The Shirtmakers Symposium – The video debate

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Below you can find the full video of our Shirtmakers Symposium in Florence.

It's a little basic, but thankfully the sound worked well and it's audible throughout. Silvio Albini makes a lovely introduction at the start, then each shirtmaker introduces themselves, and finally we plunge into the discussion. 

A wide range of topics is covered - from the business of running a bespoke operation, to quarter inches in shirt measures, to collar sizes that flatter different types of face. 

I hope you find it interesting. It was certainly interesting to chair. 



Photography: Jamie Ferguson and Carlos Folgoso / Massimo Sestini

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Apart from C&J and Edward Green where could I look for a really good quality pair of old fashioned, honest straight forward black oxfords? Thinking for business, wedding etc. Preferably under £1000.
sorry to comment here, not sure where else to place


Sons of London , offer a classic designed , very well made in Italy show . Only tip is order half a size down from your usual , I had to and heard this is the norm.

Paul Kruize

Dear Simon,
A very interesting symposium indeed! I have been wondering for some time now how the difference in process between the British and Italian makers can be explained. Both high end, the British makers do all stitching by machine while the Italians use a lot of hand stitching. Is there an explanation to why this seems to be country based?


Is there any evidence that a hand stitched shirt performs/lasts/fits/looks better than a machined shirt to the extent that it makes handwork a meaningfully superior product?



Who sees the buttonholes of a shirt in normal wear? Who would get close enough to spot them? Under a jacket and wearing a tie, the answer is nobody. What is the point, apart from the wearer feeling good about it?

And hand attaching a collar or sleeve on a shirt cannot make a “functional” difference in wear.

The only real point in going bespoke is to get fit if you cannot get it in RTW. The collar can also be an advantage, but the handsewing gives the wearer no benefit at all.

Reuven Lax

I know of at least one British shirtmaker who offers as much (or more) handwork as the Italians. Interestingly, some of the traditional makers only abandoned handwork within the last 30 years. When I chatted with Budd, I was told that their buttonholes (for instance) were done by hand until the early 80s. They switched to machine when the woman who did them at the time passed away.

Néstor Valiño

Interesting question the one that Pauls raises. It is something that has caused my interest as well. Maybe old shirtmaking firms like T&A would have an answer inside their archives (when the machines replacing handsewing were firstly introduced).


Simon great debate. Now I have tried Ascot Chang in the past and didn’t like the results, I have deleted them to my list of shirtmakers. What do you think of the Milano fit of the Brooks Bros shirts? I like their non iron cotton and for every day work use are excellent.


I was fascinated by Luca’s comment that many MTM clients don’t understand how long shirt sleeves should be. I may be one of them. Do you have a rule of thumb for sleeve length or a prior post discussing it? Thanks.


And that’s where MTM/bespoke offers a genuine advantage. If you wear a watch, you need the left cuff to be slightly larger (or a lot larger if you wear one of those chunky watches). I’ve never seen asymmetric cuffs on any RTW shirt.

Also, and I learned this the hard way, when you get the shirt fitted you should try do it while wearing your jacket. The jacket will always pull up the shirt sleeves by a small amount. And the shirt cuff should just fill out the jacket cuffs, so your tailor needs to see both.


Er, there’s something called friction. I didn’t say it would pull up the shirt sleeve by two feet. Just 1/8″ is enough to make the difference.

John M

I’m not sure I follow…

The end of the cuff (unbuttoned) should go all the way to the first knuckle of your thumb but this is also irrelevant because when the cuff is buttoned it will sit around the wrist? Is there a recommended cuff length to prevent the cuff from covering up half of one’s hands? Does the bespoke option of having one larger cuff to cover a watch add an additional wrinkle as the shirt isn’t tight around the wrist and thus creeps further over the hand?


How do you feel about moving the button on a ready made shirt to tighten the cuff so it doesn’t slide down over the hand? I see a lot of Italians with tighter cuffs than us mere mortals are used to which is a good look. Is moving the cuff button (say… one inch) a feasible quick fix?


Simon, is for you the base of the thumb identical with the wrist, or is the base of the thumb beyond the wrist in the direction of the thumb? It sems to me if the shirt cuff is longer than the wrist, it is too long. – I found Jack’s remark his shirtmaker establishment instructs their customers to wash their shirts twice (!) beyond expectation in the sphere of duress or coercion (I’m not sure which word or term is adequate).
I read somewhere RTW shirtmakers cut sleeves longer because their shirt cloth will shrink when washed? I’ve never taken shirts to a dry cleaner (because outside Britain dry cleaning is expensive) so I am unsure if dry cleaners wash shirts with water or chemicals and if subsequently due to time pressure machine drying is employed?

