@Hawesandcurtis: How You Ruined One of my Favourite Shirts….

I am a big fan of Hawes & Curtis shirts.  The fit is great, the quality of tailoring is excellent, the fabrics not only feel like great quality, they are a joy to touch and easy to iron to boot, especially with the new silk touch finish on the formal shirts.

H&C have an increasing range of formal shirts to fit a range of body shapes, from classic, to tailored, to slim fit, to extra slim fit.  They also stock a great range of informal shirts in the Curtis range as well as a good range of polo shirts.

I have an awfully large number of shirts from H&C in my collection and in these summer months have been enjoying my most  recent acquisitions from their polo shirt range.  I’m a fan. Plain and simple.However, today I’m feeling a bit aggrieved because I think H&C may have ruined one of my favourite shirts.

Last year I added to my collection 3 shirts from H&C’s Weekend Shirt Collection.  These are button down collar shirts, mostly tailored from great quality Oxford weave cottons, and in a range of colours and patterns.  Lovely things.  They can be dressed down for a great quality off-duty look, and were you so inclined, they can also be dressed up and combined with mixed blazer and chinos combination or even a suit.

If I had one complaint about last year’s Weekend Shirt collection was that the buttons were the thinnest buttons I have ever come across. I keep thinking that they might snap in half. However, a year in, they have worn as well as any of H&C’s more sturdy items.WS Blue2For me one of the best bits about H&C’s informal shirt collections is that they make them available with extra long sleeves. In common with other Jermyn Street outfitters H&C’s informal shirts collections come in S, M, L, XL, etc which differs from their formal shirt range where you select collar size and sleeve length, e.g. 16½, 36.

However, unlike their competitors (yes I mean you T M Lewin and Charles Tyrwhitt) H&C are wise enough to recognise that people who have similar size chests may have radically different length torsos and arms. So their Medium & Large informal shirts come in both regular length and  long.

For a man like me, with freakishly long arms relative to the width of his torso, this extra length is essential. It’s the reason that if I want a weekend or casual shirt H&C is my first and final port of call.  All of this makes me a bit grumpy when H&C start messing with a successful formula.Navy Classic PoloH&C’s  Spring Summer 2016 collection launched a few months back and it included an update to the H&C Weekend Shirt Collection.  Overall they made a number of really well judged improvements to the shirts. One or two are less well judged; and one, in particular, is frankly just disappointing

Let’s start with the good news. First, those dodgy thin buttons have gone, replaced by  better quality items of more appropriate thickness.

Second some beautiful but subtle details have been added. For example, the improved buttons are now sewn on with thread that matches the colour of the shirt instead of the more common white thread. The cuffs gain a second button to allow for varying wrist sizes, and the buttons on the cuff and top button are sewn on with thread that is a different colour from the buttons on the placket (the front of the shirt). The fact that The H&C crest is now embroidered in the left chest area is a nice touch and lifts the impression of quality.WS Green navyThird, whilst some of the more popular colours have been retained, white, pink and blue for example, a number of new colours and patterns have been added.  New fabrics have also been added including linen weaves. My favourite new fabric is a green/navy micro check above.  Not only is it beautiful it is also a slightly heavier fabric which feels like even better quality than the Oxford weave.

So I’ve been admiring this collection for a number of month now.  However, my self-imposed clothing fast means that I did not buy any shirts from the new improved collection.  Until this month….  I  broke my fast for the months of July & August and thought perhaps I should purchase one or two of these shirts now, especially whilst they were still available in my size.

I ordered 3 shirts from the online store: pink, blue and green/navy check and felt justified in my decision not to delay as I discovered that I was ordering the last of the green/navy check in stock.WS Blue checkH&C were brilliant; the shirts arrived less than 24 hours after they were ordered. This was a welcome contrast to my previous order (which took some time).

However, this is also where I began to discover one or two less welcome changes. My shirts were slim fit rather than classic fit.  Having tried them on it became evident that the new collection were even more fitted than last year’s. The shirts were also slightly shorter.  Great for if you are wearing your shirt outside your trousers. Less welcome if you want to tuck them in and keep them well tucked.

