The Anatomy of a Wilkes & Riley Dress Shirt

SHIRT-FOR-ILL
  • While other brands use fabric containing inferior grade cotton, we use only 100% extra-long staple Supima ® cotton grown exclusively in the southwestern United States. You’ll love the softness of the fabric which gets softer with age yet is extremely durable.
  • Many wrinkle-free shirts lose their wrinkle resistance properties after only a couple of washes. Our special process virtually eliminates wrinkling, color fading, puckering for up to 50 washes. You’ll look as crisp and neat at 7pm as you did at 7am.
  • Don’t be fooled by claims of unbreakable buttons (unless they are made of steel). Even our supplier states they pass the testing standard to qualify as unbreakable. Our buttons maintain the highest durability performance on the market. Our buttons can handle even the toughest laundry presses.
  • Most shirting companies have moved to “average” sleeve lengths as a way to reduce inventory costs. Our dress shirts come in exact neck and sleeve combinations to ensure a precise fit each and every time.
  • 4 pc split yoke provides added comfort.
  • Extra long shirt tails keeps your shirt tucked in all day long.

 

Wilkes & Riley non-iron dress shirts maintain the highest quality standards on the planet. Every purchase made from Wilkes & Riley is guaranteed for consistency with regard to fit and performance.

 

WHAT’S IN YOUR SUIT?

download

 

The importance of buying a suit with high quality fabric is obvious and cannot be overstated.  For decades Super 100’s wool fabric has been the dividing line between premium suits and those of lower quality. Super 110’s, and then Super 120’s, each go a step further, and provide lighter weight and better draping. Super 130’s fabrics go even further and we believe, provide the optimum balance between light weight and durability.  Super 130’s wool is a noticeably softer fabric that seems to shake off minor wrinkles.  You will notice the difference and so will everyone that sees you.  Of course fabric counts of 150’s to 170’s, or occasionally even 200’s are sometimes used in expensive suits and these fabrics look terrific, but I feel they tend not to hold up well over time.
A Wilkes and Riley suit in Super 130’s fabric, that is properly cared for, will look as good in five years as it does the first day you put it on.  Of course “Super” counts are just one factor used to determine fabric quality.  The skill and techniques used by the mill that weaves the fabric is just as important.  That’s why we only buy fabric from the world’s best mills.  Currently we offer twelve different suits, all of which are made with Super 130’s wool produced by the Reda Mill in Italy with wool from their own sheep raised in New Zealand.  Reda is widely recognized as one of the world’s finest manufacturers of luxury wool fabric and produces it exclusively in Valle Mosso near Biella where the company started nearly 150 years ago.
Before purchasing your next suit ask your salesman to tell you:
  • Which mill produced the fabric and where are they located.
  • What is the “super count” of the fabric.
  • What type of construction the suit;  fused, half canvas, full canvas.
  • Country of origin of the suit.

With this information in hand, you can then decide if you are getting real value for your money.

You can rest assured that when you buy a Wilkes and Riley, Super 130’s suit, you will be wearing one of the finest quality suits manufactured in the world. We are changing the way retail works.

ABOUT TO BUY A DRESS SHIRT? READ THIS FIRST!

catarisano-shirt-4

Having been responsible for product development, sourcing,  quality and purchasing of 33 million dress shirts in my career, I guess you can call me an expert when it comes to shirts. I’ve visited factories in every corner of the world and walked down countless sewing lines.  When I developed Wilkes & Riley shirts I focused on the following seven components:  fit, workmanship, fabric, performance, trim, consistency and country of origin.  Each component plays a significant role in the quality of a shirt.

Fit

A great fitting shirt begins with a great pattern and creating patterns takes years of experience. Honestly, if the shirt does not fit a person well then the rest of this article has little value.  All retailers promote their fantastic fitting products but it only matters if it fits you.   If you are buying in a store, then take the time and try it on. If buying online, make sure you buy from a company who offers free returns in case it doesn’t fit correctly.  Why should you be out any money if it doesn’t fit?

