If you are looking to upgrade your wardrobe and have been tempted by the idea of having your clothes made especially for you, a made to measure shirt could be the perfect introduction to the world of custom clothing. Less of an investment than a suit, but with the same ability to upgrade any formal outfit, and with the added ability to give an edge to your more casual dress, it’s one of menswear’s true luxuries.

Need another excuse? The wrong shirt will detract from your look. Although the high street offers hundreds of off-the-peg options when it comes to fit and style, it can still be hard to find exactly the type of shirt you’re looking for. If your preferred collar shape is out of fashion, or you have particularly long arms, having your shirts made could be the 007-approved solution.

It’s easier than ever, too. In a world where you can easily customise your Nikes, made to measure shirts are now being offered by new and old brands alike. Darren Tiernan, a senior cutter of one of the latter, Budd shirtmakers in London’s Jermyn Street, believes that MTM (as it’s known in the trade) is “simple, convenient and enables a shirt to be personalised, offering you the finest choice of high-grade cottons and the luxury of your own fit, collar and cuff style.”

You can expect to pay anything from £145 to £250 depending on the brand and materials you’re going for. Sound good enough to make you part with your hard earned? It should be. Here’s everything you need to own about ordering your own made to measure shirt.

What Is A Made To Measure Shirt?

With made to measure, the shirt will be made individually for the customer but with a pre-existing pattern, which is altered to fit. Various components and design elements can be mixed together. If, for example, you have a small neck but a larger torso, you can choose to put a 15” collar onto the body of a size 16”.

There will be different collar shapes and other details to choose from, such as cutaways or button-downs which can be combined with stock cuff styles such as a three-button barrel or double style to be worn with cufflinks.

Michael Fish fitting Sean Connery at Turnbull & AsserMichael Fish fitting Sean Connery at Turnbull & Asser

It is crucial to know the distinction between MTM and traditional bespoke services. A bespoke suit or shirt is made on an individual pattern made specifically for the customer. The measurements will be taken by the person who actually makes your pattern, and they will also take into consideration how the customer stands as well as a limitless option of collars and cuffs.

This service can take longer, will be more expensive, and most shirtmakers will insist on a minimum order (usually six). Bespoke is not always better, but you should be suspicious of any service that claims to be bespoke when it is not.

Why Buy Made To Measure?

There are various reasons why you should treat yourself to a made to measure shirt, but not all services are the same. It is important that you match your expectations to the right service and ask the right questions before parting with any cash. Above all, make sure the company has the cloth you want and that they offer the right styles and fits.

One of the advantages of MTM is that you get to try on a sample shirt first. This is an opportunity to express how you like your shirts to fit and see if your request can be accommodated. All services should allow you to have the perfect sleeve length, but some will also allow you to alter the length of the shirt body. You may also be able to amend the width of your cuffs (useful if you sport a chunky mechanical watch) and sometimes you can alter the waist of the shirt, although this is usually achieved by picking another body size.

Brooks BrothersBrooks Brothers

Because you get to try a shirt on first, there is no need for a trial or a fitting, so MTM is quicker than bespoke and you are usually able to order in singles. Christopher Field of London-based tailoring brand Guy Field believes that the ability to order one shirt is a significant advantage of MTM, although he does advise that customers “don’t rush into buying a whole wardrobe of MTM shirts straight away – it’s best to start with one.”

The Made To Measure Shirt Process

When ordering a made to measure shirt, you’ll be given a range, collars, cuffs and cloths to choose from. The most important part is trying on an actual shirt. How you like a shirt to fit is personal, and just because something is being made for you, it does not mean that it will fit like a second skin. You may prefer a looser, more classic fit, which will need to be conveyed to whoever is taking your order. Always ask for a summary of what you have ordered before placing a deposit as you likely won’t see it again for another four to eight weeks when the finished product is complete.

Turnbull & Asser made to measureTurnbull & Asser made to measure

What To Consider

Ask yourself what the shirt is for. Are you intending to seduce the girlfriend of a rogue arms dealer or are you just looking to improve your current business wardrobe? Discuss your needs with the tailor so they understand what you want and when the shirt needs to be ready.

Field recommends clients really delve into fabric choice: “If it’s cotton [you’re after], does a robust Oxford or a silky superfine poplin suit your needs better?” Picking the cloth can be daunting as you’ll be faced with numerous options, but if you make a firm decision on what the shirt will be used for, you’re already off to a good start. Enjoy it and experiment. This is the sartorial equivalent of whisky tasting.

