David Mercer is simply a great, great guy. And has the bona fides:
“Not being a math major, I figure it’s always safer to say I was born in 1946. My Mercer&Sons designs and manufactures shirts and boxer shorts. I was fortunate to enjoy a classical secondary education and studied the liberal arts and law in Boston in the heyday of the Ivy League look in the late ’50s and ’60s. Growing up in New England and Boston and Cambridge, the Ivy League look was a natural. And New England, contrary to the fashion centers of the world, and especially in the ‘50s and 60’s, stressed value and traditional good looks over flash and indulgence. The more classic the look, the better the make, the older the item, the more prized it was.”
So the first thing I will say about the Mercer WOCBD is that it is driven by a guy (and his wife) who GETS IT. And that matters, and you can tell.
“My wife Serena is my partner in our small business. She has a very good sense of style and impeccable taste, myself excluded. My son and daughter love our small business, wear lots of Mercer shirts (a Mercer shirt looks fabulous on women, much more stylish than the tight-fitting women’s blouse which the industry pushes), and each is building his and her own just out of college experiences in Bozeman, Montana.”
This grounding in Ivy is exactly the DNA that reflects an authentic, in fact one of the two (J. Press being the other), authentic WOCBD’s in the series. This is not an interpretation. This is not leveraging a style. This is The. Real. Deal.
It wrinkles in the right places. Once you finish the review, just go buy at least one here. You do not have a full collection without the Mercer, which is the tallest candle in the centerpiece of WOCBD’s .
Everything about this shirt is traditional. The fabric has enough heft to be four seasons, and wears and ages like your ball glove. Stitching, collar size, spread, fit, all the quintessential American White Oxford Cotton Button Down.
First, open collared.
Second, how the shirt presents a tie knot:
One thing about the weave. It is distinctive, it has the feel of made by hand. The texture has that autumn in the commons look, but with a suit, it says I-know-what-the-commons-are. The button placement is classic too – it is very comfortable unbuttoned just at the top. Which is good, because that is all one should unbutton. Ok, I referenced a suit. Here.
The whole bow tie thing is tricky. You have to get the collar just right to support a bow tie, which is the sodium pentothal of a true Ivy OCBD. Everything matters because the line is horizontal instead of vertical. With a bow tie you are not trying to draw attention downward or compensate for an unfortunate waist, with a bow tie the point is two things: the tie and the collar. To that end, no shirt does the bow tie as much justice as the Mercer. Here:
Another thing. I think I have an issue with things around my wrists. My daughter and I wear bracelets of Japanese paper for specific events. I wear a watch to bed. But I roll the sleeves on every shirt I have because it bothers me. I wore the Mercer all day yesterday, and forgot to roll up the sleeves until the very end. It just felt comfortable. Same with the fit. The drape is right down the middle. There is no mistaking, this is a traditionally cut shirt with NONE of that slim nonsense anywhere. On the other hand, it does not hang like it was designed with a T square. It flatters at the same time that it reminds you, there is no difference between this and Yale in ’56.
Here it is untucked.
The shortening of shirt tails amongst WOCBD manufacturers and designers is subversive. At least Untuckit had the stones to say it out loud. We are wearing these things untucked a good deal of the time. The Mercer, as a famous guitarist once told me about my own playing, “wasn’t made for that.” In a very, very good way. The tail does not care about your waist, it is meant to be tucked into good old fashioned whatever and stay right there. Which it does. Still, end of day, this shirt tells the story of a person who, while casual now, certainly wasn’t in down mode this afternoon. Mr. Mercer in an interview said that women look fabulous in this shirt as well, but he didn’t mean it the way I mean this: the only person who will look better in this shirt than you is your partner if they wear it to get up to get a glass of water.
