Why Bespoke Shirts - First in a Series

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Alexander Kabbaz

Tech and Business Advice Guru
As I've watched over the years, there has been thread after thread comparing the virtues of many Ready-to-Wear brands, R-T-W Brands vs. Bespoke shirts, and at the top of the food chain, comparisons among the various bespoke makers.

This series deals with only the second thought, that of Ready-to-Wear in contrast to Bespoke. I shall neither comment on Arrow v. Borelli (except to say that the Arrow is probably a better value), nor shall I opine on whether Charvet out-gussets Turnbull or Paris is more beautiful than Geneva.

My sole goal here is to explain why bespoke shirts will serve you better than the pursuit of the ultimate R-T-W.

Future threads in this series will deal with fit, quality of construction, levels of craftsmanship, and choice of styling options such as cuffs, collars, yokes, pockets, front center treatments ... but that's for later. This thread will explain in very simple terms the primary and overarching advantage of Bespoke vs. Ready-to-Wear: Selection of the Fabric.

The average well-stocked specialty menswear retailer will have in current season stock somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 different R-T-W shirts, each in a variety of sizes ranging from 14-32 to 37-17.5. A large department store may as much as double that. Within that selection must be included button cuffs, French cuffs, self-collared shirts, white-collared shirts, as well as perhaps a few tabs and button-downs. Hence, for the person seeking a specific type of shirt, that 100 shirt selection gets divided down by at least a factor of four, leaving a universe of maybe 25 fabrics from which to choose.

It is different at a reputable bespoke maker:

One of the advantages is that you will be offered not only current season stock, but due to the long lag time in the Ready-to-Wear trade, you will even have the privilege of choosing from Next Season's offerings. New fabrics are offered at the same time to Bespoke as well as R-T-W makers. The major difference is that a bespoke maker can have a shirt made for you within days or weeks whereas even the fastest R-T-W production process requires a minimum of six months ... and usually longer.

Advantage One: Be the first on your block

It is different at a reputable bespoke maker:

Though specialty menswear and department stores will usually have an oxford and maybe a jacquard, the vast majority of their offerings will be broadcloths. Of these, the overwhelming number will be single ply 80's; the 'special selection' on the top shelf will consist of a few two ply 100's and perhaps one 'World's Finest' 2x2 120s or a Sea Island. Not so in the world of custom. Any good shirtmaker will stock oxfords, broadcloths, voiles, jacquards, meshes, basket-weaves, blends of linen & cotton, pure linen, silk and maybe even a cashmere-cotton or cashmere-silk. Most of those will, in turn, be offered in 80's singles, 100's singles, 80's 2x2, 100's 2x2, 120's 2x2, 140's 2x2, 160's 2x2, 180's 2x2, and the pinnacle of all, 200's 2x2. Heck, the bespoke maker has more variety just in types of fabric than a menswear store can carry in their entire selection of patterns!

Advantage Two: You order type of fabric which suits your purpose

It is different at a reputable bespoke maker:

The bespoke maker cannot survive by offering 100 fabric designs. In order to satisfy the variety of needs of a group of sophisticated shirt clients, the average custom house will stock a few more than that. This is where words fail. Enjoy:

Advantage ... the Ultimate: You order type of fabric which suits your purpose ... from a selection of thousands.

More to come. Thanks for reading.

A quick note: Please do not cut and paste the fabric photo with any questions or comments you may post. It is large and will consume a great deal of bandwidth. Thank you.

Copyright © 2005 Alexander S. Kabbaz. All rights reserved.


Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons Fine Custom Clothiers
* Bespoke Shirts & Furnishings * Zimmerli Swiss Underwear *


Starting Member
I would have thought that the #1 reason to go bespoke would be fit! I've noticed many who either the neck is too tight, to the point of strangulation, but the shirt generally other wise fits. At the other end there are those walking around with a shirt way too large just so they can comfortably button their collar.
Next there is exact sleeve length preference. bespoke gives you that option. The "finer" of the RTW are even worse than the cheaper as they only give one sleeve button since they "fit" so "well".
exact height of a breast pocket
it is interesting to see how fabric came 1st on the list.

Bishop of Briggs

Super Member
I too would have put fit as the top reason for choosing bespoke. Do fabric makers (e.g. Acorn, Alumo) change their range much from year to year?


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Thank you Alex,
I'm looking forward to the rest of the parts of this series. Fit and selection of fabrics/options pushed me to get my first custom shirts recently and I'm happy with the results. I hope the additional parts won't be too long in coming out.


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Thanks for the informative post.

I "know" I need to move to bespoke shirts, as I have a huge neck and more normal sized body and end up with a collar I can button but shoulder seams part way down my arms and enough fabric around my chest and waist that I can't remove my jacket for a. fear of embarrassment and b. fear that the wind will catch it like a sail and blow me off into the wild blue yonder.

But somehow the idea of spending a minimum of $120 for a decent shirt that costs as much as my carefully purchased ebay suits is just flat hard for my thrifty nature.

But your post and this forum are slowly convincing me that maybe bespoke is not all that expensive on a cost per wear basis.

David Bresch

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
If you can find a ready-to-wear shirt that fits, you can do okay, though the price you will pay for good quality is very high. I only buy bespoke but I dabbled in RTW at the start of my odyssey, including RTW shirts. There is nothing in my wardrobe I regret more. The first thing I should have done, first thing, was find a local shirtmaker whom I liked (I am with Barton now and happy).

Prisoner of Zendaline

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Thank you, Mr. Kabbaz! It just occurred to me that for people like me, who have extremely short torsos, a bespoke maker could move the pockets up (assuming one wanted pockets....normally I do not wear non-knit sport shirts, because the pockets are almost at my waist).

And you could provide a 15.5-36, which seems impossible with RTW. How common is it to specify a lightweight body, but with collar and cuffs in a very stiff fabric?


Super Member
Thank you Mr. kabbaz! - geez lets let the man get rolling, He's leading off with the fact that you can get a zillion different types of fabric, eat your popcorn and wait for the second reel of the movie when he gets to fit and all the rest.

I'm still drooling over the fabric shots....he had me at 2-ply 200's !!

...and for whoever mentioned they are $120 a pop or whatever it doesn't mean you need to fill your closet with them, I have a number of overcoats and one is a real steal, I would never have bought it at full price of $3500+ but it was the deal of the century and I jokingly refer to it as "Excalibur", it only comes out for the most special of occasions, you could do the same with a custom shirt or two, hold them in reserve for when you need the best. It could be your excalibur shirt and even if it cost a ton if you wore it judiciously it would last forever.


New Member
I know this thread is a bit old by now but I wanted to show my appreciation, there's some interesting stuff here. By the way, interesting name to give a suit... excalibur :icon_smile_wink:


Elite Member
If you can find a ready-to-wear shirt that fits, you can do okay, though the price you will pay for good quality is very high..

I can get RTW shirts that fit well but I would still go for MTM or bespoke shirts in the future because of the other advantages of this path:

1. You pick the design you want, not what the they have on the shelf. For example, some people do not like 3 button cuffs from Turnbull & Asser or Emma Wilson; however, if they got custom shirts, they could have single button with detachable collar.

2. You pick the shirt cloth, the pattern and the type of the cloth. For example 100's for work and general wear and 140's for formal and evening wear. Then there are patterns not available in RTW collections.


Elite Member
I started with the bespoke shirts a few months back...my tailor in Brooklyn does a great shirt, and I must admit the fit is superb, but I do enjoy the options I get to choose...its like a kid in a candy store.
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