Sunspel Riviera T-shrt

 
I’ve been looking for rather a long time for my perfect T-shirt. One quality maker, one perfect model, with the intention to stock up on white and grey crew-necks and (in theory) never shop again. 

Readers will, I’m sure, empathise with this approach. While a man might justifiably have 2-3 tailors, he is unlikely to want more than one shirtmaker, for example. He wants consistency : the same collar height so it goes with all jacket collars; the same sleeve length so it goes with all jacket sleeves; the same fit in the waist to keep one’s weight in check. 
 
This is even more true of underwear. Here you want identical pieces that can be put on without thinking about; good quality, but also a good relation between quality and price. And as I wear T-shirts as underwear – not on their own, but under knitwear or shirts – the comparison is apt. 
 
Brands I’ve tried in the past include Zimmerli and Hanro, Albam and Schiesser, Orlebar Brown and J Crew, The White Briefs and Merz b Schwanen. The persistent difficulties have been finding a nice slim fit, and that relationship between quality and price. Cheaper T-shirts often lose shape quickly; more expensive ones offer little more other than unusual fits or fabrics.
 
 
Sunspel Riviera T-shrt perfect t
 
 
I always liked Sunspel. I’d worn their T-shirts too, and found them well-made and decent quality. But there was no option on fit – until now. 
 
Last week Sunspel finally expanded its Riviera range of T-shirts, which has a slightly slimmer fit than the regulars, and a shorter cut. The Riviera range was, of course, introduced for Daniel Craig as James Bond, and the Riviera polo shirt has been popular as a result (although I prefer Orlebar Brown – better collar). 
 
There was also a T-shirt introduced at the same time, a grel-marl crew neck, but it didn’t get much attention.  The range has now been expanded with crewnecks in white, navy and charcoal, as well as a V-neck in white.
 
 
Sunspel Riviera T-shrts
 
 
I’ve been wearing the grey crews for the past 6 months and they have performed very well. Fine and soft, in a long-staple Egyptian cotton, but without the sheen of the more expensive Sea Island models.
 
They need a little more care than regular cotton Ts, but most of us are used to that by now. Wash regularly at 30 or 40 degrees, and then shake them out a little when they come out – hold at the bottom or side seams – before drying flat. 
 
At £55 I think they’re pretty decent value for money, given this is the nicest fit and model I’ve found anywhere. They’re not made in the UK, unlike many of the Sunspel garments, but in my opinion that shouldn’t make any difference. It’s all about quality. 
 
Speaking to the design and production staff at Sunspel, this expansion of the range is part of a general aim to produce the basics that could accompany a top-end wardrobe. The Sea Island range, though not for me, was also a step in that direction. Sounds promising.
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Alex

Interesting article, but I find it a great shame that they’re not made in the UK; I try very hard to support UK manufacturing whereever possible and this was (on their standard t-shirts) one of the first things that attracted me to Sunspel.
Change of subject – what casual shirts do you consider a man needs in his wardrobe? Beyond the simple blue/white/pink Oxford cloth button downs, I find myself getting somewhat confused.

Alex

Hi Simon – agree completely with your point regarding supporting UK manufacturing for it’s own sake not achieving anything, and wouldn’t suggest buying an inferior product simply because it’s made in the UK, but it has long seemed to me that it’s the desire to maximise profit that has driven manufacturing abroad rather than an inability to produce goods of the required quality. Obviously I’m open to contradiction on the clothing industry as I’m sure you’re better placed to judge.
A separate post on casual shirting would be wonderful; in the meantime I shall bear your advice about darker colours in mind. Many thanks!

J

I’d seen on one of your other posts that you described yourself as tall, so was a bit surprised to see you recommending sunspel today.

I had the James Bond polo at one point, but as a man a fair few inches over 6ft, it simply didn’t work and was laughably short – almost Thom Browne style.

Sadly, I don’t think this brand cuts for the taller man having tried on a few different pieces in further investigation.

Litigator

Simon – any thoughts on Sunspel sizing? I’m a 38/39 chest (5″9 height) and have bought several medium polos/tees from Sunspel, knowing that they are sold pre-shrinkage. After the first wash (and laying them out to dry), they fit fine notwithstanding the short cut. But after time, even medium shirts end up becoming close to crop tops. The problem would probably be solved by buying large, but I find that quite strange given my dimensions… (Separately – people should avoid tumble drying at all costs – I accidentally left a medium Riviera polo – worn once – in the dryer with other clothes and it would now comfortably hug a 36 inch chest!)

Adam

I’ve tried Sunspels T-shirts and wasn’t very impressed to be honest. The best t-shirts I have ever owned with regards to comfort, fit and durability are without a doubt the ones from Alpha Studio (http://www.francorossi.it/#adv). At about 50 euros, they are a bit cheaper than Sunspel, but I think they are a lot better.

