We'll Always Have Paris
Paris Custom Shirts, that is.
What I consider the best custom made shirt in the United States and perhaps the world.
What are the basic ingredients of a quality shirt?
Fine stitching is a Paris shirts hallmark and something that is always noticeable. Partly it is the careful attention to the sewing but other ingredients play a role. Expensive, mercerized threads from Italy as opposed to average quality threads make for a smooth, refined finish.
Much of the shirt is handmade but to create a stream lined product, hand guided, single needle machines are superior to chain stitching, double-needling, or free hand sewing.
If the shirt cloth has white in the pattern, the stitching should go on the white area of a shirt or as much of the white area as possible.
The Cut of the Cloth
It varies due to size, style and pattern for shirt but generally a shirt consists of approximately twenty eight separate pieces and can vary up to forty pieces for the most complex shirts with bells and whistles such as a safari shirt.
If he cuts a single shirt, it takes Atam an hour. If he can cut ten solid colored shirts at the same time, it takes an hour and forty five minutes. However, most customers currently select fabrics that have to be cut individually.
Men used to select fabrics in a solid, weak stripes or check. Nowadays, it’s a riot of color and pattern. Even when the fabrics are solid colors, men are choosing fabrics with textures in them, such as herringbone, jacquard stripes or oxfords.
We live in an interesting time when a brand new analyst, fresh from the classroom, can show up in a vivid shirt and tie combination but the head trader arrives in flip flops and madras shorts.
Making the client’s pattern is partially a matter of long established company formula and partially a matter of vision. Before he cuts a shirt, Atam can see the way the shirt will look in his mind’s eye.
Atam designs the pattern and cuts the shirts himself, his father and another skilled worker sew the separate pieces together, fashion the collars and make the buttonholes. One trade secret which makes Paris shirts so excellent is the way the collar interfacing is “slashed” to allow the collar to conform smoothly to an expanding/contracting neck and accommodate either a necktie or a change in atmospheric pressure.
Atam started cutting shirts in 1981 but insists he is not the best ever. one cutter he remembers would only cut about a dozen shirts a week but you would be hard pressed to find a single flaw in the result. However, a dozen shirts a week is not feasible for a business which needs to cut an average of one hundred shirts a week or more to keep up with demand.
Demand for luxury goods continues to rise and this includes the appetite for high grade cotton and linen. At the same time, there is a global decrease in the amount of cotton and linen planted by farmers who can secure better profits on different crops. World demand, labor costs, shipping costs, customs duties; even the linings have doubled in price.
Beautifully styled, highly modified Brooks Button down collar which always looks great. They stand up but never look stiff.
A prepster classic. Made again, for old time sake. Fun shirt using the same scale of check and stripe in different colors:
The short sleeved shirts Paris make are addicting, once you wear one the thought of ready to wear casual is abominable.
Fabric Pattern Matching
A bold or complex pattern fabric can be made to look elegant or slick and it all hinges on the manner in which it is cut and the pattern matched. Even a seemingly small decision such as which part of the pattern will be on the edge of a collar or cuff can vastly influence the overall look of the shirt.
Large patterns with multiple colors are usually the hardest shirts to piece together. These sorts of shirts need to be cut piece by piece which makes the process even longer.
Matching checks and stripes is difficult when the fabric doesn’t repeat itself evenly such as Madras cotton; which is often free hand loomed.
There is a face and a grain to fabric which must addressed when cutting in order to optimize the way the shirt looks. That’s why a horizontally striped shirt front needs to be cut a little larger because it will shrink more width wise.
Matching patterns is a sign of quality and Atam spends a lot of time making sure that everything will match up as fluidly as possible. Not surprising at all when one considers Atam has a lifelong interest in art which predates his introduction to making shirts.
Shirt making actually helps him appreciate art more because it mimics on a smaller scale the amount of time necessary to create paintings and sculptures. In terms of pattern matching, an artistic eye is key because it facilitates the ordering of abstract patterns to maximize both the visual interest and harmony on a three dimensional shirt.
Visual taste test.