Workmanship

How well the shirt is constructed is a critical to the overall shirt.  Is the fabric pattern matched?  The following areas of your patterned shirt should be matched:

  • Shoulder to sleeve
  • Front shirt panels to front placket
  • Pocket (if any) to front shirt panel
  • Split yoke (if any)
  • Sleeve placket to sleeve

These aesthetics are often overlooked but are signs of a well made garment.  Pattern matching requires a level of skill that many manufacturers cannot achieve.  Additionally, it is more costly as it requires the factory to operate at a slower speed and also consumes more fabric.

Exact sleeve length – Is the shirt an exact or average sleeve length?  This is another identifier of better quality.  An average sleeve length shirt means the sleeve size covers multiple sizes and the extra button on the cuff allows you to adjust it to be closer to your size.  This is not ideal.  Look for shirt companies that offer exact sleeve length shirts.  They are designed to fit one size and therefore fit better. Why doesn’t everyone offer exact sleeve length?  It’s too expensive.  Retailers are looking to cut corners and reduce expenses and, by lowering the quality, they can reduce the number of units they carry.  Additionally, average sleeve length shirts are cheaper and easier to manufacture.

Stitching – Review the stitching on the shirt.  Is the stitching consistent?  Stitching inconsistencies throughout a garment is a sign of poor quality.  Are the stitches per inch (SPI) adequate?  Typically you will find between 14-22 SPI on a dress shirt.  A shirt with a higher SPI will generally be a better made garment  but there are exceptions to every rule but that’s a whole other article.

Single needle tailoring – Is the shirt constructed with single needle tailoring?  The benefits are not just appearance in which the shirts looks cleaner and lays flatter, but the seams are also stronger.  The reason, again, to not do it is cost.  More sewing operations are required and therefore more expensive to produce.

Split Yoke – Is there a split yoke at the center of your shoulders?  The yoke joins together the front and back panels of the shirt; this provides a little give when you are moving around and is another hallmark of a well made shirt.

Collar – The collar of the shirt should be symmetrical when comparing one side to the other.  Does your shirt have removable collar stays?  Always remove them when laundering your shirt, otherwise the hot pressing can cause the outline of the collar stays to appear on the outside of your shirt.

Shirt tails – Is the length of the dress shirt long enough to remain tucked in?  Since the fabric cost is typically 60%-70% of the cost value of the shirt, many retailers will cheat by reducing the length in order to save money.  In the case of some sport shirts, they may be designed to always be worn un-tucked.  Be sure to try on all shirts to make certain you are satisfied with the length.

Fabric

Since the fabric is what touches the body, most people should pay attention to the quality of the fabric but do you really know if it’s good?  Will it hold up after multiple washings?  You will see many retailers promoting the quality of their shirting fabric from 80 2-ply and up to 200 2-ply and even higher.  As good at that sounds, I am more interested in knowing who the weaver of the fabric is as this will tell me more about the fabric quality.  For example, a shirt woven at Thomas Mason, Albini, Canclini and Monti has equal appeal to me as does the yarn count.  Why?  Because I have purchased many shirts that, after two washes, the finishing washed away leaving the shirt limp and lifeless.  Also, the higher the yarn count, the more susceptible to wrinkling. High-end mills use extra long-staple Supmia or Egyptian cotton which are superior due to their fiber length and provides strength and durability after multiple washes. Unfortunately not all yarn used is the same so buyer beware. Ask questions so you know what you’re buying.