Jean Sans Peur

Whilst I get most (all) garments made bespoke these days (and even casual wear) I’ve come to find that the best underwear shirts come from Primark (!). I cannot remember how I was originally acquainted with my first one (maybe an events shirt), and despite all best efforts to source from other shops (John Lewis’ have plastic in the seam), I could never match the comfort it provided from anywhere else and have had to admit defeat. It is absolutely horrendous going through that shop, the incarnate end of civilization – I dread having to return in the next few years. After the first mandatory wash, they become soft, a height of comfort and invisible under my O’Flynn shirts. Despite quality issues one might expect, I’ve had these for 2 years on rota with no issues. I’ve committed the ultimate sin in the name of comfort! Stick that in your blunt and smoke it “Sunspel” ! ha!

Matt S

Sunspel is more than I like to spend for undershirts, but I have a difficult time getting shirts that are long enough to stay tucked. And they always shrink a couple inches in length, but never in width. I wish knits shrunk the other way!

gary

To be honest I only buy white T.shirts and I buy the slim version for 2.50 from Primark . I wear them in Summer with a pair of wranglers (American made version) . A T shirt is a T.shirt and Primark are as good as any to be honest .

Zach

Simon,

Do you wear v necks when you go tieless or do you opt not to wear an undershirt in that situation?

Thank you.

Matt S

I understand it’s mostly an American practice. I wear crew-neck t-shirts when wearing a tie and v-neck when going without a tie, though it’s not uncommon to see men wearing crew-neck t-shirts under an open-neck shirt. A visible undershirt looks atrocious! I find that undershirts keep me warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and they protect the body of my shirts. Though I’m against wrinkle-resistant shirts, I would imagine those are better to wear with undershirts due to the coating.

Stephen

It might also be worth trying Uniqlo’s Supima T-shirts. Slim cut but long in the body (good for taller men). They launder extremely well with no shrinkage, mine have had dozens of laundry days but shape remains. The Supima cotton (long strand = strength, fineness, lifespan) is superior to everything other than Sea Island and the best of Egyptian. Plus the price/value combination is comparitively unbeatable.

BespokeNYC

Alex makes a good point. While there are plenty of high quality makers overseas, when a British company that is explicitly marketed on its Britishness (just look at their logo) outsources production, it is almost certainly a cost-cutting measure and usually (although not always) means a drop in quality. At the very least, it means an increased separation between the makers and the head office, which I imagine is less desirable than all being under one roof. (Perhaps I’m being naive about how much interaction there really is but it certainly seems that way from some of your posts on other factories like Mackintosh, John Smedley, etc.)

As for undershirts, I always find the v-necks are cut too high so you can see them peeping out if you’re wearing your shirt open, without a tie (as many people in business casual settings do most of the time.) The only brand I’ve able to find is American Apparel’s deep v summer shirt. Not the highest quality but they do the job and I’ve yet to find another brand with the same design.

Tom

What’s the head hole sizing like? the S-size model I have requires some effort to get on and it’s not super comfortable as it sits very close around the neck. Also the white / blue strips went very-light blue / blue on it’s first wash, can’t say I was impressed (Sunspel wouldn’t do anything about it as the item wasn’t purchased directly from them).

How was Schiesser? I’d say they’re the company of choice for me when it comes to henley shirts, their S size seems to fit well in the sleeve dept even with me and I’m 6’5″.

Uniqlo was good two years ago, I think they have now changed their cotton or something went wrong and their t-shirts are more plasticy feel-wise even though it says 100% cotton.

Regards,
Tom

Anonymous

Loop wheeled made Japanese T shirts from the likes of Real Mccoys or Warehouse are miles better than Sunspel. They will always keep their shape after washing due to the superior manufacturing process. The cotton seems to be of a higher quality and the fit far surpasses Sunspel. Having owned a few Sunspel items my sense is they are overpriced and nothing special.

gary

I never meet anyone who wears an undershirt or vest. I think they actually look nerdish under a nice shirt . T.shirts (and always white) should be worn with a good pair of levis or wranglers maybe well washed out . I wear them with Chelsea boots .

AFH

Don Draper wears a t-shirt underneath and that is good enough for me.

Néstor

Dear all,

I usually can’t recommend any item here at PS, giving the high level of quality analyzed, but regarding underwear I will make an exception.

ZD is an old spanish company doing exclusively underwear, and their giza cotton is in my opinion on the top. Having tried Sunspel and Hanro (not Zimmerli yet) I find their cotton more durable and less likely to stretch than those ones. They have a very limited range, but it is very consistent and it’s price point is unbeatable.

http://www.zdzerodefects.com/

For socks I use Bresciani and for sport T-shirts (no underwear) I use Sunspel.

Bes regards,

Childdoc

I have bought Sunspel T’s for years–all of which have been manufactured in the England. Most recently many Sunspel items (T’s, polos, etc.) are coming from Portugal (the source of manufacture frequently not stated on the Sunspel website–or rather in the “fine print”). With this recognition, and no reduction in price to the consumer, I am unwilling to pass profits (derivative of lower production costs) back to Sunspel–with Sunspel benefiting, in the short run, form non-UK production. As such, I will not be buying goods from Sunspel (unless produced in the UK) and similarly will not be going the Smedley route should they elect to go down the same path. Chinese mass produced goods, also known in the States as “Imported” does not translate into traditional high quality Hong Kong tailoring and does not merit a premium price. Interestingly, in the States goods produced in Scotland, England, France, Italy, etc. are clearly labeled as such–Chinese goods are again listed simply as “imported.”

