The word bespoke was historically associated with high class British Menswear, usually suits made specifically for individuals by highly skilled craftsmen. The word itself is derived from the 16th century verb Bespeak, meaning ‘to order’ or ‘arrange in advance’. The Oxford Dictionary states its definition as “made for a particular customer or user”.
When it comes to bespoke tailoring, suits more specifically, there are particular places where there is a rich history and tradition of bespoke tailoring. In the UK we have the ever famous and omnipresent - Saville Row. A notorious Mayfair street where Master Tailors have crafted their wears for over two centuries, using practices and processes that remain traditional to this day. Hunstman Tailors of Saville Row describe bespoke tailoring as “creating a garment that is tailored to fit your body. While other cities around the globe such a Florence, NYC, Naples and many more have well established and well regarded individuals and institutions that offer the same services, its true too say London remains the hub.
When it comes to acquiring bespoke garments in todays world of busy schedules and tighter budgets, finding the time and the expense to acquire a tailor that will fit your needs and provide the style you are looking for within the time frame you require can be a tricky task. In this article, our focus is on Mens Dress Shirts and the various options you have as a consumer.
The importance of a well-fitting shirt is undeniably paramount when it comes to dressing, a good suit will only fit as well as the shirt underneath it. But how best to achieve this in an accessible way is what varies depending on the individual circumstance.
There is generally a three-tiered option when it comes to Dress Shirts – Off the Peg, Made to Measure and Bespoke. Let us run through the most obvious differences between them.
OFF THE PEG (OTP) – created for larger fashion brands, these shirts are created in line with current trends in shape, style and fabric. They are formulated using standardised pattern blocks and produced en masse. Often being made from more commercial cottons that are not high quality. When it comes to Cotton its worth knowing that 97% of the worlds production now takes place in China and is referred to as Upland Cotton. It is of an average standard compared to its more supreme and rare counterparts such as Egyptian, Sea Island and Pima. (if your dying for delectable bites of info on Cotton read our related blog post here - All About Cotton - Is the Sea Island Variety really superior? . Some reputable brands offer really great quality OTP shirts but if a proper fit and individual style is what you want then you will struggle on the high street.
MADE TO MEASURE – A good Made to Measure dress shirt from a reputable brand could easily be a better-quality finish than an inexperienced tailor using substandard materials. As Rampley & Co acknowledge in their Journal article “The Complete Guide to Bespoke Shirts”.. “The quality of a made-to-measure shirt does vary from maker to maker. With some shirtmakers, you can find the same degree of details that you would expect from a bespoke shirt. Some higher end shirt makers will put as much effort into delivering a quality made-to measure shirt as they would do with a bespoke, but this is of course reflected in the price”. With Made to Measure the shirt is broken down into various parts to construct the 3d pattern from flat pieces of fabric, meaning you get a fit that is in some way bespoke to you but nevertheless based on wider generalised pattern sizes.
BESPOKE – Now if you want to acquire a tailor to create you a bespoke shirt you better strap in for the ride. Things that will determine how accessible this is to you and how much you enjoy and benefit from this process will be your budget, timeframe, and your personality. This requires finding the tailor and building a relationship, consultation, measuring, usually several fitting appointments, ending with a trial shirt that is completely unique to you. It is undeniable that having a tailor talk to you, look at your body and personally measure and capture the silhouette of every curvature of your torso will inevitably lead to a better fitting shirt (if he is good at his job). But this process can take months, sometimes over a year. This just simply does not fit with the modern man.
When it comes to price point the variations are limitless. OTP could range between £20 from a super low budget retailer to £2000 for a luxury designer brand. MTM could be anything from £100 upwards. Bespoke again can range from £100 up to £1000+ depending on the process you decide to choose.
A preferred option for many professionals seeking a high quality dress shirt is to go with a personally designed bespoke shirt from an online retailer such as us here at W H Taylor. Our customers have the ability to choose between our extensive sizing options or go fully tailored with our option to provide your complete measurements. We also have a huge range of bespoke options such as collar and cuff type, buttons, hem & placket style, along with other additions like contrast collar and cuff & collar stiffness. We are a well-established British brand that has close working relationships with our fabric producers and shirt makers. We have been creating luxury dress shirts for over two decades and our solid customer base are always happy with their shirts. As an added bonus we offer free alterations on all purchases should you not be happy with the fit. You will find a more bespoke shirt only by having a tailor stand in front of you and personally measure and record every curvature of your body. This is a great process if its something that you enjoy the prospect of, have the time and expense for and are familiar with a good tailor. If this isn't the case then leave it to us. We have you covered.