Performance

When it comes to wrinkle free or non-iron shirts, it seems like every retailer now-a-days offers their version of a wrinkle free shirt.  To avoid being too technical, there are basically two types:  “pre-cured” and “post-cured garment dipping.”  Pre-cured fabric means that the fabric is treated in the weaving mill where a resin is applied to the fabric to keep it wrinkle free.  While this process is improving, it is viewed as lower quality because the wrinkle free properties wash out more quickly, depending on the mill.  A dead giveaway that you have a pre-cured shirt is that you will not see a crease on the sleeve.  Post-cured garment dipping is the pinnacle of wrinkle free or non-iron shirts.  You will find these shirts at Brooks Brothers and Wilkes & Riley.  A garment dipped shirt means that after the shirt is constructed, it undergoes a special treatment that is applied to the garment and pressed perfectly into place (one small mistake and the shirt has to be thrown out) and  then baked in an oven at a high temperature, washed again and pressed.  The end result of these additional steps is that the shirt has the highest durable press rating (DP), which simply means it better prevents wrinkling more than the pre-cured process.  You’ll look as good when you take the shirt off at night as you did when you put it on in the morning.  There are only three or four manufacturers worldwide that can produce this level of quality.  It requires a very high degree of technical expertise which most manufacturers do not have.  In 2006, the Wall Street Journal compared wrinkle free shirts from various retailers and voted the shirt that I developed “best overall.”  Today, nearly ten years later, Wilkes & Riley introduces a far superior non-iron shirt. With the highest wrinkle free performance combined with exceptional softness of Supima cotton we are ready to take on all challengers!

Trim

Most Dress shirts today are made with fused interlining in the collar and cuff.  Take time to feel the collar and be sure that there is adequate body.  You don’t want a vice around your neck but you also don’t want it too soft.  You want the collar to have the right amount of body so the collar sits up nicely.  If a collar is too soft it will lay flat like a sport shirt.

Buttons – Like most men, when the button breaks we feel like we have to throw the shirt out.  It’s a catastrophe.   Polyester buttons, which are on most shirts, are generally inexpensive.  There is no such thing as an unbreakable polyester button.  Why do they break?  Inferior buttons use cheap quality resins that harden more quickly and warp causing them to become brittle and crack with age.  The durability of a polyester button can be increased by modifying the shape and using higher quality resins which prevent the button from warping even after exposure to hot temperatures .  Most shirts are sent to the dry cleaner for washing and pressing and are exposed to very hot temperatures.  This can be deadly for cheap buttons.  At Wilkes & Riley, our buttons are boil tested to simulate the aging process.  A batch of buttons are placed into boiling water, removed and left to cool overnight.   The next day, each button is individually tested.  A weight is dropped onto each button to test for cracking.  If any button cracks, the whole lot is rejected.

  • Mother of Pearl buttons – Expensive, beautiful and typically found on high-end European  brands,  where most people hang dry and iron the shirts themselves. In the states we generally take our shirts to the cleaners  who use  machines to iron the shirts, these presses can easily break these precious buttons.

Consistency

It can be quite frustrating to find a shirt that fits well one day, then you go back and buy a few more, only to find out they don’t fit the same. A good quality retailer will employ a quality control team that monitors the production ensuring that all shirts are being produced to their requirements.

Country of Origin

Where the shirt is produced is another factor in the workmanship, quality and price of the shirt.  Producing in Italy, while the craftsmanship is great, is cost prohibitive to most retailers.  Producing in even China is now considered expensive to most, moving production to lower cost producing countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and now Vietnam.

So there you have it.  I hope this article provides some insight into shirt making and why all shirts are not created equal.  At Wilkes & Riley, you will find the best of both worlds: Italian made shirts using fine quality fabrics from mills like Canclini.  Additionally, we offer post-cured garment dipped, wrinkle free shirts made with 100% Supima cotton, which is grown only in the United States.  Whether you like a tailored fit, which is our universal fit for most body types, or our slim fit, which keeps retains comfort but eliminates excess fabric, we have a shirt that will fit you.  Don’t worry, if for any reason your shirt doesn’t fit you, we’ll happily take it back.

 

SUIT BUYING MADE EASY

 

img3

If you’re in the market to purchase a suit and you want to make sure you get your money’s worth, please keep reading. We cover the all the basics:  fit, construction, fabric quality, country of origin and price.  A suit is an expensive investment, so before you spend your hard-earned money, know what you’re buying.  You’ll be glad you did.