Childdoc

For what it’s worth, just reviewed Bureau of Labor Statistics indicating that labor costs in Portugal are approx. 1/3 what they would be in US/UK. Doesn’t seem like a big leap from outsourcing to cost savings. Shouldn’t this be passed, in part, to the customer. Forgetting for the moment relative quality issues Portugal vs. England/UK production.

Anon

I have tried all of the brands mentioned in this post and couldn’t recommend any of them. The lack of structure around the neck is particularly disappointing. Most eschew proper fit for necessary fabrics.

After many years of searching I finally settled on American Apparel (quiet at the back). Plus their pocket tees are extremely elegant when worn with the right items.

Carl

Simon,
Have you got any idea where to can find a good quality traditional Guernsey sweater? Who are the makers to look for?

Tshirt as Undershirt wearer

Dear Simon,

My two short sleeve crew neck in the only remaining colour Tomato Red purchased on sale awhile ago have developed no holes under the seams between sleeve and trunk, my girlfriend likes them, they dry quick on a hangar, thus I bought four more just recently on sale in greens, dark red, deep purple. So I have some substitutes for those of another brand whose seams never failed to develop holes. In the Germanic obsession of black, gray, white I thank God the English love colour, although I would have preferred brighter, on sale is of priority for my RTW microdwarf budget. I am wearing my size L and wonder if Extra Large is much larger? Matt S’s experience his shrunk worries me! How did that happen? I always asked where the shirt was made and bought only English made to support English labour, i.e. English labour conditions. I consider all the comments here very thought-provoking and thank Simon and everybody, especially if Simon would show the collar differences between Sunspel and Orlebar Brown he means so I understand his preference. Viva Sunspel made in England! Super quality!

Nicolas Stromback

Hey Simon

I have never tried any of these brands, since I think most of them are hard to come by in Sweden. However, we have a few Swedish designer brands that literally are specialists in t-shirt (probably because swedish guys favor this so much) with many different models to choose from, from solid coloured ones to prints etc. At the top there is Acne Studios, Tiger of Sweden and Filippa K. I own t-shirts of all these brands. They all provide a great, slim fit, and have very good durability. My oldest one is 8 years now and still looks new. These brands are about 45 € a piece.

J

I am of the Childdoc school of thought really.

If you have a brand marketing itself as luxury or premium ‘proudly British’ in anyway, then all of a sudden quietly moving production over to Asia (let’s assume this is to save money rather than being unable to find the manufacturing skills here) then I really do believe it is somewhat cheeky to still keep charging the consumer the same end-price. The savings should be passed on surely.

Regarding ‘Made in England’ (Italy or Scotland etc) – I do appreciate where you are coming from Simon in that this is not a *guarantee* of being better quality but at the same time, there are other reasons to support it. Without moralising too much on the issue, I can buy something Made in England without absolute confidence that overworked kids aren’t making it, or that people are allowed to have a proper rest between shifts, and that I am keeping ordinary working class people in a job here, as this is where I live.

I can’t do the same with ‘Made in China’ , no matter what the end product quality may be like: we only need to look at Apple’s subcontractors – God knows what happens with the clothing industry, far less scrutinized.

AFH

I agree, and was disappointed when I realised that the Sunspel stuff I bought a year ago was not made in the UK – fortunately it was heavily discounted (mostly vests, they have held up very well).

It is probably worth saying that ‘Made in Italy’ probably doesn’t tell you too much about working conditions, could well be Chinese immigrants under the dubious aegis of the Camorra.

Néstor

The question of, going beyond menswear, why the same item has different price when it’s value is comparable.

James

Simon – a post on “made in England / UK seems due, I think (do forgive me if you’ve posted on this before, I know it has come up in the comments intermittently).

It seems to generate a lot of debate, and I can see why, as “made in Britain” is often seen as a synonym for “quality” and this blog is all about quality. I, for one, agree with you (if this isn’t misrepresenting your views) that the synonym is false, and that surely its about quality not where something is made. I really cannot imagine that Sunspel “Made in England” clothes are made by hand by skilled artisans from the third generation of august English T-Shirt making families whereas the Portuguese T-Shirts are made in a faceless mass production factory (well, I’m sure they are, but then I’m also sure that the English T-shirts are too). Where quality control is required or skilled elements are needed, I’m sure the Portuguese workers are perfectly equipped to perform these roles . Does the industry in England go back to the Normans? Can only one Englishman understand our physical attributes so as to construct a T-shirt to fit another? I can’t myself see why a T-shirt made in England should be preferred on the basis of its place of construction alone (or for that matter, one made in Portugal or China be dismissed).

