Perfect gift 2 - Made to measure shirts

Friday, December 7, 2012
Buying clothes as a gift is never easy. Not only do you have to be sure of getting the size right, but you have to guess at the style, colour, pattern and so on that will please the recipient. The more sartorially aware the man the harder, in many ways, it becomes. There's a good chance that if the chap you're buying for cares about clothes, he's developed a strong preference for, let's say, shirts with a medium cutaway collar, rounded French cuffs, no gauntlet button, lengthy tails, and only plain colours in end-on-end fabric.

If you can get all that right, you'll impress him no end, but your chances of guessing it are slim. That's not to say anyone ever really objects to a shirt that is not quite precisely what they would buy themselves, but there's something to be said for a gift that still gives the recipient the flexibility to make all those finicky choices that make it perfect for them. That's why I'm a big fan of the made-to-measure shirt gift that a few more suppliers are doing. They have the advantage of being easy to buy, easy to claim and, crucially, you only have to buy one. Many of the old-school shirtmakers have minimum orders of four or five shirts which makes them less than suitable for gifting.

Here's a selection:
Thomas Pink
Starting from £140, and going up to over £250, you just have to pick the fabric type you are prepared to pay for and then leave the rest for the gift recipient to choose. Of course, you need to have something for them to open on Christmas Day, so Pink provide a pair of brass collar stiffeners in a gift box, which act as the 'token' - quite a neat idea.

But are the shirts any good? Personally, it's not where I would choose to spend £140, but they're decently made from good cloth and this would make a particularly nice present for someone who already has a few off-the-peg Pink shirts and likes them.

Ede & Ravenscroft
Ede & Ravenscroft always used to do rather a nice gift shirt service, not dissimilar to the Pink one except that the 'gift card' came in the form of a length of shirting cloth in a box. This meant that you could still impose some of your own taste on the gift, by picking the cloth to use, with the advantage that in reality the recipient could still swap it for a different cloth when they came to have the shirt made up.
Of course, typically, as I come to write this post I can find no trace of this service on the E&R website, and only a newly expanded page about the made-to-measure shirt service. That said, I'm sure that they do still offer the gift option, or would be happy to do so if you asked.

As I recall, the shirts started at around £150, although most made-to-measure shirts at E&R are closer to £190. I'm a big fan of Ede & Ravenscroft shirts so this would probably be my gift shirt of choice, and they are certainly well-made enough that even someone who normally buys shirts at New & Lingwood or Turnbull & Asser would be unlikely to be disappointed with one of these.

Cad and the Dandy
Like a few of the more modern tailors, Cad and the Dandy offer gift vouchers, and you can buy one for any amount, meaning that you could either fully cover the cost of a tailored shirt (starting at £125) or, for a slightly more reasonable gift, give them some money towards one. I've never (yet) had a Cad and the Dandy shirt, but their suits are terrific and the shirts I've seen have been well-fitted and nicely made. That said, the voucher itself is a little unimaginative - an e-voucher that you can put in your own card.

Henry Herbert
Like Cad and the Dandy, Henry Herbert just offers a gift voucher for a 'bespoke' shirt (at £180), although they do at least come with quite an attractive voucher. The recipient can order online by entering their own measurements which is never ideal, but may be more appealing to someone who is busy or intimidated by the idea of going to be measured by a tailor. That said, the consultation stage is part of the experience and arguably the most fun bit, so I'd recommend organising a meeting with one of their tailors.