While I’ve been told I’m conservative in my dress, I certainly don’t consider myself orthodox. I’ve got darted suits with pleated pants (from J. Press). And this depravity will almost certainly ignite the torches among the trad inquisitors: I’ve been known to wear blue oxford-cloth buttondowns with contrasting white collars. I make no apologies, as they add a pinch of Edwardian dandyism to otherwise stolid outfits.
The opportunity to add to my limited contrast-collar OCBD collection presented itself when Ivy Style connected with Michael Spencer, a new shirt company offering oxford-cloth shirts in many different manifestations, including tab, club, point and buttondown collars.
I’d read an introduction to the company on the blog Put This On, which brought up the point that there are an awful lot of custom shirtmakers on the web. Skepticism being the order of the day, I nevertheless reached out to the company to see if it had any relevance to us here. Turned out a lot of what I found sounds like something that could have come from a non-millennial fogey in our very own comments section.
Michael Bennett, the brand’s founder, grew up wearing traditional menswear. He mentions how when he and his wife were starting out after marriage, they would save up for higher-quality items, such as Alden tassel loafers, to look their best. Would that my lady would chip in on my shell cordovan, but I digress.
Bennett chose his two sons’ middle names as the company moniker when he decided to start making versions of the clothing he remembered from his youth. It’s clear he has a passion for oxford-cloth shirts. “I love the texture,” he told me via email. “I love how it feels when I wear it soft and unpressed, I love the versatility. I decided since it was going to initially be my only shirting that I needed to make it available in as many options as possible.”
And though not overwhelming, options there are. What piqued my interest was the option to have unlined collars, sleeves, and plackets. Is this readily available from other online makers? Sure, but there’s another difference that may interest my fellow millennials, if not my fellow fogeys. You can get a shirt in three different fits: vintage, classic and modern. That’s something that hasn’t always been easy to come across, and for younger gents that want a full collar roll without a full spinnaker around their waist, this is merry news indeed.
I prefer a full-cut shirt, but my heretical notions impelled me to ask for an unlined buttondown with a contrast collar. And to make it a real GTH shirt, I opted for a pink body. I also asked for a front breast flap pocket, a rear button on the collar, and a locker loop. These details don’t make or break a shirt for me, but I wanted to see if they could pull it off. I have plenty of shirts, so frankly if I didn’t love it I was planning on mailing it back and forgoing any type of review, but the shirt is a real beauty. The unlined collar rolls beautifully, thanks to longer collar points. The cloth is soft and heavy, very similar to Brooks Brothers’ OCBD, which is unsurprising as Garland Shirt Company is Michael Spencer’s current manufacturer.
The added details are spot-on and well executed, rather than feeling like vague nods to some “heritage” (I’m looking at you, Gant). Overall, it’s just a great shirt. Purists be warned: it has a seven-button front. Cheapskates be warned: this isn’t a cheap shirt. Comparable in price to Mercer & Sons, with slightly more cost if you opt for mother-of-pearl buttons. The main difference is that slimmer guys can opt for a less-generous fit.
Michael Spencer seems to know and love traditional American menswear. While the company hopes to down the road, it hasn’t yet begun making tweed jackets or penny loafers. But when and if they do, watch out. — DANIEL C. GREENWOOD