Indeed, part of the objection from some readers is that one doesn’t know a product is made outside the UK until one reads the small print – surely this is a good thing? Cut the labels off, wear the shirt for a year, and if you are happy with the quality but unaware its made outside the UK, who has lost out? True, Chinese factories produce a lot of tat, but they also produce a lot of excellent quality items. Even more true of Portugal (where there are certainly less of the more valid ethical arguments about worker rights/health and safety/ working environments etc.)

I personally don’t buy the “cheaper production = more profit for the fat cats” argument, either. Every business has to (to an extent) run to keep still with these things and the very fact that (as you have highlighted in this post) Sunspel is able to produce more fits and more colours, for example, (as well as increase its offering by opening more stores) will be to do with the savings made by outsourcing and scaling up production.

My suspicion is that it all comes down to either a vague xenophobia or some kind of ill conceived mercantilism. Either way, the “made in England” argument fails to convince me.

Mac

Why buy locally produced food or clothing? Xenophobia? No. Some of us call it loyalty. Or Economics. A healthy manufacturing sector and strong exports means a better economy in this country. You and I benefit. So, yes, we should put ourselves first. People in France or the the U.S. do likewise.

It’s our own family members and friends who might work in these local industries. It’s their jobs. A dairy farmer works awful hours in all weathers to provide you and I with the milk that we take for granted. The supermarkets are destroying the British dairy industry by driving down prices. It’s unsustainable for the farmers and it’s immoral.

A lower price doesn’t mean better value. To you, maybe. What about the producer? Is the price fair to them?Greed for profits will eventually destroy any localised industry, whether in Britain or anywhere else.

British skills have been lost in so many areas, and the garment industry is one of them. Until selfish corporate bosses pay fair wages to their workers, the UK will continue to lose trade to overseas competitors. Savile Row, Chester Barrie’s factory in Crewe, John Smedley. We are perfectly capable of world-class garment manufacturing.

James Dyson made £200 million from a vacuum cleaner built here, then laid off all his factory workforce and opened a new factory in Romania. Paying lower wages. Now he’s even wealthier. I’ll never buy Dyson on principle.

Any product can be made more cheaply. Why don’t Fung Capital close Gieves and take all bespoke production to China? A proper bespoke suit for £500! They also have the option to set up their own factory in the UK to make their own R-T-W suits.

We can import bananas and spices and things that others do better (yes, even undergarments), but wouldn’t it be better if we improved British skills and happily paid a bit more for those items? I, for one, would.

Mac

But making who richer, Simon? The few. Certainly not the skilled workers. You’re such a champion of artisans and obviously very knowledgable of economics. The practice of driving down costs, no matter what, is the very enemy of craftsmanship and skill.

Global trade is a good thing. It needn’t be harmful to anyone. Sugar, cotton, tech skills, car designs. Cigars, etc.

Your favourite French tailors, Cifonelli, pay salaries to their workmen. Not piece-work pay. Quality before profit. Still financially viable. That’s how a craftsman thinks. A Capitalist would never agree to that!

Alex

James – my desire to buy British isn’t influenced in the slightest by any xenophobia or mercantilism, but very largely out of self interest. As Mac alludes to, a healthy manufacturing sector is good for the economy of the land where I live, so I benefit. People employed here, earning wages and paying taxes. Also, if I want a t-shirt (or many, many other items) I have a huge choice of goods manufactured abroad; is it wrong to at least want the option of a domestically produced garment (particularly one marketed as such, as BespokeNYC points out)? Anyway, apologies to Simon if my first comment took the discussion away from the primary subject of his post, that being quality t-shirts!

Néstor

James,

Each human act has moral impact. Buying a product made in England/Portugal is not the same than buying one from China. More profit for the fat cats usually means less paid workforce.

jon

Are Smedley planning on producing abroad?

Jeroen

Have you tried the Danish company Hammerthor? At € 35 for a Henley and € 25 for a normal T-shirt in soft cotton they’re not expensive and they hold their shape well. They might be a bit tight, but that’s exactly what I like. Haven’t tried Schiesser so can’t compare those two, although I think you’d probably say they’re closer to thermal underwear. They’re cut rather long by the way, so taller gentlemen might like them.

J

I have nothing ‘against’ products made anywhere. I feel more confident in buying from Europe though, as per Mac’s comments.

I still have an ethical perspective on it – after all if you are paying £2.50 for a tshirt – you have to wonder here how any profit is made. Someone is paying a price and it isn’t you or I.

Mac and I are on the same spectrum I believe. If I have the disposable income to pay that little bit extra, I prefer to buy made in UK / Europe.

I for one like knowing I am helping to give someone British a living in some small way… Whether that be one of my British tailors, (or Italian as the case may be) or shoemakers in Northampton or so.

I can relate as my father worked in a factory in his working life.
If we outsource everything to the Far East or India – what is it exactly we are going to do in the UK? Not everyone can (or would want to) work in an office job, and certainly not everyone wants to work in a call centre. So if I can afford to and the product is good, I’ll buy made in UK and it’s keeping people in jobs, those people who like to use their hands for a living.

That is not the same as saying you should buy any old rubbish just because it’s got a Made in UK / Italy badge though.