Thomas PinkThomas Pink

If you are looking for shirts to complement tailoring, take along a well-fitting blazer to try on over the top. This will allow you to see how the shirt sits underneath, where the sleeve cuffs finish, and how your shirt will look as part of a complete outfit.

Picking a collar shape is the most critical part of the process, and you should make sure that the collar will accommodate your preferred tie knot. Dramatic, bulky knots are best suited to wide cutaway collars. Button-downs also work well without ties, as do mid-pointed styles. Tabs and pin-collars are great for vintage looks and for holding a tie in place. After you have picked the collar, select a cuff that complements it. You probably wouldn’t order a formal double-cuff with an informal button-down collar, for example.

Turnbull & Asser made to measureTurnbull & Asser made to measure

Having your initials stitched on your shirt is sometimes available for a small charge. They can be tonal or contrasted, and there will be a choice of where you would like them placed. Traditionally, they are located on the cuff or waist, though they can be put on the pocket or sleeve. Initials or monograms were originally used to distinguish an individual’s shirts at the laundry but are now more of a status symbol. Albeit a more traditional one than a full-look Gucci tracksuit.

Where To Buy A Made To Measure Shirt

Turnbull & Asser

If you have ever watched an old James Bond movie and admired the shirts, Turnbull & Asser is the store for you. The ‘cocktail’ cuff is a turn-back style that fastens with buttons rather than cufflinks. This louche style is perfect for dressed up casual shirts and can be combined with any collar shape. The label also has an exhaustive collection of fabrics ranging from poplin to Sea Island cotton and pure silk. The fancy designs in checks and stripes are also a signature of T&A.

Ready To Wear Inspiration:

The Best Turnbull & Asser Shirts

THE DR NO BLUE COTTON SHIRT - click to buyBLUE END-ON-END COTTON SHIRT - click to buyPINK COTTON SHIRT - click to buyBLUE BENGAL STRIPE COTTON SHIRT - click to buy

Budd Shirtmakers

If you would like to do some research before visiting the store, Budd Shirtmakers has an excellent website that allows customers to view its many fabrics and collar shapes. The traditional firm has three fits to choose from, and all collars have been cut by a dedicated craftsperson to ensure they frame the face and tie knot to perfection. While it’s undoubtedly an old-fashioned brand, Budd has displayed hints of innovation recently with its four-pocket safari shirt – hinting at the potential for cool made to measure results.

Ready To Wear Inspiration:

The Best Budd Shirts

budd stripe shirt in edwardian blue - click to buyBudd safari shirt in denim blue - click to buyBudd puppytooth check casual linen shirt in navy - click to buyBudd plain silk dress shirt - click to buy

Guy Fields

Guy Fields is a relative newcomer to the world of custom shirts but is gaining a reputation for excellent quality and modern designs. The house style is a moderate cutaway with neat edge stitching, though the brand does offer a wide range of styles in its Italian-made shirts. Fashion Week regular Dermot O’Leary is reportedly a fan of its tab and pinned styles.

Ready To Wear Inspiration:

The Best Guy Fields Shirts

THOMAS MASON FOR GUY FIELD BENGAL STRIPED - click to buyIRISH LINEN SAFARI OVER SHIRT - click to buySTONE WASHED DENIM - click to buyTHOMAS MASON FOR GUY FIELD WHITE POPLIN SHIRT- click to buy

Brooks Brothers

If you are a fan of the button-down Oxford shirt, but can’t get the right fit, pay a visit to Brooks Brothers which invented the preppy style. It also offers the classic rounded ‘penny’ style, which is enjoying a resurgence thanks to BBC drama series Peaky Blinders.

Ready To Wear Inspiration:

The Best Brooks Brothers Shirts

Golden Fleece Regent Fit Seersucker Sport Shirt - click to buyNine-to-Nine Polo Button-Down Collar Shirt - click to buyMadison Fit Oxford Outline Stripe Sport Shirt - click to buyNon-Iron Madison Fit Two-Color Gingham Sport Shirt - click to buy

Hackett

Hackett offers a full range of collars and cuffs in its MTM service. Although now best-known for its top-notch ready to wear tailoring, Hackett was once a major player in the world of custom clothes, offering bespoke and made to measure to well-heeled clients throughout the 90s. Make use of this heritage, and its numerous fabrics (over 1,000 in some stores) as well as its extensive range of colours and fonts in its monogram service.

Ready To Wear Inspiration:

The Best Hackett Shirts

Hackett Mayfair Slim Stretch Striped Shirt - click to buySmall windowpane check cotton shirt - click to buyRoyal Oxford Single Cuff Shirt - click to buyContrast collar and cuffs cotton shirt - click to buy