I realise this is going to come across as quite the advertisement, but in some ways it is almost inevitable that it does — a magical moment (partnership, even) when consumption preferences and a company’s product offerings converge, so much so that it just has to be exclaimed in some manner and form.
The seeds of my interest in classic menswear arguably germinated when I was an intern at a publishing company, and although I was mainly tasked with drafting articles regarding high-end horology, menswear was never too far away by virtue of both pursuits residing in the common sphere of luxury. Add to this my penchant for technical knowledge regarding the subjects I fancied and quite soon I was trawling cyberspace for ever deeper — some would say esoteric — understandings of classic menswear’s multiple facets, for which sources like Style Forum and Ask Andy About Clothes, along with many menswear blogs, were invaluable.
And so I came to learn of all manners of sartorial knowledge (and indeed am still): colour pairings, appropriate trouser cuff openings, forward/reverse trouser pleats, unfused collar interlinings, ‘spalla camicia’ sleeve heads, sleeve pitch, the various shirting and suiting weaves et cetera — the list is endless, and it’s a fascinating one at that (hell, even my idea of what a good fit meant had changed).
But therein lies the problem, that of a slippery slope that makes it impossible to ignore all the thus-far accumulated knowledge when looking for the next item to add to my arsenal, and yet not burn a gaping hole in my pocket whilst doing so. Imagine my sheer elation when I had chanced upon Proper Cloth (through Style Forum, no less). Below are some reasons why they have become my de facto shirt provider.
Regardless of the product you’re hoping to purchase, doing so over the internet tends to add an element of so-called ‘danger’. Beyond credit card frauds and whatever else the Nigerian royal family can concoct, e-commerce carries with it the inherent inconvenience of not being able to try, to touch, and to generally assess. The crowd-sourced review system employed by Proper Cloth has, at least for me, played a vital role in providing an aggregated idea and expectation of how a particular shirting would perform in the real world. Being able to know if, for example, someone thought this broadcloth weave was too thin or that another twill weave was too shiny can only aid in forming an informed decision. Sure, it doesn’t beat handling the fabric personally, but with over a hundred opinions for some of them, it really is the next best thing. Oh, and the reason why the site has been able to garner so many reviews is thanks to the rewarding system the company has implemented, by which every review nets the client $5 of credit (to be used on their next order). Pretty damn smart, if you ask me.
Offering the ‘Correct’ Choices
As with just about anything in life, I am aware that what is to be deemed ‘correct’ is subjective and highly contingent on one’s influences. In general, my inclinations with regards to the things I choose to surround myself with have been those that steered me away from ostentation. From timepieces to eyewear, it is often the gaudy that repel me. And so it is with clothing, an aspect most certainly reinforced by the information gleaned from said online sources.
Thankfully, Proper Cloth’s founders have themselves proclaimed to have been “watching and learning from styleforum” (seen here on their affiliate thread on the forum), which probably explains why the shirting selection tends toward the classic end of the spectrum (i.e. tasteful). In the main, patterns include formal plains, stripes (wider Bengals too), subtle checks, as well as more casual ginghams, inter alia. They do also offer ‘wilder’ prints like camouflage and florals, but I like that these are confined to a smaller range. At the same time, there is an emphasis on the different weaves of their fabrics; that’s a good thing since weaves play an equally big role in determining the suitability/coherence of a shirt when deployed in a particular sartorial ensemble and social context.
Another aspect I feel the company has done well in relates to the construction options on offer. Once again, many of them follow so-called ‘classical’ ways that shirts were made back in the day, thereby retaining traditional features sometimes hard to find on modern off-the-rack shirts. Their Soft Ivy Button Down collar is a good instance of this, referencing the place that unfused collars with copious amounts of roll have held in the annals of clothing history. As an aside, Proper Cloth is one of the more affordable places at which one can opt for soft unfused interlinings in the collar, placket, and cuffs (it comes at no additional cost; all the tailors I have visited charge quite a bit more for this). The dimensions of most of the regular non-button down collars are also properly thought out, in that they feature a relatively wide spread that ‘nests’ a tie really well, and also long points that hide under a jacket’s lapel, lending a cleaner look (the Soft Roma happens to my favourite).
In general, I neither need nor want a mind-boggling array of variables to tweak when designing my shirt. All I ask for are enough sensible options for both shirtings and construction that reflect an understanding of tailoring nuances in traditional menswear, and Proper Cloth delivers on this point. Should you wish, however, to have complete control over how things turn out, then might I suggest Luxire, whose system allows for any and every facet of your outfit — they tailor everything, not just shirts — to be made to your exacting specifications (I have read of clients requesting specific yoke panel heights!).
In this technological age of e-commerce, websites becomes ever more important as the contact point for many a customer. It essentially has taken over the role of both the store front and its internal layout, and the way you display your wares are arguably a decisive factor in attracting browsing and therefore potential sales.
Here, Proper Cloth’s utilisation of a clean design with a mainly black and white colour way is rather pleasing to my eyes. There is also no scarcity of detailed information as to individual shirtings (weave, thickness, opacity, thread count et cetera) and the aforementioned construction options (collar point length, spread length, collar band heights et cetera). An additional point to note here is the excellent photography used that shows each fabric’s texture well. There have been instances where a cloth’s colour wasn’t as well represented online, but fortunately these have been only occasional (my Light Blue Heavy Oxford Cloth, ID no. PCF617, was slightly darker in reality, for example). Taken together, all these features truly aid in realising the kinds of shirt I desire.
Are there things I hope were different at Proper Cloth? Sure I do.
Information wise, I would like to have a measurement given for striped shirtings, for I remember being slightly disappointed when my Light Blue Heavy Thin Stripe came out thinner than I had envisioned (just so you know, each stripe is about 2mm wide; it’s on my website review).
More importantly, I really wished that shipping prices would be much more affordable. I live in Singapore, and it’s a whopping USD$100 to get them to send it to me. To get around this, I enlist the services of the third party courier HopShopGo (thank god for them, really) that quotes me around SGD$20-25 for a single shirt. Not cheap by any means, but still beats Proper Cloth’s prices by a huge margin (especially with the strong USD currently).
That said, these are to me relatively minor quibbles that I’m willing to deal with given that I’m able to have fitted shirts with details that matter to me. On this front, I couldn’t be more appreciative of the company. I know this blog was created really as a personal outlet, but if you chanced upon this and got interested in trying them out, get $20 off your first shirt by using this referral code (https://propercloth.com/i/iutx17), and I’ll also get a discount for my next purchase.