James

Mac – I agree with Simon’s view that your approach to economics is rather narrow – or, as I put it in my original post, is based on “some kind of ill conceived mercantilism”. Not to drift too far off topic, but I don’t think the world should be seen as a zero sum game in this respect. There simply isn’t a finite amount of wealth which we “lose” to other countries by outsourcing production in this way.

Nestor – I think your point on China vs Portugal, say, is extremely valid. I think the moral choices we make about workers rights should come into play; which is why I was hesitant to draw the comparison too far and agree that this is a legitimate reason that “made in an ethically sound country” is a valid position.

I would, however, tend to disagree that Portugal (where this discussion started) exhibits materially worse working conditions than the UK.

Mac

Hi James, what about the ‘moral rights’ of UK workers? James Dyson was worth (£200 million) when he laid off his UK workers. How much money is enough? Those people had children and mortgages. If his company had debts, I’d understand. On a basic human level it’s selfish and rather callous. He’s not alone. The British garment manufacturing industry went the same way. Helping those in China or Indonesia shouldn’t come at a cost to our own workers. There may be profit in that but where’s the sense?

Chris

Excellent post Simon. Thank you for bringing to my attention the fact that Sunspel has expanded the Riviera shirts. Their regular range is also good, but a touch too large for my taste. The Riviera sizing is fitted without being too tight but is fitted enough to function well as an undershirt. The cotton is very sleek and as long as you take care of them (hand wash or very delicate cycle) seems not to fade at all. The only issue I’ve had with them is the bottom stitching coming lose. This has happened on two shirts but one was my fault. Since the shirts fit me so well I think I will continue to buy and be very careful in that regard.

I’ve also tried Orlebar Brown, Albam, and Schiesser. Schiesser is what I buy for underwear and their quality is pretty good but to me they fall into the underwear only category. I love the OB polos (along with Smedley) but do not like their tshirts. They are well constructed but the material is super super thin and the neck opening far too large. I have one from Albam, which is great quality but far too long. I should probably try some more since the one I bought was a classic M (size 3) and I know they make some with more sizing options.

I also own the Riviera (James Bond) polo. I would personally recommend an Adrian from John Smedley over that.

nick inkster

I struggle a little to understand the purpose of an “undergarment” if it is hidden. Wearing a vest/T shirt/whatever you call it makes great sense under a sweater/woollen pol shirt/etc as in acts as a barrier and therefore means the outer garment does not need cleaning as often as it might otherwise. If worn under a shirt but not visible (v necks etc) then is it only for warmth? In the case of the above, why spend highish sums? Why not buy eg Haines slimfit of beefy?
If it is to be visible, as mentioned, with jeans etc, then of course make it a garment of quality.
I do not see a T shirt as underwear, sorry. Unless it is worn as such.

Adam Jones

Blimey the comment exploded in this one so I may not have much to add but I don’t see why it is so difficult to make plain simple t shirts. I am up for trying any brand even low low end high street to the more expensive hardly any of them get it right.

Some people mentioned primark…. They are great for one wear and shrink so short you look like your wearing a crop top. Uniqlo seemed ok but baggy fits, very long and I find are not very good to be worn as a t shirt, more just under a sweater. Also fit seems to mean nothing to t shirt manufacturers. Either too baggy or too tight. Top man have just slimmed their t shirts and shortened them but they are so thin I don’t think they will last. Trust me I put the effort in to care for them too.

My best results have been with j crew. I have now stocked up on slim fit pocket t shirts in navy and grey. The only problem with them is availability. I have the pocket ones as they hardly every have anything else in stock. I may give sunspel a try based on this. manufacturers need to put more effort into the basics sometimes.

Jeroen

After having thought about it some more (finding that perfect garment can become such an obsession), I have to add I wear Hammerthor as underwear most of the time, although as I said before I like my T-shirts tight – the tighter they are the less they show under a shirt. I don’t like wrinkles or too much fullness for obvious reasons. I like to wear them on their own on warmer days as well, but I do admit in that case the choice of tightness depends on whether you’d want to betray your fitness secrets. (I have no such secrets but nothing to hide either.)

I lost you on when you wear T-shirts though Simon – in your post you say you wear them as underwear under shirts (not on their own), but in one of the comments you say you don’t wear them under shirts. Needless to say this makes a great difference in choosing the fit.

I wonder why you didn’t like Merz b. Schwanen – I know they’re rather expensive but they make some beautiful T-shirts. Their 215 is very nice and their 213 looks very cool on its own (it has those polo shirt-like tight sleeves which look very flattering on my otherwise unimpressive biceps).

Two other brands you might want to try if you haven’t already are Left Field NYC and Choctaw Ridge (both made by Left Field but in a different fit and fabric). They’re € 70 and € 120 for two, respectively.

