What are the most important reasons to have custom shirts made?

Making a person’s  face look good is the most important reason to have custom shirts made. When meeting for business or social occasions, a person’s face should be the focal point of attention. The design of the collar below the face has a significant impact on the way the face shape is perceived. Utilizing the skills of custom shirt-making, and evaluating face shape and neck length, the collar is designed to create a harmonious effect, complementing each individual in a unique fashion.

Fashion today has moved in a direction where fitted shirts are once again in high demand, and we have no problem in making sure that the body of the shirt will be as fitted. In ready made shirts, the collar size controls most of the fit, and so men often buy smaller collars to get at more fitted bodies. But when the neck size purchased is too small, the fit at the neck becomes seriously compromised and spoils the look of the collar. Having the ability to cut different sleeve lengths and cuff sizes left and right is a game changer.

How much does a custom shirt cost, and how many do I have to buy?

At Top Shelf, a new customer can start with a two-shirt order as a way to test the service and the product. After that we try and work with a minimum order of 3 shirts, or people can pay an additional $20 to order fewer than 3.

Ultimately, fabric selection is what determines the cost of a shirt. Our average custom shirts will range from $160 to $225, with a median that seems to hover around $180. There is a good, better, best range in our fabric selection with better shirts with much higher thread count that range from $235 to $300. In the best category are the premium shirt fabrics from the mills of Loro Piana, Testa, Ferno, Thomas Mason, David and John Anderson and others which fall into a price range of $350-$550. There is no difference in how we build the shirts or design them, only a difference in the cost of the materials.

How do I know the shirt will fit?

Shirtmakers take up to 30 measurements to guarantee a comfortable fit. Fit however is subjective, and different people like different types of fit. At Top Shelf, we use actual try-on parts to let people experience the look and feel of different aspects before a shirt is made. We use sample collars, try-on chest blocks, and even sample cuffs to allow a customer to feel and react to different sizes before we build. It is also an option when placing a large order (like a dozen) to have one shirt made first, before the rest are cut, so the customer has a chance to feel the fit.

Do all my shirts have to be the same?

Absolutely not. You can choose different materials for each shirt from the hundreds we show. You can vary the collar, cuff, pockets, button closures, and other details at will. Sometimes varying the styles dramatically neccessitates extra charges, primarily if the bodies cannot be cut together.

How do I have to take care of my shirts?

Most custom shirts today are made with fine 100% cottons. They can be handled two ways. We anticipate that most of our customers will take their shirts to a commercial laundry, where they will be pressed on machines that gives the shirts a professional finish.  We recommend certain cleaners who understand how to best care for our products. A minority of customers will launder their shirts at home using washing machines, and then hand-iron them. It can be hard work to make the shirt look good.

What about shrinkage?

Shrinkage is the most difficult area for the shirt maker to tackle: here is how we approach it. All quality shirtmakers understand the need to build in shrinkage allowances. Specific amounts are added in the collar, shoulder yoke, cuff, and sleeve length, allowing the shirt to shrink to its final size during the first 3-5 launderings. Unfortunately, many shirtmakers use collar interlinings that cannot withstand the high heat of commercial laundry collar presses, and so many shirt collars shrink below the size they are supposed to be.

How long will custom shirts last?

Some cotton weaves are sturdier than others by up to 30 percent. Starch chemical degrades cotton, so two identical shirts will vary based on the instructions light starch or heavy (we recommend light or no starch). The simplest answer is approximately two years, if worn in a rotation of every other week, or about 50 wearings. Anything beyond this we call free miles. Shirts usually wear out in one of three areas- collar edge, cuff edge, or elbow. A heavy beard, a sharp watch band, or a lot of “phone elbow” will precipitate premature wear, and should be discussed with the shirtmaker. We put the date on the tail of all our shirts so the customer can appreciate how long our shirts last.

How long does it take to get a shirt made?

For a first time customer, the initial appointment will take about an hour at most for selection, measurements and styling. Today due to supply chain issues caused by Covid, our lead times at best are averaging 5-6 weeks but we’re unable to give any guarantees on delivery, and won’t accept orders that have to have a firm due date.