Today taking a look of Proper Cloth made-to-measure shirts.
About 8 months ago I got an email from Chris Callis. Chris is a guy that many #menswear-blog followers might recognize for example as a man behind sites the blog called Men of Habit. Chris offered me a chance to give a try and review some made-to-measure shirts by Proper Cloth - rather young American company I had been keeping my eye on for quite a while. And I happily agreed.
As mentioned - it has now been around 8 months since I ordered the shirts. I think now is good time to take closer look at the process and results.
Proper Cloth - The Company
First a few words about Proper Cloth in general. The New York based company was founded in 2008. Today it is run by a group of five guys. The company still operates through their office in SoHo, where all the customer service and designing for the shirts and other pieces are done.
Proper Cloth started with custom dress shirts that are still their priority and best-selling item. In addition the company is producing and selling some accessories such as ties and pocket squares made in Italy and even some cashmere sweaters, sport coats and blazers.
One thing that differs Proper Cloth from many other online-custom shirt makers is that in case you happen to live or visit in NYC you can even schedule a fitting to get your measurements right for a shirt you are about to order. You can also go there for fine-tune the fit of a shirt already purchased and at the same time take a look at the fabrics and style options they offer.
Another thing which I find interesting is that Proper Cloth seems to put a lot of effort to their overall aesthetics and to the availability of their site. One example of inspirational content are the seasonal look books showcasing highlighted fabrics and accessories of their selection.
Even though the company is young it appears that they are in the business to stay. On the of the features to highlight this is their "perfect fit"-guarantee.
Perfect fit guarantee by Proper Cloth
It is normal with online made-to-measure shirts that you might not get it right at the first time. That's why many manufacturers offer cheaper trial-shirts. This means that you can test the measurements without a fear of loosing your money and ending up with an expensive shirt that does not fit you.
Proper Cloth however has taken a bit different kind of approach to tackle this problem. They are offering this so-called "perfect fit guarantee". What it basically means is that you use the "smart-size"-method to create your personal size and purchase a Proper Cloth shirt online. After that they make and send the shirt and you try it on. You can also use a size method of your own choice - for example taking measurements of the best fitting shirt you have.
If the shirt does not fit you perfectly, what you need to do is to let them know what needs to change. After that return the shirt to Proper Cloth. After that they alter or remake the shirt for free and save the new measurements on your profile for convenient reordering. Returning of the shirt must be done at your own cost.
This of course includes the fact that one need to take into consideration the possible expenses incurred due to high shipping costs. For example sending a shirt from Finland back to America or Asia can be quite expensive. But on the other you avoid the risk of ending up with an expensive shirt that does not fit you. This way you can also avoid shirts featuring cheap and lower quality fabrics that you usually may want to use for those "trial shirts".
My Proper Cloth shirts - going for classics
Then a bit more closer look of what I ended up choosing when given the chance to try out Proper Cloth shirts. As usual it all starts by choosing the fabric. Proper Cloth offers quite wide selection of fabrics ranging from $80 all the way till $150-$200 range including fine setting from famous houses such as Thomas Mason, Canclini and Albini. After discussing with Chris I ended up testing two different kind of cloths - representing both ends of the price range Proper Cloth has to offer. First of all a very basic and classic heavy oxford cloth and secondly a luxurious Thomas Mason gold line end-on-end fabric. The opportunity for me was very welcome as I had actually been thinking of acquiring a couple of new light blue shirts which I felt were underrepresented in my selection at that time. And they still are.
It's actually been quite a while since I have used any online custom shirt manufacturer. One thing that at least based on my experiences differs Proper Cloth from many other players though is their website and ordering system.
For example going through fabrics has been made very easy and illustrative. You can easily get a picture how a certain fabric would look as a shirt. There is also clear definitions regarding the fabrics as well as indicators that showcase the construction and thickness of the shirt. It is also positive that once you have chosen the fabric you want you can also see the same fabric while making up your mind with all the details. From a customer point of view this is nice as you might notice in the process that some patterned fabrics for example might not work as well with the details you were about to choose - as you had imagined.
After choosing the fabric it's time for details. First of all you can choose you favorite from almost 30 different collar types and 10 different cuff-options. Then you can move on to choose whether you want a pocket or not and style for the possible placket and yoke style. In addition there is for example the possibility to go for mother-of-pearl buttons and add a monogram to your shirt if so wanted.
Below I have listed my choices of fabrics and details so that one can get a picture what I was after with my order.
1) Light blue heavy oxford cloth
A heavy oxford in light blue featuring a button-down collar is a can't-miss casual shirt. It's actually a staple in every man's wardrobe. As I did not have one before I thought now might be a good time to get one. Proper Cloth offers two different button-down collars and I decided to go for the so-called "soft ivy-button down". It is inspired by the classic of Brooks Brothers and Mercer & Sons - featuring unfused construction and in fact a very nice collar roll. In addition to the bd-collar I did not want any special details with this shirt, not even initials. A classic - no twist.
- Collar: Soft-Ivy button-down
- Cuff: Soft One Button
- Pocket: no pocket
- Soft front placket
- One piece yoke
- Buttons: Standard
- No initials
2) Thomas Mason gold line light blue end-on-end
As mentioned I wanted to go for light blue with both shirts. While going through the higher end of the price range I came up with a Thomas Mason goldline end-on-end fabric made of 140s 2-ply Egyptian cotton. I need to admit that I'm normally not that fond of very light fabrics as I think they crease and wrinkle too easily. However while looking the subtle texture of the cloth I thought I might give it a try. With this one I opted for a "soft" cutaway collar which is my most preferred collar option for dress shirts. In addition I wanted MOP buttons and my initials to the left hand side stomach.