Stephen

Great debate here Simon – thank you. The Telegraph did a review of same in 2012 (included Sunspel and Acne) the results of which saw Topman winning! Choice seems to be very subjective and personal for such a ubiquitous item. Checking T-shirts recently I came across Gandy’s t’s at M&S…I wonder if the only way to retain good shape, especially around the neck is to include a syntyhetic mix (cotton, modal elastine in this case).
On the subject of economics… in fact it has been the massive issuance of debt, global oil supply, computerisation and massive asset inflation that has driven the world economy. Prosperity continues to reduce in the West (GDP debt ratio) as entire areas of production continue to be hollowed out whilst massive debt (Japan, US, UK, Europe) piles up in countries that have closed down their manufacturing base. I believe Mac and others have a valid view in wishing to support UK production over imports.

Litigator

I imagine 95% of these posts were made on computers/smartphones made in the far east (some of which were perhaps “Designed in California” [Apple]), rather than UK-made raspberry pi. It is funny how we arbitrarily decide to attach values relating to place of manufacture for some things but not others – even within the world of clothing. e.g. some people would never touch a shoe made outside Northampton but much would opt for Italian suiting over anything from the row…

dsc

Uniqlo is rather specific with it’s cut, or at least was, I’ve noticed they started changing things a big recently (not a positive thing imho). I’d say most Uniqlo garments fit quite well if you are slim and have average torso length (I’m tall, but I have a strange torso/leg ratio), although their sleeves tend to be longer than other companies (got for tall people). Same goes for Schiesser, their small fits me perfectly, even in the sleeve dept. which is strange as I’m guessing shorter slim people will find the sleeves well too long.

Sunspel always had a strange body model imho, maybe it’s fine for shorter men, but there’s something strange going on in the arm pit dept. imho. In comparison JS is much better, although you need to go for the non-relaxed fit, unless you love bags of airspace in your garments.

T.

Ken Y

Macro economics, global free trade, the plight of workers in the third world, politics, protectionism… who could have thought a post on T-shirts could have spun up so much debate.

Ulrich

I can recommend my favourite t-shirts made by Armor Lux:

http://www.armorlux.com/fr/mode-homme/243-t-shirt-manches-courtes-ras-du-cou.html

slim fitting, rather heavy flannel-like cotton

Andreas

Given the quality of the product is similar or better and the wages is fair I see no problem buying products produced outside of UK, US or Italy. Of course it is great to support the local production but comparing t-shirts with bespoke tailoring is a bit of a stretch in my mind.

One example is Laszlo Vass from Budapest. They offer amazing quality of hand welted shoes for around 450£. The price is similar to C&J/Church´s but in my mind of a higher level both in material and construction. The price of labor in Hungary is significantly lower than in the UK but so is the living cost of the region.

I see no problem

I see no problem in buying a RTW garment like T-shirt anywhere because I don’t see who makes them where they’re made. If I did, who could care less?

Giffen

My thoughts on Sunspel T-shirts:

– Jersey too thin other than for use as underwear (my long-sleeve wore through at the cuffs very quickly)
– Too short in length (for me personally, though some here have suggested the same)
– Disappointing make (I’ve returned two of the three I’ve bought, unworn, due to loose stitching)
– Too expensive (they have increased prices steeply while moving labour abroad presumably to take advantage of cheaper labour)

For these reasons it’s no longer a company I’m that enamoured with, despite the seductive marketing.

For what it’s worth, my favourite T-shirts are from Albam and The Real McCoy’s.

John

It’s amazing where a post on a T-shirt brand can take you!

I don’t know if anyone who has taken part in this debate has ever been involved with the UK textiles and garments manufacturing sector but for those who have the last 20+ years have told a sorry tale of first downsizing, then closure and with it the destruction of whole communities that had given generations of service to the industry, all in an effort to compete with low cost producers whose standards of health and safety and the wages they pay are a scandal in the twenty-first century (and don’t get me started on ‘clothing-miles’).

Surprisingly, the question of who is repsonsible for the destruction of the UK industry (the same applies to the Italian industry for that matter) has not, so far, been voiced. Maybe that’s because we all know that the major UK high street retailers ‘carry that can’ and what’s worse continue by their actions to squeeze UK manufacturers out.

I spent many years, as a marketing consultant, working with weavers to bring to market new advanced fabrics and with clothing manufacturers in the UK on product and brand development and distribution. I watched as a whole industry moved off shore throwing hundreds of skilled workers on to the scrapheap because it could not compete with the wage rates paid in China. I watched from the sidelines, what used to be everyone’s favourite high street retailer force one of their major clothing suppliers out of business as they moved production to N Africa and Sri Lanka, having first used that company bring the off shore manufacturer to the point where they could meet their required standard of fit and finish. I watched as a small, third generation family owned, shoe maker at the mid-upper end of the market closed its doors as the independent shoe retailer was replaced in the process of homogenising the UK high street.

I know Simon’s blog is not about ‘high street’ and we are fortunate, as readers, that we care enough and have the wherewithall to shop for bespoke, made-to-measure or the best of RTW but just as many of the manufacturers that have now gone could find no new place in the market who’s to say that the companies we look to now will be able to survive the next wave of change?

In other industries, major high-end brands have been bought up by the people that have the money – Indian or Chinese – and after a relatively short time the IP and the skills that made these companies great have been transfered to the low-cost manufacturing base that provided the money for the acquisition in the first place leaving the customer to wonder why the brand they put their faith in isn’t what it was. It’s started on Savile Row, where will it end?