In my next review, I am going to pan, and I mean pan, a shirt. Which is a good place to put that energy, since there is literally nothing negative to say about the Mercer. If you are building an Ivy wardrobe, this MUST be included. Unlike the Besnard or other shirts that are nice accents, this is not an accent. This is the sentence. They are worth every penny you pay for one. These are lifetime garments.
The Mercer shirt is a commitment to perfect American style, to Ivy style in particular, to American manufacturing, to a good American family, and to looking just that much better.
Hear, hear! And while I know this series is about OCBDs, let me put in a plug for David’s broadcloth shirts, too.
Do you have a favorite? I will get a picture of them up here for people. – JB
PS – I’m no marketing guy, but speaking directly with David on the phone is a wonderful part of the whole experience. It’s kind of amazing, esp. in this day and age.
Indeed. David Mercer is awfully nice to chat with on the phone and provides exemplary customer service. Love the shirts currently in my rotation and plan to order a few more this summer as I cycle out some older, fraying numbers by other sellers. Shirts by Mercer are well worth the wait after placing an order. I’ve more or less settled on these (and those by J. Press) as my go-to for shirts.
The Mercers have fantastic customer service.
I was unsure which fabric to select so they mailed me dozens (literally dozens) of fabric swatches to choose from.
They value customer satisfaction and have a loyal following.
The tie space (at the top of the arch) looks great. The shirt fits you, from shoulder seam to shoulder seam, much better than one of the previously reviewed shirts. I’m in. I’ll give M&S a call later today, and pray it arrives before Easter.
“…literally nothing negative to say about the Mercer.”
Spot ON, JB. And — this business model is likely the future of authentically Ivy/Trad retailing: very small businesses who cater (pay attention to) a very small audience.
I’m ready for a sport/odd jacket version of Mercer. Neckwear too.
The Mercer ‘Cream’ OCBD is a winner.
I own a number of Mercer shirts. They really are superb.
I’ve never purchased one of their Solids preferring their checks both small and large.The choice on offer is really good. Over the years they have carried some really great tartans. The perfect collar roll and proportions also look great done up without a tie if your looking to replicate that Bill Evans look.
I think one of the best aspects of their business is the custom service where they can add details or provide a slimmer body. They’ve added back collar buttons and provided a longer length. Nice details that elevate their shirts from the traditional shop bought offer.
Customer service is also superb. Prior to the pandemic I ordered their shirts from the UK in advance of holidays to the States. The shirts were always delivered on time and to spec.
It’s not often in this modern age that you get to speak directly to the owner of a business. When making my first order David talked me through sizes and the options available. As I was ringing from the UK and had never bought anything sight unseen this was tremendously reassuring.
Although on first glance the shirts may appear expensive in comparison to some of the more obvious shirt makers who thrive on discounts, Mercer is classic example of getting what you pay for – quality materials, quality workmanship and made directly to your personal requirements.
My only warning,Mercer shirts are addictive. When your shirts arrive you’ll already be eyeing-up your next order.
I admire the look, fabric and family ethos of Mercer shirts very much, but I had a problem when I ordered some in my standard size (15 1/2 x 32). The sleeves were at least an inch-and-a-half to two inches too long. I realize that they shrink with washings, but the cuffs went down to my knuckles. Sadly, I ended up giving them away.
I am sorry for your experience, Mercer has Best In Class customer service, they would have walked you through prior. But that said, who always knows to call customer service? I hear you. – JB
I first became aware of Mercer & Sons from the New Yorker magazine. For several years I saw their rather tiny ad in the back of the magazine. Eventually, sometime in the early 90’s, I gave them a try. I still wear that shirt today.
Simply the best shirts to be found anywhere on the world market to date.
I’ve worn Mercer shirts for years, for me they’re the standard against which all other button down collared shirts must be measured. Added to which David and Serena Mercer are such lovely folks. And by the way, JB looks great in a bow tie, in the photo above he looks like a classics prof at some small but distinguished college.
