Joe's Blog: Men's Shirting
You're gonna get shirty when you turn thirty.
When a man says he's going to buy some clothes, nine times out of ten, he's off to buy a shirt, at least he should be. Jean buying doesn't count, that's a separate thing and comes out of a different budget. A mystical world we'll go into another day...
The shirt is worn in 'high summer' in Scotland instead of a jacket: you're going out in just a t-shirt? So, you'll be going home before its pub time then? Unless you intend to heavily invest in a fairly thick 'beer jacket'...
Shirts are great. The designers have us and I'm fine with that. We have such strong ideas about what makes a good formal, standard, fashionable or short-sleeve shirt. So when a good designer makes a few tiny tweaks, uses cloths in unconventional ways or puts in subtle details - we lose it. We fall in love with it. Especially if it is, say, £20 or £30 over what we'd like to pay for it.
"Lovely shirt that! Rhomb-weave linen, garment-dyed with indigo. Chairman-what's-his-puss collar and ooooh, look - a metal stud in the corner of the pocket! AND a hidden pocket down the side seam... one hundred and seventy-five quid? A little dear for me. Glad I tried it on though." Fast forward to later that night, in yer scratcher, thinking about it and sweating like Ted Striker in Airplane.
Usually, after scribbling my blog, I do a 'get the look' bit afterwards, but the designers we, and other independent shops stock, fulfil specific looks. Want to be smart in a grown-up way? Maybe hint at a career in architecture? Oliver Spencer. Accept that this is fine and go with the designer with the look you want to portray.
Oli Spencer utilises some of the best cloths out there: textured, subtle colours and subdued patterns. His details (like his hidden tab collar or his Eton collar) are so understated that they're only noticeable on close inspection. Oli is smart and relaxed, tucked into a good chino and worn with expensive shoes from Northampton.
Folk clothing are the Kings of Detail. This is funky clothing... to hell with boring! You are not tucking these shirts in. From day one, I swore by their chambray, collarless shirts. They used to take a piece of cloth, fold it 4 times, and then run stitching back and forth and use it as a patch pocket. Or apply hippy embroidery only to the tab on the side hem. They haven't changed that much; they've just stepped it up. Two or three different textures of cloth on one shirt, over-running cloth and then creasing it and folding it back into the seam... details so intricate it's bewildering to try and explain here in text.
Hartford shirts are a big one for us. They're grown-up; made in that smart American style, even though they're a French company. No gimmicks. Just well-made, smart shirts. Tuck them behind a quality belt for attending a gallery opening or drinks do. Classic spread or cutaway collars, and great subtle patterns.
La Paz heads up our collections for breathable, piazza-crawling, beach-lounging wear. Always relaxed, always with the seaside inspiration.
Pike Brothers is our go-to heritage brand. Shirts cut to patterns from the 1930's, usually in heavy cloths and therefore great for summer jacket substitution. Expect to look like a miner from the gold rush or you've like you've just finished driving some steers across wild country... jerky & beans anyone?
YMC is straightforward good fun. Bright, carefree and youthful; even if you're 45 to 55.
Want to look smart without a tie? Do up a Tripl Stitched shirt to the top button. These have replaced another brand in-store who have been upping their prices a little too much for our liking. ;-) They take an iron well, with stiff Oxford cloth, triple-stiched seams for longevity of garment and only slightly fitted. God bless them.
I've not mentioned Universal Works! How unlike me... This summer the 'Road Shirt' has made a welcome return, with its off-centre placket and buttoning point. Wide-cut, cool cloth, really well priced, no pretensions. As well as their usually sober offerings, there is one shirt which is a little more Hunter S. Thompson than the rest.
Don't know about you, I'm still quite a few days a week in the loungewear, but I'm dressing up for that trip to Sainsbury's. And my exercise hour? Well, let's just say my Uni Works spring scarf has been tucked inside my shirt like Noel Coward.