May 14, 2014
A Closer Look: Proper Cloth Dress Shirts
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you have probably seen me wear Proper Cloth shirts on many occasions; just browse through these old posts if you need a refresher. The online custom shirtmaking scene has become very crowded in the past couple of years, but Proper Cloth continues to be the one I return to after trying around a half dozen. I still get quite a few questions about the company though, so I thought I would expand on my experience a little bit.
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Here’s why I like Proper Cloth: not only have they continued to improve their offerings and expand their design options over the years, but they have also made a great website that easily guides you through the design process. On top of that, the shirts are delivered quickly, well-made, and look good. The new products like popover shirts, soft collars, and seasonal fabrics are nicely complemented by a smooth website with lots of detailed information on their customization options. The design options and fabrics are plentiful but not overwhelming, and the majority of them are tasteful and would be easy to wear.
This isn’t to say that I think Proper Cloth is the only good online shirtmaker; there are many places to get a good custom shirt. One of the reasons I have stuck with them for this long is that I am comfortable with my sizing and my design details and don’t want to reinvent the wheel with someone else. If I tried a new shirtmaker I would need to start all of that from scratch, which is a pain. Buying custom clothing doesn’t work well unless you plan on having a lasting relationship with the company; trying to get one “perfect” item and moving on doesn’t really work. For that reason, I have stuck with a company I like and haven’t kept experimenting. 
With that said, if I were to try a new custom shirtmaker today I would definitely look into Luxire. Although their site is a bit simpler and less sleek, they offer a very impressive product at an aggressive price (significantly lower than Proper Cloth for many fabrics). They also seem to have no boundaries on what you can order - collar designs can be specified in minute detail and there are a dizzying number of fabrics available. To me, this is a double-edged sword; if you know exactly what you want down to the quarter inch it can turn out quite well, but if you’re still trying to find what suits you best it can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, they’re a company that is making great shirts and have certainly grabbed my attention.
When it comes to sizing and measurement, the Proper Cloth site does a good job of explaining how their measurements are taken. My only advice is to round up instead of down, because some of their fabrics tend to shrink a bit more than they’re supposed to. Proper Cloth does account for some shrinkage in their measurements, but I have had some shirts that ended up just a little more snug than I anticipate due to shrinkage. Of course, erring on the large side is generally a safe idea regardless of the company, but I would recommend it here in particular.
Finally, a few words on design details, since I get so many questions on them: I use the President Spread collar for all of my dress shirts (those that I plan on generally wearing with a tie); although I would probably add 1/4” to the point length if I was designing it from scratch, I find that it has enough length to frame my face well and the mild spread is handsome without looking too extreme. The shirt above (in a cotton-linen blend) features the unfused version of the President Spread, and it’s a great option for a slightly more casual shirt like the one above. On purely casual shirts I choose the Soft Ivy Button-Down; the 3.5” unfused collar points are very reminiscent of the beautiful collar rolls we see in photographs of old-school Brooks Bros. collars. There are many other collar styles to choose from, but I find that these are probably the most classic options.
Beyond that, I generally choose shirt details to match the collar and fabric. For instance, if I have an unfused collar I will get unfused cuffs and plackets as well. I generally do not get a pocket unless I am getting a button-down collar. Finally, I often upgrade to mother-of-pearl buttons for that extra luxe touch; they certainly aren’t necessary, as the plastic ones are quite good, but I’m a sucker for a good button and Proper Cloth’s are no exception. The normal and thick ones are both fantastic.
Let me know if you have any questions that I didn’t address. If you’re interested in trying Proper Cloth, my referral link will get you $25 off your first shirt.

A Closer Look: Proper Cloth Dress Shirts

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you have probably seen me wear Proper Cloth shirts on many occasions; just browse through these old posts if you need a refresher. The online custom shirtmaking scene has become very crowded in the past couple of years, but Proper Cloth continues to be the one I return to after trying around a half dozen. I still get quite a few questions about the company though, so I thought I would expand on my experience a little bit.

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October 22, 2012
The Final Showdown: Proper Cloth vs. Ratio

I’ve talked about Proper Cloth and Ratio Clothing several times in the past. Not everybody needs or likes online MTM shirting, but I clearly enjoy the process. Here’s why I like it:

  • The potential for a better fit without tailoring
  • Control over collar style and other details
  • More fabric options than off-the-rack
  • More information on fabric, construction and the overall manufacturing process
  • Small cost premium when including additional tailoring to off-the-rack shirts
  • Usually less expensive than traditional tailor-made shirts

There are downsides, of course (the biggest being the potential for receiving a less-than-perfect fit), but my experiences have overall been positive. I’ve made it clear that I think Ratio and Proper Cloth are the best of the internet in delivering these criteria. I’ve had some time to pick up more shirts for each, and in the election-year spirit I decided to compare them head to head. I’ve created a helpful rubric with what I believe are the most important parameters to consider when shopping for a MTM shirt, as well as how the two companies stack up in each category. You will have to weight them yourself depending on what is most important to you. If you decide to look outside of Ratio and Proper Cloth for a MTM shirt, you may want to consider these same variables before purchasing.

