“The shirt is the most Intimate part of a man’s formal wardrobe because it touches the body,” says Ciro Paone, the 71-year-old founder of luxury clothier Kiton. So the choice Is yours: Do you want a bespoke shirt that knows its way around your body or a mass-market one that hangs like a sack?
Handmade shirts are an indefensible luxury, but there is no better way to show off long hours at the office than with the Neapolitan finest. Moreover, having a few A-list shirts made of elusive fabrics and complete with personally selected collar and cuff styles, is an elegant way to stand apart at a time when globalization means sharp dressed men around the world find themselves looking increasingly uniform.
To the uninitiated, the process might seem intimidating, but It’s the opposite. You can either make an appointment or walk In off the street for a first fitting that involves multiple measurements and will last an hour. From these jottings, a skilled artisan back in Naples will cut patterns that mimic your torso.
During the fitting, you get to know your shirt maker, and he gets to know whether you like a little extra room in the chest or whether you prefer slim fit look more. Once your measurements are on file, you’re done. Presuming your shape stays the same, you just call in to replace a frayed workhorse or receive swatches to create a new head-turner.
Prices of bespoke shirts
Kiton shirts are available through stores Louis Boston, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman or the company’s boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York. Shirts run $500 to $850 each, with a minimum order of six. Turn around on a first order is 6 weeks.
If Paone is the venerable champ, then 41-year-old Domenico Vacca is the contender spoiling for the title. His hip revisions on the classic styles popularized by Italian film star Marcello Mastroianni have made converts all over the world.
A shirt from Vacca takes into consideration nine measurements. After that, you choose from among 50 different collar styles, three button styles, and nine different cuffs. Shirts run $390 to $790 a piece, with a minimum first order of six shirts that take about 6 weeks to assemble.
The cost is evident in the details
Rough hand-stitching binds the yoke to the sleeve so that a fabric’s stripe runs uninterrupted from shoulder to cuff. The collar is cinched to the neck with a single thread, as opposed to the 200 stitches that can change the look of a mass-produced collar every time it’s washed.
The all-cotton fabrics come from the finest mills In Europe, and both shirt makers use mother-of-pearl buttons. “The concept is to invest. Build a wardrobe the way you build a portfolio; says Vacca. “You can buy junk that will wear out in a year, or you can buy a beautiful hand-made garment that will pay for itself over time.
Certainly, there are cheaper purveyors of custom-made shirts; but buyer beware. Some merchants are abusing the word “custom” to lure you into thinking you’re buying handmade goods when you’re really getting assembly line shirts with a few changes, known in the trade as made-to-measure.