20 September 2012

Basics: Honest Shirts

A few weeks ago, while ironing a shirt, I noticed that the collar was getting frayed enough to have gone past the level of "shabby chic" into to plain old shabby. The same thing has been happening to a number of my shirts. You may remember that desperation drove me to the outlets, an experience that can only be described as sour at best. But what to do? I still needed some new shirts.
Enter Lands' End, my favorite online source for honest and simple items like these. I picked up two recently, for less than $25 each.
One in soft pink royal oxford, a dressier version of the sturdy old oxford cloth, with a touch of sheen. It's a well made shirt of good fabric with thick buttons and a knock out collar roll. Certainly as good as the standard shirts offered at Brooks Brothers these days, and probably better than many of the shirts at that awful outlet store.
The other is a navy and hunter green tattersall check in soft twill, a bit heavier and great for Fall with a tweed jacket or wool sweater, Again, the collar roll is a huge selling point.

Shirts can be surprisingly hard to come by if you're like me and shopping regular retail is out of the question. Brooks Brothers frequently offers $3/$200, which isn't bad, I guess. But $200 is a big chunk out of my weeks wage. Mercer makes a great shirt, and so does the Andover Shop, but again, those are not even on my financial radar. Off price stores like TJ Maxx might have something, if you're lucky, but then you have to suffer the experience of shopping there. Not my thing.

Of course, there's always the thrift shops, which we all know have served me well, but that can be a crap shoot. Besides the randomness factor, there's the wear and tear. Shirts are made of thinner fabric that most other clothing and suffer more wear, being close to the body. Additionally, they get washed frequently in hot water, starched and pressed.Old shirts are great, and thrift stores offer the possibility of getting old styles that are no longer available But the shirts will already be worn, and likely won't last that long, certainly not as long as a new one. Thrift shops are great for finding a wonderful old tweed jacket or well made pair of shoes, but shirts get worn, get worn out, then get tossed.

 The shirts I got from Lands' End are honest good shirts. They aren't especially spectacular, but they're well made and styled traditionally. Sure. they may be made in China, but they also only cost a fraction of what some other makers are charging for similar quality. If you're a man of modest means who wears dress shirts with some frequency, these shirts are a steal. Save the big money for long lasting tailored clothing you can hand down to your sons. Shirts should always be good, but they don't need to be so precious.

p.s. Shop News. Occasionally, I get an item to sell that is rare enough that I will auction it rather than sell it through the store, such as the vintage morning suit I recently acquired. Items like these will be listed on Ebay. Any current Ebay auctions I'm offering will be visible through links in the sidebar at right Thanks.

18 comments:

gentleman mac said...

I've never tried Lands End dress shirts before because I nearly always go with Jos. A Bank generally for the reasons you state here and because they have my taller size. How does Lands End stack up to Banks?

Anonymous said...

It's curious that you mention eBay in your mostly unrelated "P.S." because I was going to suggest that as a solid alternative for shirt purchases. I've had good luck finding new or very minimally worn shirts of the Brooks Brothers variety for about half of sale prices - including lots with 2 OCBDs (white and blue) for about $45 and 3 french cuff dress shirts for $88. The folks at Put This On also have a search of many top brands which often turns up listings in my size for under $50, though often with slightly unusual colors or patterns.

You may need a bit of patience if you're looking for something specific - say a 17/34 slim fit "must iron" OCBD in pink from Brooks, Gant or Gitman at an affordable price - but eventually it will turn up. Not to say there's anything wrong with buying new from a brand like LE, but options are good too.

rbrady said...

I've found that for dress shirts, the online tailor options can be pretty cost effective. You have to have your measurements perfect, and you need to be very specific about what you want (non-fused cuffs, for example), but the price can be comparable to even the more affordable OTR shops. I've gotten several shirts from moderntailor.com in the $40-60 range, and have generally been more pleased with them than anything I've gotten through retail or thrift.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree--and I like your choices, too. LE also offer a nice range of sizes that are hard to find at other retail venues (outlets, department stores, etc.). I know that I can find a good shirt in my size (17/36) at LE (and pants hemmed to my 31" inseam, too!).

Chuck Hatt said...

The Hyde Park OCBD is a great shirt and an excellent value. Great roll and solid construction.

Marcus Smith said...

I've come to like Land's End a great deal (wearing my White Land's End washed Oxford right now - 14 bucks). The quality is very good for the price. We got our son some chinos and polos for his school uniform, and we were very impressed with the quality. I tell my son (he's 5) all the time, "I wish I had some chinos like those!". They always have good sales too, so you can catch some really good deals if you watch them.

Horatio said...

I'm a long-time fan of Lands End, and have lots of shirts and pants from them, as well as a few ties, swimming trunks, and even shoes.

Lands End, being part of Sears now, has adopted the "perpetual sale" technique. NEVER buy anything at Lands End at full price: there will always be a sale just around the corner. Most of their sales offer "free" shipping, too (i.e., you pay for the shipping in the cost of the item, not as a separate charge). Towards the end of the season, older merchandise gets marked down (not all of which is eligible for additional reduction in whatever sale is going on at the moment), so you can get things for much less than the initial price.

Of course, if you wait too long, they might sell out of your size, so be careful.

Custom tailored shirt said...

Nice colors and the fabrics also looks cool!!!

Scott Davis said...

I've been happy with LE, and surprisingly more happy with the Canvas brand products I've purchased.

Matt Stokes said...

Got a link to those shirts? Are they non-iron or traditional? Solid choices, all of them.

Gordo said...

If you have a Sears close by, you can really find great deals. Go to the sales rack first. Interestingly, they mix all their sale shirts and are usually the only ones left. The "Sears" clothing customer is vastly different than "Land's End" folk. Rumor has it Sears is trying to sell LE.

Gordo said...

Paul Stewart makes a well-made shirt at nice price points. I have several and they are quality. Watching Brit Hume, news analyst, I'd not be surprised if he doesn't roll around in a few. Their colors are quite vivid--I paid a whole dollar for both.

http://m.paulfredrick.com/paulfredrick/index.do

Kingstonian said...

You made good points about second hand shirts. Furthermore, many people will wear a second hand coat or jacket but draw a line at shirts as they have been worn next to the skin.

Lands End sales are a good source for shirts, but full price in the UK they are too expensive.

Kevin said...

I would highly recommend Charles Tyrwhitt shirts. They come from London and you have to time the sales right, however, for the money they are the best shirts I wear.

I went through too many 3/200 shirts from Brooks Brothers that didn't last 6 months without fraying.

You can check them out at ctshirts.com

Donald said...

Gordo,
Stewart and Fredrick are two entirely different Pauls. Which are you talking about?

Giuseppe said...

Stuart is the preferable of the two.

Anonymous said...

It seems that "must iron" shirts are getting increasingly difficult to find at Lands End, as they are elsewhere.

JT said...

I've bought Lands End shirts for years and still like them, but wish their tailored fit was just a little slimmer. I have a largish neck for my size, and when wearing ties a LE tailored shirt of the right collar size is still pretty loose around my clothes. Not a big deal with jacket over it, but not ideal if I take the jacket off. And I'm not looking for tight!

I got some Brooks Brothers extra-slim-fit shirts recently and they are better in that regard.

So I'm balancing LE lower price (and sometimes more interesting colors/patterns) with BB better fit. Getting a mix I guess.