Consensus: they’re both great companies making high-quality products and I don’t think you could go wrong with either. They do have different styles and areas of expertise, though. Proper Cloth is probably your best option for the shirt fanatic that wants control over every aspect and is interested in luxe options like name-brand mills and mother-of-pearl buttons. Ratio excels in helping the man who just wants to fill his wardrobe with well-fitting, high-quality garments with classic styling. I’ve had a great time interacting with both companies and I fully endorse both. 

TL;DR: If you want a  monogrammed mini-gingham Albini shirt with contrasting club collar and mother-of-pearl buttons, head to Proper Cloth. If you’re new to nice shirts and looking for the perfect OCBD that you can wear the sh*t out of, go to Ratio. Anything in between and they’ll both treat you well. 

If you want to try Proper Cloth, my referral link will get you $25 off your first shirt.

If you want to check out Ratio, this link will get you $20 off your first shirt.

July 5, 2012
Made-to-Measure Shirt Reviews: Ratio, CottonWork, Proper Cloth

Over the past few years, dozens of “made-to-measure” men’s clothing websites have appeared, none more ubiquitous than the MTM shirt. These vary from sketchy to pricey, with many points in between. I’ve slowly been trying some of these guys out, with mixed results. I won’t try to reinvent the wheel here but I thought I’d share my thoughts in hope that it will aid others in their search for a perfect shirt. Keep in mind that all of these purchases were heavily influenced by discounts, at least initially – I didn’t pay retail for any of them, nor would I. 

1.   Ratio Clothing 

A lot of people like Ratio, and with good reason: made in the USA, good customer service, and (my favorite) idiot-proof designs. Some sites overwhelm the shirtless man with options (ahem moderntailor ahem), which highly increases the risk of making a god-awful shirt if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. I mean,  seriously? That said, here’s my experience: 

What I got: Classic white pinpoint with spread collar and French cuffs. My ‘dressy’ shirt.

Deal I used: ‘dappered’ (thanks, Joe) for 25% off 

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Pros:

  • Great customer service. Eric (the owner/creator of Ratio) responded personally to my questions and concerns and did a great job following up. Awesome guy.
  • My first spread collar shirt, and also my favorite. Perfect amount of spread and point width. 
  • Made in the USA.
  • As I said before, the design options are minimal and classic, which aids in creating an attractive shirt.

Cons:

  • Lack of sizing customization. My shirt was a bit big in the torso and neck and slightly tight in the shoulders (to be fair, the neck was my fault and could have been fixed). The other issues probably could have been addressed by working with Eric directly, but not by editing my initial measurements. I do appreciate Ratio’s pared-down approach to the MTM process, but I think it could benefit from more body measurements (shoulders and waist especially)
  • Fabric was just OK. This is just me, and only applies to the fabric I bought, but I was not particularly impressed. It seemed like the same translucent white fabric you would see at Macy’s. Perhaps my expectations were too high or perhaps I picked a bad egg, but that’s what I noticed. 

Rating: 7.5/10. Lots of potential.

2.     Cottonwork

I’d never heard of this company until Put This On mentioned their ‘free shirt’ offer. This deal became somewhat controversial (and probably not very beneficial to the company) because they only offered it to college students from a very particular (read: highly selective) list of schools. Fortunately, I spent my grad school years on the farm, so I signed up. 

What I got: Blue Check (tattersal) twill, spread collar, barrel cuff.

Deal I used: Free. Thanks, Derek

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Pros:

  • Fit turned out fine, although the sleeves were too long. Not bad for a free shirt.
  • It was free.

Cons:

  • Fabric. It wasn’t made clear on the site, but I’m pretty sure the fabric I chose was a cotton blend; it has since begun to pill heavily and fall apart. I know the company sells nicer fabrics, but in my opinion a company is only as good as its worst product - if they’re willing to put their name on it, I’m going to judge them for it.
  • Buttons. I didn’t think this would be a problem, but the ‘tailor pick’ buttons were wafer thin, and several snapped on the shirt’s virgin trip through the washing machine’s gentle cycle (I didn’t even use the dryer). Not only that, but the shirt came with exactly zero replacement buttons, so I was up no-button creek on that one.
  • Shipping took over 6 weeks. I think I would have missed the “interview” that the shirt was for in the first place had I waited for it.
Rating: 5/10 (hey, it was free)

I can’t remember exactly how I found out about these guys, but I was initially scared off by the high prices. I signed up for the email list, and eventually jumped on a decent introductory offer. 

What I got: University Stripe, spread collar, barrel cuff (as seen here).

Deal I used: 30% off first purchase 

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Pros:

  • My fave so far. A perfect amount of fabrics and customization without being overwhelming or unnecessary.
  • Fabric was sturdy and had a great feel; clearly superior to cheap mall shirts.
  • The higher quality of construction is obvious with details like split yokes and reinforced tail gussets.
  •  Fast shipping.

Cons:

  • Shipping costs were a cruel surprise at $15. Most fabrics are quite expensive, too. 
Rating: 9/10. As of now, the only one I’ll be going back to. If you’d like to try them out as well, feel free to use my referral link for $25 off your first purchase (and I get a bonus, too).


So that’s my experience with these companies so far; as long as I keep getting introductory offers I’ll probably keep trying new ones. Ask me a question if you’d like to know more.