For my part, I want to buy the best British made (and British owned) products I can afford so that’s what I look for. I don’t have to compromise on fit or finish and there’s a British style I can’t get anywhere else. Why would I do anything else, except perhaps when it comes to Lamborghini, or Maser….

While we are on the subject of T-shirts as underwear, what about the difficult question of briefs?

Mac

Simon, It’s hugely encouraging that so many of us feel the same about British manufacturing. I’m only disappointed that you yourself are not more supportive. However, you are supportive of Smedley, Begg and many other British manufacturers. I recall recently reading a very encouraging article on British manufacturing:

http://money.cnn.com/2015/01/06/luxury/uk-factories-fashion/index.html

Mac

I’ve no doubt we all agree on quality, Simon. If the quality is there, as with Sunspel which you like, how do you feel about them moving production overseas? What was their motivation for that?

gary

as you do not live in Italy you can be forgiven for not understanding that one italian clothes factory has closed one after another. aNY WALK AROUND AN iTALIAN CITY centre will reveal how much trajectory they have, about zero. They used to have a lot but if we are talking last ten years then it has gone out of the window.

gary

If we support outr own products then we are sending a clear message to Far Eastern and eastern Block sweathouses(Plus Italian ones) that they need to get human rights in order. No better way to do it than not buying their stuff. I take back my comments on primark

Mac

Nothing wrong with British cloth, Simon! Perhaps Harris tweed should become industrialised and moved overseas? Guys in sheds! The Italian tailors love British cloths. This race for ever more luxurious cloth is just fool’s gold for the nouveaux riches.

Mac

Simon, sorry for coming over a bit George Carmen QC! I’m just interested to know how you feel about British jobs and livelihoods being lost in the name of profits,as I said earlier, for a handful of wealthy bosses? Leaving the Capitalist argument aside, do you agree that it harms the British economy? (i.e. those jobs leaving this country and going to overseas workers). How on earth can that be good for this, or any, country?

AFH

I think the idea that ‘everything is done for profits’ is more than a little narrow. I agree it’s silly to expect businesses not to maximise profits, but people do stuff for reasons other than money.

I take your point re:progress, but I can’t help feel that a lack of pride in our manufacturing is one of the reasons for its decline. Sometimes in the UK it feels like we care about cost more than value and that way loss of soul is the likely result. Though modern Italy is not exactly a beacon of enlightenment to be copied, I grant you.

gary

Protectionism has always been shown historically to damage economies in the long run far more than opening up to trade=not true, the first rule of protecting ones citizens is to protect them from unfair capitalism

John

Simon, I’m an economist by education and a marketing man by training and conviction; I have no time for protectionism, free trade has to be the mantra that business stands or falls by.

However, the playing field is not level and our major retailers have heaped insult on top of the impossible challenge of getting workers in the UK to work for a crust of bread and live in hovels. As I said not everyone can move up market to find their place to survive, in part at least because the retailers won’t give them time and room so to do. I remember launching a new UK designed and made sportwear brand through Harvey Nicholls a number of years ago, we went there because the product warranted it but also because we couldn’t get the initial volumes to make the price point right for the next retail tier down. That project majored on working with the manufacturers to get the quality right but the balance between the price the retailers would pay and the quality we wanted to supply just wouldn’t work and after a relatively short time it had to fold.

Lest this thing get too negative, we should be glad about the fact that the UK companies that still exist care about quality and design and can still bring us world class cloth and accessories and can deliver fit and finish like few others.

I find your posts on how its done in other countries very informative and the fact that so many of us follow your blog is testament to how appreciative we are of you pursuing this interest. Personally it won’t make me change my buying habits but that’s not to say I can’t applaud the quality and style of the makers you bring to us.

I have a personal interest in jewellery which keeps me searching out designer makers. I am constantly impressed with the creativity and craftsmanship that these, mainly young, people bring to their work. It’s what gives me the hope that I have lost from my exposure to the clothing and textiles industry.

If you keep bringing us the best of new makers and new styles (we’d be lost if you didn’t) I know that the balance will once again turn towards the UK based producers we all want to support because what they supply is best for the quality and the style we’re looking for not because we blindly want to support them by keeping other makers out.

Mac

John, I applaud you for getting up off your backside and having a go. It takes guts. I hope it won’t put you off doing it again.

I don’t know your circumstances but one assumes that paying a manufacturer to make the garments is very expensive and less practical than having your own small production team. Was that ever an option for you or was it even more expensive?

GARY

I use Huddersfield cloth , its as good as anything in Italy, not better but as good. Also you can get stuff like two tone mohair which is my favourite cloth. I have the suits made up in Italy because I have a good cheap Italian tailor and live there most of the year. His own opinion on British cloth (the stuff I take him) is that it is the best

Mac

Simon, we know that British cloth is fantastic. What would you like to see improve? Is it more the marketing and distribution maybe? Many of the Italian cloth companies now also make clothing which can boost profits if done well. Fox Bros (over here) have expanded beyond just making cloth.

