Millennial Fogey: A Golden Ratio

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We’ve had an especially mild winter in New York that has turned into a hit-and-miss spring. New York springs are always too short, with summer just one quick subway stop down the line, and so my wardrobe is itching to shift into warm weather gear. Enter Ratio Clothing, which I challenged to make something that would please someone as fastidious as me.

Ratio Clothing has been around for a few years, building a base of satisfied clients and honing its process for getting the customer exactly the right fit and details he wants. “I was working in consulting and just had a really hard time finding clothes that fit me well,” says Ratio founder Eric Powell. “I had an especially hard time finding great-fitting casual clothing, and a great oxford-cloth buttondown was at the top of that list. Starting Ratio really grew out of just trying to scratch an itch and solve my own needs.

“As far as inspiration goes,” he continues, “I love what you’d probably call classic American style. Understated, British-influenced, collegiate, etc. I think a huge part of that is the Ivy League Look, but we’re generally looking to American style icons and iconic pieces for inspiration. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We try not to think about fashion so much. I can tell you one area we don’t look for inspiration: #menswear and street-style photos of guys smoking outside of fashion shows in Milan.”

I can certainly endorse that last statement. As you may have heard or just now guessed, Ratio makes a fantastic OCBD, starting at $98, which is manufactured in a certain well known Garland, North Carolina factory. Ratio’s oxfords are highly customizable, including the option to have an unlined 3.5-inch collar point. The ordering process is fairly straightforward: you fill in a series of measurements based on clothing you already own, state your fit preference from slim to full, and Ratio runs these through a proprietary algorithm to come up with a great-fitting pattern profile for you.

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There are, however, other “secret” options for those in the know, and these will titillate those for whom a shirt is never just a shirt. For instance, while it’s hardly a secret now, the 3.5-inch unlined collar started as simply a response to customer requests. Once word got out, many customers made the same request and told their friends about it on Internet forums and social media. Another of these secret options is a flap pocket. Customers can also choose either a default split or a one-piece yoke, as well as a locker loop for the romantically unattached.

As the company refines its process, it has made some of the formerly “secret” options part of the customer blueprint. For instance, box pleats were requested so often that they are now available as an standard option. Most intriguingly, Ratio also offers the option of moving the second button of the shirt up or down. Ever since shirtmakers switched to 7-button fronts, there has been a complaint that the second button is too high, perhaps most famously discussed in the final episode of the TV show “Seinfeld”:

“The second button is the key button. It literally makes or breaks the shirt. Look at it, it’s too high, it’s in no-man’s land.” — George Costanza

Ratio’s fix has been to allow customers to move the second button to their taste. However, the remaining buttons are fixed at 3.5 inch spacing. Once I had my blueprint settled, I had Ratio make me an unlined yellow oxford-cloth buttondown and a long-sleeved madras shirt, both with 3.5 inch collars. I also opted to move the second button down three-quarters of an inch, which turned out beautifully and achieves a very cool nonchalance when unbuttoned, without noticeably changing the look when worn with a tie. Add a pocket with flap and mother-of-pearl buttons, and you’ve got one hell of a shirt.

As for the madras, the fabric is soft but textured, breathable, and with the 3.5-inch collar is a standout among my sport shirts. With spring and summer in mind, they also offer lightweight oxfords for those sane gentlmen who don’t wear full-weight oxfords in warm weather.

What’s next for the Denver-based company? It turns out they have quietly offered MTM tailored clothing (blazers, sport coats, trousers and suits) at their retail location, and plans are to expand the MTO tailoring program online later this year, most likely a blazer and seasonal sport coats.

So the secret is out: Ratio Clothing offers a great product with great value. My advice is to get those OCBD orders in soon, before the heat of summer. But if it does warm up quickly, Ratio’s got your summer-weight shirt needs covered as well. — DANIEL GREENWOOD

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20 Comments on "Millennial Fogey: A Golden Ratio"

  1. H.J. Tattersall | April 29, 2016 at 12:25 pm |

    I will ask to have the second button moved up.
    No need to expose one’s chest hair or undershirt to others.

  2. Three cheers. For DCG (top drawer writing, as always) and Ratio.

    After years upon years of committed relationships with Skip Gambert and Individualized (yes, I am an MTM snob), I gave Ratio a go. What’s life without a bit of flirtation? I specified unlined cuffs and collar, the latter featuring a 3.5 inch length four inch spread (buttonhole to buttonhole).

    If it’s boasting to fashion oneself a connoisseur of oxford cloth, then, well, I’ll plead “guilty” to boasting. It’s not the could-also-function-as-blanket beefy oxford used by other outlets (SGA, for instance), but it’s sufficiently hefty. It looks and feels to be identical to the Brooks Supima. No surprises there, since Garland is the maker. Compared with the heap of oxfords resting in my drawers, the Ratio feels rather refined. Better, I’ll predict, for the heat of summer.