I agree as to “very small businesses who cater (pay attention to) a very small audience.” However, when it comes to sport coats/odd jackets and suits, if it ain’t made to measure or fully custom tailored, it won’t fit. There’s room for error in a shirt as it is essentially an undergarment. A templated sport coat/odd jackets or suit only fits the template, not me.
@S.E., for a neckwear company in a similar vein, and with undeniable Ivy bona fides, you can’t go wrong with Chipp Neckwear. Paul Winston still responds personally to customer inquiries and handles orders himself. At least he did when I placed an order recently.
I’ve always been curious about the Mercer shirts. The green Oxford cloth they have on offer makes me think of an example that Miles Davis famously wore on an album cover. It might be time to stop thinking about it and place an order. Great review!
Now I don’t want to put you in position of “choosing your favorite child”, but would you say that the Mercer justifies the $50 difference between Mercer and J Press?
Seriously, if you love them both too much to say, just ignore the question!
What a great question and what a great way to frame it. Thank you. I am working on a few assumptions. First, I assume that, unlike me, you do not have OCD and want a few different brands in your closet. Second, I assume that you are going to wear different WOCBD’s for different things. I wear them like t-shirts, I wear them to the beach, I wear them to the office. THAT SAID I probably would not risk a Mercer at the beach or at a game when I have a Duck Head here. By the same token, the Duck Head does not frame a tie, nor is it trying to. … But I get what you are asking. The two are 80’s Lakers/Celtics. On any given day. I will also say this, while being made in America is not the only criteria that I would buy something based on, I would pay an extra $50 for sure for a Mercer shirt that is made here – and be grateful for the blessing, the real blessing, of living in a country where a joke writer who wears ties to work can actually afford a nice shirt. On the other hand, J. Press is the quarterback of a popular Ivy revival (at the upper end, of course), and I know the people who work there and they are equally worthy of support. I say this honestly, I would not buy exclusively J. Press just because they are less expensive, and I would not buy exclusively Mercer just because they are made here. I would figure out a way to buy both, and know that I was doing the right thing both times. – JB
I like what I see from Sam Hober ties. Similar quality small business vibe as M&S. I Have not as yet made a purchase, perhaps because I feel like a kid in a candy store there.
As Paul said, Mercer’s broadcloth shirts are great. I have several in white and at times I prefer them to Oxford cloth.
Mercer white broadcloth buttondown:
The Mercers and their shirts are terrific. Haven’t tried the striped broadcloth but Putting Green and Classic Red look very Andy Spade. I’ve said this before, but Mercer boxers are the best I’ve ever worn. Perfect, classic fit for guys and gals of all sizes.
If anyone here has ordered one of their custom shirts in a more slimmed down fit, please weigh in. I am intrigued by the shirts and I am looking to try one out but I definitely would like something a bit slimmer than what they offer off the rack.
JB you said you would pay an extra $50 for a Mercer shirt that is made here.
Pretty sure the J Press OCBD’s are Made in USA also.
Or were you referring to something else?
Mercer has moved around, from Boston to Rhode Island to Maine to Montana. I’ve always wondered why. Also, who manufactures their shirts, and where are they located?
I have a bunch of Mercers in slim fit. They are terrific; all the plaudits given the Mercer WOCBD can be cross-applied to their lovely slimmer shirts. They’re in no way ridiculously slim either. They maintain an Ivy respectability.
Thanks for the reply, Eric. If you don’t mind sharing, may I ask what sizing you went with? I am thinking of pairing a 15 collar with 13 1/2 body. I used to wear a Brooks Brothers Milano Extra Slim (Milano) but I’m more than happy with something a bit closer to a Slim (Regent). So I was curious if these are comparable at all and how much you might have “sized down” in the body.
I have been wearing Mercer shirts for about 15 years. As much as I like the OCBDs, I think I prefer the broadcloth as the look better with suits and wear cooler in the Texas summer. I have many family and small business clients and always prefer to work with them instead of larger retailers. I am sure they could have expanded with backing of a capital provider and increased profits by offshoring production and skimping on quality and service. Much admiration for them with staying the course and continuing to manufacture here.
