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Nine Steps To The Perfect Shirt

(Or in other words, what separates a premium shirt from a cheap shirt?)

Step One: The Collar

The perfect collar should be crisp, should hold its shape for wash after wash, and should fold cleanly around the top. We've gone further than almost anyone to ensure our collars meet those standards. Even to the point of making the internal reinforcing structures of the collar in multiple parts to ensure it folds perfectly.

Step Two: The Fabric

Sourcing high quality fabric should be simple, right? Surely, all you need do is buy a high thread count cotton? Not in our experience! We looked at over 2000 fabrics, and made over 100 of them into shirts in our search for perfection. We wanted a highly crease resistant cotton that holds it's shape and has a slight sheen. It took us a very long time to find it, and unfortunately, fabric of that quality does not come cheap....

Step Three: The Buttons

Cheap buttons crack. And buttons that are sewn on quickly, fall off again quickly. We use the highest quality buttons. They're slightly deeper than normal, which makes them far stronger. These buttons are not going to crack. And we sew them on using the Rolls Royce of button sewing machines. Then we double check every button. The shirt might age and fall off the button, but our buttons do not fall off our shirts.

Step Four: The Stitching

Cheap shirts are stitched poorly. The stitches are large, and spaced far apart. And the stitch lines tend to wander. We use a very high stitch count. It's slower to sew this way and it demands far more skill from the seamstress, but it produces a notably better looking and stronger seam.

Step Five: The Arm Insert

Sewing an arm into a shirt is a more highly skilled job than you might think. If the seamstress doing it lacks the necessary experience, or is required to do it too quickly, the fabric will 'coggle' in the seam. We only hire the most experienced seamstresses and we give them plenty of time. We're not worried about making shirts efficiently and cheaply, we're worried about making them perfectly. And that always takes time.

Step Six: The Seams

Even sewing a simple seam takes time and experience. Two pieces of fabric being sewn together have to be fed through the sewing machine with identical tension. Stretch one side of the seam slightly more than the other and you get the characteristic bunching at right angles to the seam. To avoid this you need very good seamstresses, working very slowly, and an awful lot of quality checking.

Step Seven: The Design

We understand that some companies don't even design their own shirts, they simply use 'off the shelf' patterns. We took a far more torturous approach. We designed and re-designed, making shirt after shirt, in search of the perfect fit. In the process we re-designed the collar alone 53 times, adding a millimeter here and removing a millimeter there. And every other aspect of the design was subject to the same obsessive attention to detail.

Step Eight: Longevity

Making a shirt look good on a rack is not that hard. Making a shirt look good after a year of use is considerably more difficult. Cheap shirts are made from low quality fabrics, with thin, brittle buttons, and are sewn together quickly by semi-experienced seamstresses in low cost factories where money is everything. The result is a shirt that ages very quickly. Our shirts are made from the finest fabrics, and manufactured superbly. They're the sort of shirts you'll still be taking off your rack for years to come.

Step Nine: The Printing

Printing fabric, we have found, is more black magic than science. We went in search of the perfect print, which for us meant three things. Firstly, rich, deep colours. Secondly, fine detail without blurring. And thirdly, ensuring the non-printed areas remain a perfect, optic white. Many printers could manage one of these, a few of them two, but it took an awfully long time to find the company that could manage all three.

One Final Thought About Price

Fashion has an appalling reputation for exploiting its workers. Garments are often made in crowded, unsafe factories. And the industry has been repeatedly shamed for the use of child labour. Cheap fashion comes at a very high price for the people who make it.

All of our shirts are made in safe, ethical environments. In Benin, for example, we work with the fine people at Ethical Apparel Africa to ensure our workers are treated with respect, are well trained and all enrolled in worker empowerment programs.

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