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What’s in a well made shirt – Part .01

Mens shirts can seem to be quite simple on the face of things but if you look closely and especially if you look underneath , things are not always as they “seam’…


Strong Finish

In the late 50s and early 60s , sewing machine design hit a peak and for mens shirts in particular. This was the era of brands like Brooks Brothers in the States when all was being made in the States. Companies like Union Special developed machines that could flat fell and chain stitch for the cleanest and strongest finish , but they still had a slight unevenness to them that gave them soul. The Japanese took over in the late 60s and have been going well ever since with Juki being one of the best. All that changed in the 80s when the major part of production on mens shirts when to China and they made their own machines and its been rather a slippery slope with other countries in Asia since then.

So how do you check a shirt? Firstly take a close look at the seams from the outside. Do the stitches look regular and fairly close together? You’re looking for stitches around 12-14 per inch on a casual shirt and 18-22 on a very high end formal shirt.



Pucker Up

Then turn the shirt inside out and look at the seams from the reverse. Are all the threads in a chain stitch with that that characteristic loop knot that stands out a bit or are they just a regular flat lock stitch that’s is not so strong ? Are any of the seams raw or overlocked - if so this is more a sign of womenswear. You’re looking for fully enclosed seams that are normally called flat felled but also Frenched seams (and in Italy its called an English seam just to confuse things). This can be done by hand on a single needle machine and still is for many high end bespoke shirts. However the best machine made version is made on an American Union Special that makes a fairly wide seam with a very slight pucker.

So the seams really do make a shirt but there are other points to check like the linings used and that we will have a look at on the next post.