I plan to order a cream OCBD at recommendation of S.E. as part of next order.
This is worth a look:
The 3 for $333 is especially terrific when you go with the Pima oxford:
You might include this in your WOCBD reviews.
And, while you’re at it, this one:
Happy to share. I wear a 33.5 sleeve with a 15.5 taper. I used to wear slim or extra slim Brooks. When I shared this information with Maggie while placing my order on the phone, she suggested a two inch taper. One has to spend extra for these customizations, but it is absolutely worth it.
We are fortunate to have Mercer and Sons available to the small percentage of the population that understands how special and unique their shirts are. No doubt there are other good shirts to be found but Mercer and Sons is one of a kind.
@JB – I’m partial to the bengal stripe broadcloth. I have the skye blue, and will be adding to my collection, as budgetary constraints allow:
@Paul – i have have a similar affinity. In addition to the blue, I have green and pink (which has become one of my favorites).
@NaturalShoulder: the pink is definitely the next one I’ll get; I’ve never seen that green color anywhere else, though; it’s really unique – but how does it look in person?
That’s PRECISELY how a gentleman’s shirt should fit.
I refuse to substitute cut. I suppose there’s nothing anything else available these days. I blame the lot from luxotica!
THANK YOU – JB
Mighty big watch.
Your review was right on. I have worn David’s shirts since the small add in the New Yorker. “baggier is better. Now that really date me!! When Brooks was bought by Marks and Spencer( the starting of their downfall) David’s shirts were the exact models. You are right you can wear Oxford cloth in the 4 seasons. I wear them all the time here in FL. The no fusing both in the collars and the cuffs is key. Some will only do collars. The pink color is the same as Brooks and always gets great compliments. I just ordered a white and a pink university stripe Oxford yesterday before your review came out. the $50.00 more is well worth it.
All of the attributes of shopping at Mercer & Sons dwell in the realm of excellence.
@paul – I am not enthralled with the green. It looks like a washed out Kelly green to me.
About six months ago I had an email exchange with Serena.
She was a pleasure to deal with. Unfortunately they were unable
to make me a shirt that would fit the way I like. I wear 16 1/2 with
a 50″ chest and 19 1/2 shoulder. If one checks out their measurement
table a 16 1/2 neck with a 50ish chest( down 2 sizes in shirt body)
one gets a 19″ shoulder. Probably too tight. She dissuaded me from
ordering. Not all companies would do that. I wish them the best.
Mercer is the gold standard. They offer excellent, personal service and impeccable quality. But one of the best things about Mercer is it’s selection of vintage patterns. My yellow university stripe is like nothing I’ve been able to find since the late 80s.
“the only person who will look better in this shirt than you is your partner if they wear it to get up to get a glass of water.” Please, writers of today, stop using the plural pronoun to refer to a single person! It is grammatically incorrect and makes no sense in most cases. Here, the author clearly is talking about a woman getting up to get a glass of water. Why refer to a woman as “they”? Please!
Two things. (1) I am not clearly referring to a woman. In fact, I specifically didn’t. And closely related, (2) since you said “writers of today” – you do know what day it is? – JB
@IT – Perhaps there is more than one partner 🙂
If it does in fact wield that kind of power, I might actually consider spending $170 for one shirt.
I can see the ad copy now. “Menage a Mercer – One is not enough”
And have a picture of several shirts spread out over a bed, to underscore the double meaning.
Let me join those who have sung the praises of Mercer’s broadcloth shirts. Mine are all white (as are my OCBDs). Like another comment leaver, I am sorely tempted to switch entirely to broadcloth. I have already switched to two-button navy blazers and two-button tweed jackets, as well as to uncuffed trousers. How liberating it feels—after years of blindly adhering to orthodox ivy rules. I’ll never switch from buttondown collars on my white broadcloth shirts, nor from khaki chinos—my kinda clothes, to quote the venerable Charlie Davidson.