A stripe is just a stripe. Or is it? How much extra does a shirt maker need for optimal versus very good pattern matching? On the left (or top) side is a shirt made with an extra yard of fabric for optimal stripe placement throughout. Most clients are not concerned by this but for the aficionado who wants an absolutely perfectly matched shirt pattern, it is available for a premium.
An artistically set, printed shirt pattern worn with a suit or blazer/sport jacket can enhance one’s individuality.
Which is why Paris shirts always have a strong aesthetic, especially the shirt collars. All good shirt makers know that the collar makes or breaks a shirt and someone with an artistic eye who is also active in commerce understands how a collar can make a man look his best… and his most affluent.
I still believe the collars Paris cuts are the most important, elegant versions that I have ever seen. And let’s face facts, in the shirt world, the best collar wins.
Paris can be found all over the map
Paris Custom shirts have made shirts for innumerable film and TV features and just about every man interested in fine clothes have been in the shop at one point or another. Additionally, large numbers of high end shops ask Paris Custom Shirts to make their hand made ready to wear lines.
Because of this vast wealth of experience with the visually demanding world of Film, High end shops and smart dressers, Paris has developed a refined taste level. Thus, they can excite someone already well versed with clothes to execute their fondest wishes or suggest some new natty concept. Rest assured, they can also expertly guide the newer entrant to choose fabrics and styles to suit both their needs and lifestyles.
Even the eccentric will find his whims indulged. Such as a shirt with a sixteen button hole cuff that went up to the customer’s armpit; basically, the sleeve was the cuff. That’s a shirt maker with cohones.
Quality Ingredients make a shirt excellent
Recently ordered, Italian made buttons from Australian mother of pearl first underwent a two hundred washings test and never lost their finish or chipped. Visually, these buttons are neither thin nor thick and possess a rich look with the same attention to shape that a handsome suit button has.
To enhance certain shirts, some buttons are sent out for dying with an attached swatch of the fabric. The dying process is tricky and the buttons have to be soaked just right to get an even coloring. Dyed buttons will be used by Paris when they feel the shirt warrants them or when specially requested by the customer.
Preshrunk Swiss interlining comes in three weights and is very expensive. If a customer does not ask otherwise, the medium weight is used for dress shirts.
Sometimes a customer wants a very stiff collar and Paris will use a lighter weight fusible lining with glue on the back. This will be added to one of the three above mentioned interface linings that Paris uses.
Shirt fit is a matter of personal preference but absent customer specifications the shirt will be fitted but not tight and will work with the wearer to the extent that one might forget they are wearing a shirt. However, Paris will design a pattern for the customer from fitted to roomy.
Monogramming is hand stitched with a single needle off of a stencil and takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to execute. Prices vary according to style and size. One client gets monograms surrounded by the wreath symbol reminiscent of the cadillac car.
When a shirt maker works on a Liberty print for a man’s shirt, if he is not very careful the result can be off balance or cheap looking, when it is optimally arranged, a seemingly chaotic Liberty print will look elegant.
It is expected that you will phone to set up an appointment but when you walk into Paris Custom shirts, Atam will set you at ease with a friendly chat to learn enough about your work, lifestyle, likes and dislikes in order to figure out what sort of fabrics will excite you.
At publication (8/5/2012), for new customers there is a three (3) shirt minimum with an opening price of $350 per shirt. That would cover a basic two ply 100s cotton fabric. For two ply 170s- $550, two ply 220s – $1200, for Loro Piana cashmere $3600. Linen shirts which are gaining in popularity are $425.
If properly cared for and cleaned a Paris Custom Shirt can last for a very long time; only wear each shirt once before a gentle washing and hang drying. For the man on the go, Paris does offer a personal laundry service that keeps your shirts looking as new as when they were first made; $11 per shirt.
Wait time for orders, two week turnaround for a initial sample and roughly four weeks after the client gives his OK to any final adjustments to that sample.
The shirts at Paris are getting better because the owners never rest on their laurels, they are never satisfied. They continually explore better quality interlinings, threads and buttons. If for any reason, I was unable to get more Paris shirts, rather than resort to any other make, I would continue to wear mine until they frayed and disintegrated. Paris shirts are that amazing to wear.
They are the stuff that dandiacal dreams are made of.
Paris Custom Shirts
38 W. 32nd Street, Suite 603
New York, New York