Fit

Jackets

  • Shoulder – the seam should rest naturally on your shoulders. The only part of a suit that shouldn’t be altered is the shoulder because the cost to do so would be far too expensive.  It would be better to select a different suit.
  • Collar – the jacket collar should hug your shirt collar and not gap. The jacket collar should go about halfway up your shirt collar.  Between ½” to ¾” of your shirt collar should be visible.
  • Body – with your top or center button fastened, you should be able to slide a flat hand under your lapel. Additionally, the fastened button should be between three and four inches above the navel. If the jacket feels like it will tear while hugging someone, then it’s too tight. Your suit jacket should completely cover your behind, any further and it’s too long.
  • Shape –the sides of the suit should not go straight down. There should be a bit of taper that slims at your waist and sweeps out slowly to your hips.
  • Length – with your arms at your side, curl up your fingers; the jacket should rest in your hand.
  • Sleeve length – jacket sleeves should fall where the base of your thumb meets your wrist with ½” of the shirt cuff visible.

Trousers

  • Suit trousers should rest on your waist not your hips with a finger’s worth of room at the waistband. Proper fitting trousers should not require the support of a belt.
  • Pleat or plain-front trousers are matters of personal preference.  Fashion trends come and go and while we are in a plain front trend, pleated trousers do serve a purpose.
  • Cuffs or no cuffs are also based on personal preference. Current trends aside, cuffs do help with the drape of the pant.
  • Another personal preference would be break. This has to do with the amount of fold at the shin.  It all depends on height.  If you are shorter, you may want to choose no break to ¼ break whereas, someone taller should consider a ½ to full break.

Construction

There are three construction methods: fused, half canvas and full canvas.

  • Fused jackets are the easiest and cheapest method to produce. This is achieved by applying an interfacing (glue) that is applied to the front panel and lapel.  Inherently, the fused jacket will have a stiffness in the chest.  Although rare, excessive dry-cleaning can lead to bubbling where the interlining separates from the wool. Over time you can expect a loss of durability and flexibility. Fused suits are good if your main motivation is to have an inexpensive suit that will not be worn often.
  • Half canvas jackets provide form and shape by applying canvas to the top half of the jacket which includes the lapel and chest. The lower section of the front panels are fused. Overtime, the heat of the wearer’s body will mold the canvas to the shape of the body. Half canvas suits are considered mid range quality and make a great starter suit.
  • Full canvas jackets are the pinnacle of quality with the most time consuming method of manufacturing. The amount of detailed stitch work to sew the canvas to the shell is extensive and requires a great amount of skill. The outcome provides more flexibility, durability and will, over time, mold to the shape of your body providing the best possible fit.  Overall, a fully canvassed suit should be an investment piece that you can wear for years.

Fabric Quality

  • Yarn Count – suit fabric qualities are generally identified by their “super” number. The higher the super number, the finer the fabric. These super numbers allow the consumer to quickly recognize the fabric quality based on the super number specified. One may be tempted to reach for suits made of super 180’s or higher.  While they may appear beautiful, they tend to be more fragile. For daily use, you should select a range from 110’s to 130’s and for special occasions, 150’s to 180’s.

Country of Origin

  • Suits are manufactured all over the world, however, it is widely recognized that suits produced in England, Italy and the United States are of the highest quality. While this only covers the component assembly, the origin of the fabric remains a mystery. Some retailers will sew the mill label onto the jacket providing complete transparency. If the details for the fabric mill and quality are not attached to the garment,you should request this information before purchasing your suit.

Price

  • There are four main components that impact the cost of a suit; three of the four are listed above – construction method, fabric quality and country of origin. The fourth, markup, has nothing to do with the cost of manufacturing; it has to do with the added cost the retailer puts on top to cover overhead and profit margin. Overhead is the expense associated with running the business such as the cost to operate each of their physical store locations, as well as their marketing expenses such as advertising. So every print ad and every television commercial you see promoting their brand is eventually paid for by their customers.

 

Wilkes & Riley Suits

Wilkes & Riley suits are full canvas, constructed in Italy using premium Italian fabrics. All of our suits are manufactured with full garment pick-stitching and functional buttonholes also known as “working cuffs.” We offer two fits: classic and slim.  The patterns have been meticulously drawn by hand by our master tailor who has been crafting men’s suits for over 50 years.  We have taken the utmost care in creating these garments.  We would appreciate it if you would revisit our website after making your purchase and share your experience with us.