I preferred the slightly less tight fit and longer length of last year’s shirts but recognise that these are minor shifts which compared with all the other improvements are only a minor loss.WS PinkHowever, that’s when I noticed that something was off with these new shirts. Collar length.

One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about H&C shirts is that these guys understand collars. This is the company among whose multiple claims to fame is that it invented the cutaway collar shirt. They get that a shirt with a collar that is too small looks unbalanced and too large and you look like Harry Hill. They appear to have worked out that a collar with a 3-inch leading edge is that sweet spot of perfect balance.

This doctrine of a 3-inch collar leading edge seems to me to be almost sacrosanct.  I suspect that is because it just looks right. It’s no surprise, then, that many outfitters subscribe to this doctrine. I decided to do an impromptu check of my shirt collars. So I got out my measuring tape and began measuring the leading edges on the collars of the shirts in my collection earlier today in order to test my theory.

Too much collar
Too much collar….

Do you know what I discovered? Every shirt I measured, from a range of outfitters, had a collar with a leading edge of around 3 inches. However, there were 2 notable exceptions.

I discovered that last year’s H&C Weekend Shirts played a bit dangerously with this 3-inch doctrine. The leading edge of last year’s collars was only 2¾ inches. I had noticed that the collars on my weekend shirts seemed slightly smaller than the other button down collar shirts in my collection but it wasn’t sufficiently serious an issue to prompt me to get out a tape measure. The example below is the 2015 Weekend Shirt.

The more serious infraction occurs on the 2016 Weekend Shirt, where the collars have been further reduced to a mere 2.375 inches.  In other words that’s 5/8 of an inch less than the ideal 3 inch leading edge.  This reduction in collar size is, I’m afraid, very noticeable; and not in a good way… Unfortunately, as the image of the green/navy shirt above demonstrates this is very difficult to observe when you are shopping online.  It becomes more immediately apparent when you see the shirt in the fabric.WS Red White BlueIf you wear a bow tie with a shirt with a 3-inch button down collar you can see the tips of the collar beneath the bow-tie and the collar provides a frame for the bow tie. The loss of 5/8 inch from the revised Weekend Shirt collars means that the collar is now completely obscured by the bow tie.  It’s the equivalent of sticking the canvas of your painting to the wall with blue-tac rather than displaying it in a tasteful frame.  The picture is the same but the overall outcome is far less pleasing.

These beautiful shirts which have been improved in so many ways over the 2015 collection now look a bit naff because the collars appear undernourished.  Let’s face it, if you are wearing your shirt under a jumper or blazer the bits that are most noticeable are the collar and chest.  So for heaven’s sake why mess around with the collars H&C? I think you’ve ruined one of my favourite shirts…

You can see I feel a bit strongly about this.  Partly it’s because I think that shirts with weedy thin collars look anaemic and, often, a bit cheap. It’s a fad that I hoped would go away, a bit like skinny jeans on middle aged men….  H&C has been thus far a safe haven from such frippery. Of all the places to introduce this faddish foolishness though, why mess around with my beloved Weekend Shirts?

just right collar...
just right collar…

What I can’t work out is why H&C has gone this route.  Someone somewhere thought it would be edgy to streamline the collars?  Do H&C make slightly improved profits if each shirt requires less fabric for the collars?  Was there a wholesale shortage of fabric to which the appropriate response was collar rationing?  Did someone take the term slim-fit over literally when designing the collars?

So I find myself with a bit of a dilemma. I really love what H&C have done with the new Weekend Shirts, apart from the major doctrinal infringement on thin collars. However, so disappointed am I with that infringement, my first instinct was to return the shirts forthwith.  That is still my default setting.  However, I am holding back on that only because I love the rest of the improvements on the shirt. I’m wondering whether I might get used to the idea of a reduced collar size.  (I doubt it, but I’ll give it a go).

Image credit: GQ Amir Kan manages to make a tiny collar look OK...?
Image credit: GQ
Amir Khan manages to make a tiny collar look OK… Not sure I could…

While I think it over I’m looking at H&C’s competitors to see if anyone will pick up this ball that H&C have dropped.

Speaking of drop, I think I will drop the mic now….  Peace out.

 

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