In researching the piece on men’s made-to-measure dress shirts that will appear in Sunday’s Image section, it became apparent that though it’s men in their 30s and 40s that are currently driving the custom clothing business (there is a technical distinction between made-to-measure and true custom — which I address in the story), the industry sees growth potential in the twentysomethings.
“Our custom dress shirt business has been consistent over the last couple of years,” said Saks Fifth Avenue men's fashion director Eric Jennings. “But we’re seeing the younger guys are more interested in dressing up, and we think there’s a real opportunity to go after that younger customer that’s not the classic customer that’s in our stores right now.”
Joseph Abboud, chief creative officer and president of HMX Group, echoes that sentiment. “It’s a very interesting sort of genetic memory thing that men have about nice suits and nice shirts,” Abboud said. "There seemed to be a generation-skipping thing going on -– when we went through that whole corporate casual Friday thing. And now the younger guy is starting to get dressed again.”
And, according to Kyle Vucko, CEO and co-founder of Internet-only label Indochino, they're the ones most likely to buy online. "A lot of our guys are in their late 20s and early 30s," he said, "they're fresh out of college, they’re used to buying online, and they appreciate the affordability and value we can offer when it comes to custom apparel."
Below are a handful of the DIY options I've discovered over the last few weeks. (And trust me, it barely scratches the surface of what's out there.) Some are Web-only, while others are in-store only (and one option is ordered online and picked up in-store).
I have just one piece of advice: Be sure to measure (or be measured) carefully and choose wisely, since, as a general rule, made-to-measure garments cannot be returned or exchanged.
If choosing from hundreds of fabrics and dozens of customization options sounds daunting, the folks at New York City-based Bespoken have done you a favor by winnowing the field to 16 Thomas Mason fabrics, six collar styles and three styles of cuff. Since they’re all hand-stitched in Turnbull & Asser’s U.K. factory, your shirt comes with a pedigree worth boasting about.
Price: $245 or $265.
Turnaround time: Three weeks.
Brooks offers two options for guys looking for something beyond standard-issue ready-to-wear. One is a full made-to-measure program — suits, dress shirts and formal wear — that’s available through its bricks-and-mortar doors. The other is its “Select” special-order dress shirt program (also available for women) that allows customers to customize the fabric, fit, collar and cuff details of an existing shirt style.
Price: $108 to $195 (add a monogram for $12).
Turnaround time: Finished garments are delivered to your local Brooks Brothers store within four weeks.
The retailer's John W. Nordstrom made-to-order program allows people to customize an existing dress shirt style by choosing from more than 100 Swiss-made fabrics, four fits, 10 collar styles, six cuff styles, two types of pockets, two types of button placket and two kinds of buttons –- as long as your neck circumference is in the 14 1/2-to-20-inch range and you take a 30-to-39-inch sleeve.
Price: From $145 to $495 (based on fabric choice).
Turnaround time: Six to eight weeks. Available through Nordstrom’s men's furnishings departments nationwide.
Saks Fifth Avenue
Most made-to-measure shirts are cut and sewn overseas, but if you’re keen on buying American-made goods, check out Saks’ private-label custom dress shirt program, since all the garments are made in the USA.
Price: Shirts start at $130.
Turnaround time: Four weeks.
Available through select Saks Fifth Avenue stores, including Beverly Hills.
Web-only and shirts-only, ShirtsMyWay has been open for business since February 2009 and claims to offer “seven trillion unique design variations” (a number so absurdly astronomical we’re forced to take the claim at face value).
Price: From $75 to $175 (based on fabric choice).
Turnaround time: Free shipping is 15 days door-to-door; tack on $10 for delivery in nine days.
Streets of Beverly Hills
A one-stop shop for the HMX Group stable of brands with a clubby man cave vibe, Streets of Beverly Hills, which opened its doors in September, hopes to become a made-to-measure mecca. Currently the custom options are limited to Hickey Freeman and Hart Schaffner Marx suits, but the store plans to add custom shirts in the future, so it’s worth making a mental note.
Although the company started in Canada in 2007, co-founder and Chief Executive Kyle Vucko says the U.S. now accounts for 70% of sales of its made-to-measure dress shirts, suits and outerwear, which are shipped to men in 60 different countries across the globe. “We help a few thousand men a month get into custom shirts,” Vucko said.
Price: $79 to $99.
Turnaround time: Although the company promises delivery from Shanghai within three weeks, as of this writing, the website notes that due to high order volume, customers should allow six weeks for deliveries.
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Photos: Websites that offer made-to-measure men's dress shirts include Bespoken Clothiers, left, and ShirtsMyWa. Credits: Bespoken Clothiers and ShirtsMyWay.com