Bespoke Shirts Style Guide
A quality tailored shirt is too often an overlooked feature in a man’s wardrobe. In our years of experience, we’ve found that it can perfectly complete a look, or indeed detract from it if badly made and fitted. If you’re new to the world of bespoke tailoring, tailored shirts can act as an ideal entry point. And if you’re a seasoned wearer of tailored goods, you’ll likely know full well the difference a shirt can make to your outfit.
The process of having a tailored bespoke shirt made is actually more complex than it seems at first. This is due to the sheer amount of factors a client and tailor have to consider — purpose for wear, collar and cuff design, fit, cloth, pockets, pleats, and a whole host of others.
But we’re here to help uncomplicate this world for you. When you meet your tailor in person, they’ll be able to weigh up and quickly calculate which specifications and detailing you’ll need, as well as which fit and cloth will suit you, allowing you to ease into the whole experience.
For the time being though, we’ve put together this useful style guide on bespoke shirts as well as evening shirts, to help inform you and alleviate any anxiety you may have about visiting a Savile Row tailor. After all, it’s an experience that you should enjoy, rather than be put off by.
Things To Consider When Buying A Tailored Bespoke Shirt
Bespoke Shirt Fit
Marc Oliver makes shirts in two primary fittings: regular (or classic fit) and slim. We also make skinny and relaxed fit shirts according to our client’s wishes, but these two require their own specific considerations.
Regular fit, or classic fit as it’s sometimes known, is generally more popular among more mature gentlemen with heavier builds. This kind of fit offers superior comfort and mobility due to its more squared and relaxed shape, its double pleats at the back, and the extra fabric around the sleeves.
Slim fit shirts are the most popular amongst the younger generation, and indeed those with a slimmer build. Nowadays, it’s much more commonplace for men to dress smartly without wearing a jacket, thus the demand for a more streamlined shirt has risen. Given its use of less fabric, a slim fit shirt follows the contours of its wearer’s body, creating a more svelte look.
When buying a slim fit shirt, it’s important to remember that comfort is still key — less room can equal less comfort if it’s poorly made and fitted.
This is where a good tailor comes in. They can find ways to maintain supreme comfort through their cutting methods, as well as their guidance in cloth selection. But more on that in a moment.
We wrote about skinny fit garments in our Business Suits Style Guide, but here’s a quick review: Depending on your reason for purchase, it may not be appropriate. If you’re buying a shirt for the office, say, it’s usually better to stick to slim or regular. However, a quick chat with your tailor will allow you both to ascertain whether you should proceed with the more adventurous choice.
Skinny fit can look great, but it would be remiss to assume that tighter is better. This fit can result in wrinkles, immobility, and excess perspiration. Again, your tailor will intuitively know if your body type can dovetail nicely with this style. Remember, the best clothes you can wear are the ones that fit you best.
Bespoke Shirt Fabric & Weave
At Marc Oliver, the majority of our shirts are made using extra long Egyptian cotton as it’s strong and breathable, yet allows ultimate comfort. It also delivers a crisper and smarter look. In short, Egyptian cotton offers the best of practicality and luxury. The vast majority of our tailored shirts come in the most popular weaves including, but not limited to, classic herringbones, poplins, and more casual, softer Oxford weaves.
If you’re set on even more splendour, we regularly make shirts in fine linen and Sea Island cotton — the gold standard in luxury shirting. In total, clients can select from over 3,000 shirt fabrics, each with their own qualities. Don’t allow that to overwhelm you though. Your tailor will be able to narrow the selection down and guide you through the advantages of a select few.
Collars, Cuffs & Pockets
The details which will make your shirt stand out. First, let’s talk about shirt pockets. Generally, the fewer pockets on your shirt, the more formal it is. If you’re intending to wear a suit jacket over your shirt for work or perhaps a wedding, a pocket isn’t usually necessary. One pocket is a little less formal than two, while two chest pockets is considered quite casual. On the other hand, the more pockets your shirt has, the more practical it can be.
The shirt collar is the centrepiece of your shirt. Marc Oliver offers eleven different styles from classic to contemporary. A quick chat with your tailor will allow you both to whittle down your choices to the most appropriate, based on simple factors such as ties, personal taste, body type and the style of garments you’ll wear your shirt with.
Marc Oliver also provides a choice of seven styles of shirt cuff. The two major cuff options however, are French cuffs and barrel cuffs. The difference is quite simple — the former is a dressier option which allows for cufflinks to be worn, while the latter is a more everyday style. If you’re buying a tailored shirt for a formal or special occasion, we’d always recommend going with cufflinks, ergo French cuffs.
The Final Details: Buttons & Monograms
When getting a tailored shirt made, every little detail should be of the highest order. At Marc Oliver, we pay careful attention down to the very last button — quite literally. Al our bespoke shirts are finished with polished Australian mother-of-pearl buttons, which are sewn in with a robust cross-locked or arrow stitch. Mother-of-pearl buttons, which are made from the inner layer of pearl oysters, are the prime choice for high quality tailors due the depth and subtle complexity of their colour.
Finally, when buying a bespoke shirt, you’ll have the option of having a personal monogram stitched in a variety of fonts. Initials and / or dates are the most popular monograms requested of a tailor. This isn’t always necessary, and it’s completely up to you. However, if it’s a special occasion for which you’re buying your shirt, such as your wedding day, it could be a treat to push the boat out a little.
A Word on Tuxedo & Evening Shirts
Formal evening dress codes bring about a list of rules and etiquette on what one can wear. A business shirt just won’t suffice here.
If it’s a black tie event, your shirt would feature a soft turndown collar, pleated front bib and French cuffs. For White Tie dress codes (also known as Evening Tails), the shirt would have a stiff, detachable collar, stiff single cuffs, and a Marcella or stiff bib front.
This may all seem like a lot of technical terminology, but rest assured that your tailor will know exactly how to approach making a bespoke evening shirt for you. All you have to do is let them know where you’ll be wearing it, and allow your tailor to inform and guide you through the process.
Welcome to Savile Row. Make an appointment with Marc Oliver Bespoke Tailors to arrange a fitting for the perfect shirt.