    I won’t bid farewell to Skip Gambert anytime soon. I don’t mind paying extra $ for a shirt that’s custom in too many ways count. This confessed, for the price, the Ratio oxford is commendable. One may safely guess that they could have bumped up the price an extra twenty or thirty bucks. (Other retailers who use Garland for their oxfords have). That they’ve kept it under $100–this is worthy of praise.

  3. Nice post, DCG. I have been contemplating a popover from Ratio for the summer. You may have helped pushed me over the edge.

    Nice choice on the Madras.

  4. @ DCG

    Nice intro to Ratio Clothing and a great roll and collar fit on your shirt. AbFab!

  5. NaturalShoulder | April 29, 2016 at 5:32 pm |

    Your yellow Oxford shirt looks nice. I do like my Mercer shirts but still have some issues with the fit. I tried the Proper Cloth soft Ivy offering with mixed results. Perhaps I will give Ratio a try.

  6. What is the best way to eliminate the poofing around the waist when tucked in. Is that just caused by excess waist fabric?

  7. Andrew, Google “Military Tuck”

  8. I got my online mtm companies mixed up. I am actually looking at Luxire.

    Here is a short list I made of 2016 OCBD options: http://oxfordclothbuttondown.com/2015/12/ocbd-options/

    I think that is a good list to get DCG started on!

  9. Natural Shoulder,

    Care to share your Proper Cloth experience?

    I have wanted to give them a go as well. There send in your perfect shirt and we will do the measurements offer is interesting.

  10. NaturalShoulder | April 29, 2016 at 10:20 pm |

    OCBD – the fit on the Proper Cloth shirt was good, as it was my second shirt from them. The collar roll and quality of fabric were not as good as I hoped they would be.

  11. Harrow Carper | April 30, 2016 at 2:16 am |

    Thanks to Mercer, after 50 years of pretending that Oxford cloth was comfortable, in spite of its bulkiness, I have switched to broadcloth shirts with buttondown collars. How I wish I had had the good sense to do this years before.

  12. Great writeup. It’s a real delight when this website delves into clothing.

    I’m interested to see what Ratio can do with tailored clothing. It would be nice to have a decent MTO (not MTM) option since Hardwick stopped doing special requests. There are certain fabric options that don’t quite justify the cost of MTM, but are nonetheless difficult to find in RTW.

  13. I am so glad to see Ratio getting attention from Ivy Style. I have two shirts from Ratio and they are easily superior to my Brooks and Press shirts with the customized fit and unlined collar.

    I took a chance and tried the grey oxford. It’s a nice alternative to blue and white and fills in the gap nicely with a pair of khakis and a blazer.

    You should be able to request searches for any of the fabrics.

    Good stuff, Fogey.

  14. I like Ratio’s non-pussified chambray BDs and the fact that they do them in more than just blue. I remember in the mid to late 60’s Creighton shirtmakers did chambray in six colors.

  15. Eric Twardzik | April 30, 2016 at 5:42 pm |

    Great stuff, DCG – do you know if Ratio offers a back collar button? And how would you compare fabric quality to that of Michael Spencer?

  16. That strikes me as a very odd question. We’re not talking about shirts from Uniqlo or JC Penney in which poor quality would be expected or assumed. Therefore…

    If minute gradations of quality were that important to you, why would you value another man’s assessment? Wouldn’t the unreliability of the other man’s impressions compared to yours override the likely differences in “quality”?

    Note fabric weight and fabric quality are two completely different things.

  17. I meant to say swatches instead of searches.

    Eric, back buttons can be done. You could even go Ivy crazy and do a back button, locker loop, and flap pocket all on the same shirt.

    Some extra things to keep in mind:

    -Gauntlet buttons on the forearm come standard, so you must request they be left off if you prefer to have your sleeves like a Brooks Brothers oxford.

    -They will do a buttonless version of the longer collar.

    -If you don’t state that you want the long collar unlined, the collar will come with lining. So be specific!

    -They can raise the collar in 1/4 increments for those with longer necks. Here is a pic of my raised and unlined long collar:
    http://pindotsandgrenadine.tumblr.com/post/142842793702/ratio-and-panta

  18. Harrow Carper | May 3, 2016 at 6:10 am |

    As a point of information, what Mercer calls broadcloth is called poplin by some other makers.

  19. I’d be interested to see a comparison to Proper Cloth. Really interested in trying both Ratio and Proper. I just recently stocked up on Brooks’ new/old OCBD and am generally happy with them. I’d still love to get a trimmer fit and I’m thinking Ratio and Proper could help me get that on my non-OCBD shirts. Any feedback on Proper Cloth or Ratio?

  20. This very helpful post provoked me into giving Ratio a try. Coupon code FIRSTORDER seems to result in a 10% discount on one’s first shirt. I copied measurements from another shirt rather than going with the algorithm. I’m curious to see what turns up in the mail.

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