Frugal Fridays: When A Custom Shirt Is Worth The Money


By Jessica Dickler, Editor-in-Chief

NEW YORK ( – Many men struggle to find a suit shirt that fits them.

Either the collar is too tight or the sleeves are too long. Often the shirt is too bulky in the body. Yet the world of bespoke clothing is a luxury few afford. Except it turns out it’s not really an indulgence after all.

Hamilton Shirt Co. specializes in tailoring, but a single shirt can cost up to $ 800.

More and more boutiques and even big men’s retailers like Brooks Brothers are adding bespoke and bespoke shirts to their offerings, and they aren’t much more expensive.

While a ready-made suit shirt is usually between $ 50 and $ 150, a custom shirt can start at around $ 100, and for that, the fit, style, and fabric are your choice.

But with personalization, there are so many choices that it’s hard to know where to start. Collars can be buttoned, wide apart, wide apart or English. The cuffs are barrels or French, round or square – sometimes even at an angle. And does a shirt have to have side pleats on the back, a front pocket, long panels or a monogram? Not to mention the color, the pattern or even the sewing style.

According to David Hamilton, co-owner of Hamilton Shirt Co., one of the nation’s oldest suppliers of custom shirts, a good tailor should not only fit you, but also guide you through the process. They should make recommendations like forgoing a front pocket for a formal shirt and choosing a collar style that suits your face and physique. You would expect this kind of service by paying $ 295 and up at its Houston-based store.

Before starting the process, the only important thing customers need to know is whether they should go for a personalized shirt, he says.

“Anything that’s custom-made is much better than something off-the-shelf, but it’s not for everyone,” says Alex Yoo, owner of men’s clothier Alexander West in New York City. At Alexander West, custom shirts range from $ 105 to $ 195.

If you can find a ready-made package that’s right for you, that’s the best of times, Yoo says. “The fit is the most important thing about a shirt. The finish and the fabric are secondary.”

If you can’t find a shirt that looks good on you, personalization isn’t the only alternative. Bespoke, which involves tweaking a standard shirt rather than starting from scratch, or tailoring one you already own can be much more affordable – and still attractive – options. Some simple dressings cost between $ 10 and $ 30, while bespoke shirts can cost $ 50 and more.

If you go for customization, you’ll likely end up with a neat-looking shirt that’s also flattering and comfortable (no too tight collars or puffy tails).

“It’s not always the most affordable route, but the reality is that when you spend more money on personalization, it looks like it,” says Amanda Sanders, image consultant.

Remember, “you’re going to take that jacket off at some point,” Sanders says. “Don’t miss the importance of the shirt.” To the top of the page

First published: October 15, 2010: 10:40 a.m.ET

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