The last time my husband wanted to do a guest post on my blog was…well, never. But he somehow developed a sudden and unexpected passion for custom shirts that he wants to evangelize unto the world, in time for Father’s Day. I guess I never realized the non-custom-shirt-misery in which he lived until now.
So here it is, folks. My husband’s detailed account of his foray into the world of custom shirts. May it bring you unbridled tailored joy.
“Hey – can I do a guest post on your blog?”
“Hm. What about?”
“Why? How many did you buy?”
“They are for my job. [Deploying her own tactics against her] I would have lost money if I didn’t buy them.”
“That is only relevant when there is a sale.”
“Wait … Here’s an Anthropologie gift card?”
“Fine … but you’re not as funny as I am so I’ll have to edit your post.”
When your wife is the type who understands the pricing dynamics multiple industries, it’s really hard to buy her presents (“Do you realize what the mark-up is on these roses?!”).
I am guessing some of you struggle with what to buy dads for Father’s day, so I wanted to share my experience buying tailored shirts online. It’s a little more involved than picking a gift off the shelf, but I highly recommend it as a special gift that keeps on giving.
I hate wearing off the shelf long-sleeved shirts. For 4 reasons.
Reason #1: because of “the Sail” (the shirt bellows when you lean forward)
Reason #2: Because I always lose the “Arm-Hair Game”
(game rules: people secretly take a guess at how hairy someone’s arms are, then they find ways to get them to raise their arms. “Can you reach that for me?” … if the sleeve is too short, the shirt sleeve rides up, revealing the answer. At least that’s what I imagine people do)
Reason #3: Because of “The Vent Game” (arm motion untucks shirt and exposes skin on side. A variation of the “Arm-Hair Game”)
Reason #4: Because of “The Dress” (shirt is too wide around the belly, makes the shirt look like a dress just above the belt … closely related to “The Sail”)
Last year, I gave buying online a try, primarily on eBay because they provide some measurements. So I measured my overdeveloped chest and other well sculpted body parts. I included NWT in the search bar (New With Tags). The shirts were a bit better (and cheaper), but I had to send some back, because of the loose definition of New.
(I unfortunately no longer have the photo … it was gooood! Tag was completely shriveled up compared to the new one)
But I still couldn’t get rid of the problems. So, I decided to give tailored shirts a go.
I tried 4 sites, ranging from high end to value pricing:
- J Hilburn (a person comes to a place of your location to measure … Shirts are $150+)
- propercloth (the most aggressive marketer on Google … $95+, but most are $140)
- ownonly (~$89+)
- tailor4less (the value player … $60+)
After weeks of trial and error, HERE ARE THE RESULTS!
1ST PLACE (and where I bought 8 shirts): tailor4less
- The shirts fit almost perfectly out of the box. The sleeves could be a bit shorter, but I think I am compensating for a lifetime of living with sleeves that are too short.
- The quality is great (or at least, not noticeably different compared to J Hilburn, the premium player).
- The selection is not huge (compared to J Hilburn), and some of the styles are questionable, but I found what I wanted.
- Nothing fancy with the packaging … just good shirts.
- The model and I have exactly the same, slim body types…right?
2ND PLACE: J Hilburn
- High quality shirt (though I didn’t think it was 3 times better than the tailor4less shirt) …
- … in a super fancy box …
- …hand delivered by a knowledgeable stylist.
- Premium pricing (mine ending up costing $180 … The stylist recommended some custom buttons, which added $20 I think. I went with her recommendation … the shirt turned out nice).
- Tied with tailor4less on the quality of the fit.
- Best selection of patterns.
NOT FOR ME / DISQUALIFIED: proper cloth
- The best web experience of them all (great website, and email tracking).
- Didn’t like the fabric of the shirt (Sandi:“Is that a burlap?”) … I am sure they have others, but for the material to be that rough made me question the quality of the other shirts.
- The fit was way off, not even close.
- Good customer service … issued a refund no questions asked.
DON’T TOUCH WITH A BARGEPOLE / DISQUALIFIED: ownonly.com
- I am reserving the last portion of this post to recount my experience.
- The shirt quality was ok.
So, how does it work?
If you go with a provider that doesn’t have a stylist (e.g. tailor4less.com)
- Go to their website.