GARY

easy because most people dont see any fun in paying 60 quid for a white t shirt. To make a t.shirt you need about 30 minutes on a machine so 60 pounds circa is way over the top. They simply priced themselves out of any market.

Colin

Hi Simon….I find t-shirts workwell under heavier shirts (flannel etc.) that would be worn un-tucked, similar in style to your Budd over shirt/jacket, under which I note you are wearing a grey t-shirt. Additionally have you tried Smedley’s cotton t-shirts, fairly expensive at full price, but nicely fitted and comfortable?

Sunspel T-shirt as undershirt wearer

Smedley sea island cotton t-shirts are ver nice until washed, when the seams between trunk and sleeve begin to develop holes. I repaired and repaired and repaired. That’s why I tried Sunspel. Sunspel t-shirts have not developed holes, and my impression after washing two for a half year, that the four new ones I recently bought will be durable. No more Smedley for me.

Chris

I have found with Smedley’s sea island cotton garments that if you hand wash cold, lay flat to dry, and do not iron them that they hold up very nicely. I down right ruined an Exeter by machine washing it and have an Adrian that is still in beautiful shape after a few hand washes.

TR

Just wondering – non related to this particular post – do you have any good tailor recommendation for a sort of casual ‘deconstructed’ sort of jacket?

TR

Simon, greatly appreciated indeed. Agree there is no point on having it too bespoke, although, its uniqueness i’m batting for mainly

gary

freddie needles at the elephant and castle will do you a great deconstructed jacket for around 350 if you take your own material

lee

For £55 I’d exspect them to be made in the UK they are light 5oz tshirts save your money and buy goodwear tshirts half the price US made and twice the weight.

Reader

Don’t underestimate the value of thinking and consciousness! Your blog touched an important issue, Simon, and created a lot of new mental reality. I’m wearing one of my English-made Sunspel undershirts now and wondering why Sunspel decided to withdraw from Turkey and hope those poor Turks find a way without dictator Erdogan to peace.

Norm T

Thank you for your detailed reasons of why you prefer & endorse this new Sunspel line. In the future, so that we consumers can make s better & more intelligent decision, can you either provide the garment measurements or you physical height, weight, chest size. That information is so vital to everyone. It’s as if I told you that my Red Wing shoes fit perfectly…& you don’t know what size I bought nor how large/thin/wide I really am. Thanks. Cheers.

CJ

Hi Simon, first time coming across your blog today and I’m very impressed, definitely a future reference point for me.

Have you tried The Real McCoy’s t-shirts? They are one of the few, if not the only, t-shirt I have tried that fits a tapered top-half well – although I will consider trying Sunspel at some point now! You can get them in the Joe McCoy’s range in plain white/grey/black 2 for around £60 which I think is very fair.

Justin

Simon, I wanted to write with a question about t-shirts for summer. You’ve written about both Sunspel and Orlebar Brown. I tried the OB classic t-shirt and found it skin-tight and completely unflattering–and I’m a slim guy! Perhaps I need to size up, but I suspect their cut may not be for me. Do Sunspel t-shirts have a little more drape to them? Are they any less form-fitting, but still slim overall? Thanks for any thoughts or advice!

Justin

Many thanks, Simon! I’ll give Sunspel a go.

gary

if you are wearing a casual shirt the best ones are button downs in poplin or oxford , dont go down the road of using a shirt that obviously needs a tie because of collar style, just doesnt look good. Im having shirts made at the moment in a thirties style with a long thirties pointed collar, you could maybe put buttons on the collars to get a radical change> I would always use a polo shirt instead of a t shirt if you are a mature man.

Sunspel fan

Simon, your comment deconstructed soft does not require bespoke encourages me because I can’t afford bespoke and because I’m going to pick up my first deconstructed summer Italian cotton jacket today which I ordered from N&L for disco dance sweat. – Malford offered Kilgour t-shirts reduced from £150 for £22 so I bought three in sizes XL and L and colour navy available. The label made in Portugal, XL same as L size about two inches shorter than Sunspel, weave and construction sturdy. So my t-shirt requisite under N&L RTW extreme cutaway but away from blue poplin doesn’t demand purchase of beautiful Sunspel t-shirts.

Greg

Hi Simon. With t-shirts I always notice that I have ripples forming from my underarms through the side of the chest, leading towards the shoulder. Do you know what might be the cause of this and how it may be corrected? Thanks.

Greg

Thanks Simon. So this is something I might have to live with where t-shirts are considered even if I size up, yes?

Bernie

Hi Simon,

Any recommendations for deeper v neck undershirts? I’ve been buying unique but the V doesn’t seem to be deep enough for me

Stephan Lindner

Thank you for the article, Simon! I was wondering whether you would also recommend Sunspel for my body type, with a 42 chest and 32 waist.
Cheers,
Stephan

Stephan Lindner

Thanks, Simon! I guess there is only one way to try out. 🙂
Thank you also for all your work. Your website provides a clam and reassuring guide through a weird fashion landscape. Much appreciated!