs or French. And, yes, they’ve got that wonderful package deal of four shirts for $199.

www.ctshirts.com/us (U.S.)

"New York Slim" fit in light blue broadcloth from Kamakura Shirts.
“New York Slim” fit in light blue broadcloth from Kamakura Shirts.

My other favorite is Kamakura from Japan. To get right to the major appeal of the brand: the cotton is incredible. Really and truly the softest shirt I’ve ever worn. With a fit that somewhat favors a thinner form, they come in what they call a “Tokyo Fit” (narrower in the shoulders) classic or slim and a “New York Fit” (wider in the shoulders – my fit) classic or slim. Kamakura also has a wide range of fabrics, my favorite being the simple and wonderful broadcloth. Another reason Kamakura appeals to me is the unfused collar, which means that the collar has only two layers of fabric, as opposed to most dress shirts that have a fused collar, which has a heat-fused inner layer that gives the collar a permanently starched look. Depending on my mood, the occasion or what I’m wearing, I don’t always want a perfectly crisp and stiff collar. Since quality cotton dress shirts with unfused collars can be hard to find below the luxury spectrum, my Kamakura shirts provide a nice switch-up. And if you’re into the Ivy look, they’ve got you covered. Though the price point is higher than Charles Tyrwhitt ($79 per shirt), they’re still way less expensive than comparable quality from luxury shirtmakers.

www.kamakurashirts.net

When it comes to striking the balance between affordability and quality, Tyrwhitt and Kamakura do the trick for me.

4 Comments

  1. I’m a big fan of CT shirts, but always buy from their UK site, because if you have a UK credit card the deals are even better. Right now you can get 4 shirts for a total of GBP90 (multibuy), which at the current exchange rate is $120. Even when you add on shipping that’s a great deal…

  2. John Crocker Reply

    Funny… just 4 or 5 days ago I was thinking of you and dress shirts, wondering if you were familiar with ‘Proper Cloth.’
    Do your own designing; every conceivable detail, and precise measurements. Apart from one issue with sleeve length, (they remade shirts) service and quality exceed expectations. (I would recommend trying one MTM in the least expensive cloth you can live with, just to have a baseline from which you can tweak measurements.) Now it’s the ONLY shirt I buy or order.
    I realize this sounds like a commercial… but trust me; I have no connection with them except as a customer. I live out in the sticks on the West Coast… but you could check out their shop 450 Broadway, NYC.
    Would love to know what you think. –JC

  3. Love CT shirts and have been buying them for over 15 years now. I found them when I was tired of paying up for Thomas Pink and found that the CT shirts lasted longer. I also think they have some of the best fabric choices, especially their subtle textured weaves. My current favorite is a blue mouline fabric casual shirt purchased in my last order. I always get compliments when I wear their shirts and am asked where I buy them. One of the best values out there for dress and casual shirts. Most times you can get either a french or button cuff as well. They have excellent multi-buy deals also.

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