It’s perfectly reasonable as well as grammatically correct to say “they” to indicate a non-specific gender if that was indeed the copywriter’s intent, which is what appears to be the case. Traditionally and historically, yes, in most cases that was probably a man and a woman but it is well within reason that two homosexual partners, for instance, might both enjoy a Mercer shirt, hence a pronoun choice that is inclusive for all. Nothing to get upset about, nor is it an offense worthy of summoning the grammar police. The classics are for everyone.
God bless you. – JB
@Dennis, very well put, indeed. Took the words right out of my typing thumbs.
The Mercer shirt is well worth the extra money.
Mercer needs to post ply thickness or oz/yd on subject shirts. Own a James Bond Tattersall…much too light. Will stick with J.Press OCBD.
I wholeheartedly endorse the buying, owning, and wearing of a few Mercer OCBDs. That said, the Liberty Shirt Co. oxfords really are, well, really great. First-rate. They offer at least three (heavy) oxford cloth options, most (all?) of them woven by Acorn Fabrics in England.
The J. Press OCBDs are either Gambert or New England Shirt Co.
Silly me — I momentarily forgot S.E. is a veritable Ivy encyclopedia. I still recommend Chipp to all readers for ties, but S.E. I realize you probably know a lot more about the company than I do.
Two things. (1) I am not clearly referring to a woman. In fact, I specifically didn’t. And closely related, (2) since you said “writers of today” – you do know what day it is? – JB
Your review is dedicated to a men’s shirt. You describe how perfect it is, and then you mention that the “only person who’s gonna look better in it besides you, is your partner…”. If by “partner” you mean “gay lover/husband”, then what is the point in even mentioning it as anything special, if it’s just another man wearing a man’s shirt? In the context you created, the idea only makes sense if you’re describing a woman, getting up (after sex, presumably) to get a glass of water and wearing her lover’s/husband’s OCBD as a shirt-dress (a very attractive image, indeed).
Speaking of “what day is today” — it’s the day when people with common sense should stand up against the absurdity and tyranny of the so-called “political correctness”, which has lost its original meaning entirely and is damaging our culture, our language, and our mentality.
I’ve tried many shirt brands over the past 36 years. Only two remain in my collection. Turnbull and Asser and Mercer and Sons. Connoisseurs of the quintessential button down will appreciate their artistry and execution worthy of induction into the Smithsonian. The total experience in working with David and Serena is unparalleled. Hall of Fame Babe Ruth equivalent of the button down roll with true single needle tailoring throughout. Collection is over 50 and growing!
Love Mercer shirts–they are the best. The best service, too. Have purchased and worn for them for many years. When I bought my last shirts the OCBDs were something like $125 or $129. I had no idea how much time had passed, because when I looked at the same shirts a few weeks ago, they were $185 or $187.50. I about fell out of my chair! For me that is a bit too painful, and when I add in the cost of laundry (about $4.50 to $4.95 per shirt here), the cost is just too much for me now. So I will enjoy the shirts I have until they fall apart.
Loved the review, but to me the blue OCBD is more iconic and probably more popular than the white. Don’t get me wrong, the white is classic, but to me, it’s a slightly mixed message, a “dress up” color on a casual fabric. It also doesn’t look as snappy with a blue blazer, dark grey slacks, and rep tie – the quintessential Ivy outfit. YMMV, of course.
To Don J or anyone who hesitates over cost and knows how to iron. Mercers are very easy and rather fun to iron, no starch needed on the OCBDs. You can quickly even out the pricing by skipping the commercial laundry. In my humble opinion it is also more comfortable and better for the shirts to air dry and iron your own.
A wonderful bit of well deserved praise! I really enjoy your writing.