Matt Spaiser

He explained it clearly just above that the base of the thumb is where the thumb splits off from the rest of the hand. It’s where the web between your thumb and index finger are. That would be up about 7 cm from the tip of the thumb. The shirt cuff should reach that point when the cuff is unbuttoned. When the cuff is buttoned it will sit at the base of the hand, about 1 cm past the wrist, and this is because the cuff should be snug around the wrist. The extra length is necessary so the cuff stays in place when you move your arm and so the elbow does not wear out when you bend your elbow. This is the length of a sleeve after shrinkage.

Gus Walbolt

Really appreciated Darren Tiernan’s (Budd, London) candid comments about going to an Italian maker for Italian details and to him for typical British style and methods. It’s a good reminder that with any bespoke garment, the most satisfying results usually come from keeping requests within the usual scope of the house style and details.


Phantastic photographs!
That last picture from the middle of the ceiling must have been done with help of an angel?

Peter L


I am surprised with the excelent photography this site has that the video is “basic”. A good area to look at for improvement.
But thank you so much for posting this video, i have waited for such a vid for a long time and rarely see this kinda discussions posted anywhere on the net.

On the other hand, i have only used Ascot Chang for my bespoke shirts and have been very pleased at their results.
Granted i know which location and who to look for after being refered by a friend.
As with any other bespoke operation, mistakes are bound to happen, it’s how the business responds and the willingness to correct them.
On that end, i am VERY pleased by their customer service.


When the shirtmaker panel and questioners spoke, a camera on the speaking individuals would have helped do them justice. Such an occasion might interest a video class of a nearby art school to tackle as practical exercise at less expense.

Gary Byrne

Charles caine is a new one , made in Italy


Wonderful article again Simon. Most informative. It is particularly interesting hearing the various shirtmakers point of view and the differing details they employ. I too would be interested to know your opinion on the advantages of hand stitching. I have both RTW and bespoke shirts made exclusively on machine and ones with hand stitching. Other than the sentimental appeal of hand work I find there to be very little noticeable difference in terms of the outward appearance of the shirts.

On a slightly separate point, I am a new resident of London and was wondering if you know any good alterations tailors as I am struggling to find a good one?

Best regards, Jamie.



Do you know if there have been any changes at GB? Has Dan moved to another shop?



Hi Simon would you mind sharing the name of their new shop? Any plans to review? Many thanks!


Thanks. Will Russ be running GB alone then?



He must feel a bit miffed that Dan has gone off with his old mate though.



Does it jeopardize GB’s future?

They were a two man team holding it together. Has Dan taken some of the employees with him too?



Interesting conversation. At the risk of overkill it might still be nice to get your writeup of the event/discussion. Also I looked back at one of the tailoring symposium posts and it said there was a video team – I don’t suppose that video exists somewhere in the ether?


Hi Simon,
A great initiative, a lovely setting, an important topic and very interesting people attending!


Simon, thanks for the video. One of the panellists raised an interesting point about caring for your shirts. How do you suggest maximising the longevity and wear of good quality cotton? Do you wash and iron them yourself or do you have them professionally laundered? thanks



Which washing machine do you use? This impacts the longevity of the shirts a lot too I would argue.

I use a Miele W1 washing machine which has their patented honeycomb drum which protects the garments from being torn by the metal in the drum. In addition it has a brilliant shirt program which steams the shirts at the end of the cycle to minimise need for ironing.



Have you ever looked at smyth&gibson? They have a bespoke offer but I very much like some of their uk made slim rtw shirts. It’s a fit that works very well for me.

Matt Spaiser

Thank you for sharing this. It was a pleasure to be able hear everyone speak. Hearing Silvio Albini was a pleasure. I was very saddened to hear of his passing. He was one of the most accomplished people in menswear who never got enough credit. May he rest in peace.

Ron Master Tailors

Awesome article Simon. Very informative. Your photography is perfect and this type of content is hard to find. You are right i found it interesting because of the video. Nice crowd and very well explained everything i always wanted to know.
Regards, Ron Master Tailors.