- Before you do anything else, check their return policy. Look for “returns accepted” … if you don’t see it, I recommend you don’t buy.
- Take 8-10 measurements (I had Sandi do it … I didn’t think it was particularly hard … you’ll need a tape measure, and possibly a stool if your measurer is much smaller) … interestingly, each site measures slightly different things … because I sampled a few sites, I (well, Sandi) took ~20 measurements in total.
- Make your shirt selection … there are all kinds of options on collars, fit etc… I found these pretty straightforward. There are helpful hints on what type of collar is better suited for what type of face, the benefit of shoulder pleats etc…
- Pick your fabric / pattern … I tried getting samples mailed to me, but those weren’t available with the vendors I tried.
- Wait ~2 weeks (the shirts I tried are made offshore. China, Philippines etc…).
- Receive / Open package … It’s fun to see how each provider wants to be perceived here … Some had fancy boxes, others just came in a beat up DHL package. I am not the type that needs a box to feel good about my shirt.
- Try on your shirt.
- If it doesn’t fit, then adjust measurements / provide feedback, then send back, then wait two weeks. Check that your provider does alterations and shipping for free (most seem to).
If you go with a stylist (e.g. J Hilburn)
- On their website, look for a stylist in your area.
- If they have more than one, I would recommend you talk to a few. You are going to be spending a fair bit of time talking to them, so check for compatibility. Ask them lots of questions, like what’s the process like, what they offer, what happens if it doesn’t fit, pricing etc… Through the conversation, if you feel comfortable with them, then it’s likely a good match. I made the mistake of not doing this, and though the stylist was knowledgable about the product, we didn’t jell well. As I reflect on the experience, that had a pretty big impact on my decision not to move forward.
- Make an appointment (mine would come anywhere I wanted).
- The stylist makes a bunch of measurements. I didn’t think my stylist did a significantly better job than Sandi. The process takes about 45mins by the time you talk options etc…
- Pick your fabric and style … the good thing here is that you can see samples.
- Wait two weeks … the stylist comes back to your house for a fitting.
- If it doesn’t work, then they take pictures of the current fit, perhaps a couple of measurements, and take the shirt back.
- Wait two more weeks … the stylist comes back for hopefully the final fitting.
- You can then decide to order more … good news is that you don’t need to do any more fitting!
So was it worth it?
Yes. Without a doubt.
I CAN’T WAIT to wear my custom shirts. I am giddy when they come back from the cleaners, because it means I get to wear them soon. I get excited during the day when I am wearing them. I might occasionally take a break from working just to wave my arms about (I get delight knowing that there will be no game winners out there).
And for $60! I was paying almost $40 for the NWTBANNWT eBay shirts (New With Tags But Actually Not New With Tags), so $20 more for something new that fits perfectly is awesome.
The final product
So, to ownonly.com.
When the shirt arrived, I found that it was too narrow. It stretched across my perfectly formed upper body (Sandi: “nice boobs, sir”). The sleeves were also a tad too short.
So I sent feedback, and got this:
My first thought was “”Eligible”? uh oh … so it’s up Angie to decide?”
Angie asked me to go to a local tailor for an alteration (she said they would reimburse up to $79). I responded that the shirt was too small, that there is no extra material in the shirt, so wasn’t sure why I would go to a tailor.
After that, it was all fun and games.
Ooooohhhh, so it was me that was wrong! Of course, the shirt is perfect! And they recognized my “developed” chest. Note that I picked slim fit from all the other providers. But I’m wrong anyway!
But there’s more…they did give me the opportunity of buying from them again…not sure why I deserved to, but hey! Free non-descript gift!
I slowed things down, a trick I learned from my dad.
It took two follow-ups and 14 days for the Lords of Ownonly to grace me with a response.
For next time, when I decide not to buy from them, at least I’ll know how to buy from them.
But perhaps it’s me? Perhaps there is such a thing as a bad customer? “Bad customer! Shirt don’t fit you right! Bad measurer of body parts ! Bad evaluator of how shirt fit! Bad!” Perhaps we can find a reason to also blame the measurer! As an aside, I am open to your suggestions on what to do with responses such as these.
Anyway, did I mention that I LOVE MY SHIRTS?!?
I highly recommend getting a custom shirt for a father out there … he’s going to love it!
And thanks for reading Sandi’s rewrite of my review!