- Collar: Soft President Cutaway
- Cuff: Soft One Button
- Pocket: no pocket
- No placket
- One piece yoke
- Buttons: MOP
- Initials: AR (left stomach)
Proper Cloth sizing - smart sizes
After choosing the fabric and details it's turn for sizing. Proper Cloth offers all together five different options to get your size right. First of all one can visit their showroom in New York and go through their own fitting-process.
Secondly there is a chance to send the company your best fitting shirt. They will then copy the measurements of the shirt. In case you don't want to spend too much time wondering and stressing whether or not you gonna get the measurements right, this is definitely an option worth considering.
Thirdly you can either provide the company your body measurements or measurements of a shirt that fits you well. For both of these options the site has very clear and illustrating instruction videos and descriptions.
Finally there is an option one might ask why to bother - when all the above mentioned options are in use. That choice is the so-called "smart sizes" which means that one just need to answer a few simple questions about your body. After that Proper Cloth will calculate the measurements for an ideal custom shirt by multiple algorithms. The questions include for example the used t-shirt, jacket and trousers size, height and length, collar size, normal sleeve length and the "fact" how slim one wants their shirts to fit.
When making the order I decided to test the latter one. In addition Chris asked me to measure my the chest, midsection, and sleeve width for the shirt. I did this as I wanted to know how would it work.
Result by using "Smart size"
After a few weeks wait I got my shirt. At that point I realized what one should not do while ordering a shirt. In terms of measurements one should never trust on beliefs. While doing my order I had filled in the "sleeve length" by remembering what size I have usually worn for rte-shirts. As the sleeves in rtw-shirts usually are too big for me I decided to go a couple of "sizes" down. Without measuring any of my shirts in my wardrobe which I could have done. A mistake that lead me into a situation having two shirts with a notch too short sleeves. And taking into consideration many of my jackets feature sleeves that are on the "classic" sleeve length it would end up to a situation where the shirt sleeves would not come visible under those jackets. In addition the collar of the shirts where a bit too loose. Based on another measurement I had given myself. Otherwise the shirts fitted me pretty much just in the way I like my shirts to fit.
After discussing this matter with Chris (at that point I actually did not even know about their "perfect fit" guarantee) he asked me to write down and mark the alterations that would need to be done and sending the notes to them. After that they could re-do the shirts and make them to fit as they were supposed to fit. Taking into consideration that all the fit issues I had were basically based on inaccurate information provided by myself - I keep this service quite customer friendly.
All in all I would say that the "smart size"-system is a good option for those who do not posses a well-fitted shirt beforehand or are too lazy to take measurements from their existing shirts. However, if I were about to order a shirt - from any online-mtm maker - for a first time I would go for the options to provide the manufacturer my best fitting shirt or the measurements of that particular shirt.
Sum up - Proper Cloth providing proper shirts
As said above it's been almost eight months since my first order from Proper Cloth. and actually already about five months since I was provided the second shirts that were remade after my wishes and amendments.
What I was after in the first place were basic light blue shirts to complement my current selection. I decided to go for one casual and one dress shirt - with features I personally find optimal for the mentioned-kind of shirts. Soft button-down collar for the casual oxford shirt, wide spread but still soft collar for the business shirt with a thinner and finer end-on-end fabric by Thomas Mason.
What I ended up with were two shirts pretty much answering the exact need I had. Now I have two more shirts in my rotation that will basically take me through any business or casual events that I may come across. In fact - my girlfriend ended up with two new shirts to her "wear at home"-rotation as well. Thanks to that I did not need to send back the first two shirts that turned out to be two small regarding the sleeve length. This is probably one of those side effects getting a chance to review products as a blogger.
I know many people are thinking about the question about shrinking and how will the shirts respond to washing them. In my case - after multiple washes both shirts are still good. Though there were some little shrinking in the beginning, especially with the finer dress shirt. In general it is said at the Proper Cloth website that they take the shrinking features of different fabrics into consideration in the production and regarding my shirts that seems to be the case.
To put it shortly, for the price of their shirts - depending on the fabric - and the quality received, I dare to say that Proper Cloth exceeds many other online MTM-shirtmakers I've seen so far.
First of all that is due to their website that easily guides you through the design process. It provides information that will get your covered even though you would not have any experience about made-to-measure-shirting. While there are many that drive me out just because the unsuccessful website-design and obscure designing tools - the Proper Cloth site is conducted in a way that is not pushy but offers clear and visible information and guidance.
Secondly the shirts are well-made with a decent quality finishing. In addition the overall look and aesthetics are good. Construction-wise the company offers good value for the money - actually there are many details in the shirts that are not very common when it comes to online-mtm shirts or ready-to-wear shirts in similar price range.
The specific details that come by default include for example gusseted seams that helps you to keep the end of the shirt's hem from coming apart while under stress, single-needle construction on their seams that also adds durability and the so-called split yoke cut on the fabric bias. Single piece yoke may be specified in the design tool and that was what I ended up choosing for both of my own shirts. The benefit of the split yoke is that by rotating the fabrics to the angled orientation there can be stretch added to the yoke across it's width. Due to this a split yoke will stretch to accommodate your movement better.
Thirdly, the delivery time for the shirts is quite quick. For me it took about four weeks which is quite a reasonable time for mtm-shirts.
All in all, if you are considering trying out a new shirtmaker I would give Proper Cloth a try. Especially if you already have a well-fitting shirt you can base your measurements on. And in case the shirt doesn't fit you, their customer service will surely do the things necessary to get your fit right.
I personally have my third shirt now in the pipeline - a shirt made of the limited edition of Albiate light wash denim fabric. More about that coming up later but for those who are interested I suggest to read my earlier post about "Looking for a denim shirt"
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