Monday, 9 September 2013


Last week I was invited to the launch part of ShirtSmart, a new service being launched by Barrington Ayre, a well-respect Cotswolds-based tailor who previously provided me with one of his beautiful pairs of tweed house-shoes. Aside from enjoying the surroundings of the Century Club on Shaftesbury avenue to which, alas, I no longer have access since they fell out with the Rushmore Group, it was fascinating to talk to Tom about his latest project, and what his plans are.

The service, which is now live, neatly appeals to men who wear shirts regularly and need a certain number a year, often ordering the same selection. It allows you to set up your basic order of 5, 12 or 25 shirts per year and then have them repeat for a monthly or annual fee. Perhaps more importantly, though, these will be custom-made, by hand, based on your individual measurements and with a wide array of options over collar, cuffs, fabrics and other options such as the button colour and even the colour of the buttonhole thread.

As Tom says, it's very difficult with a shirt to get a good fit off the shelf, and inevitably you seem to end up compromising on something. The fact that so many retailers size purely by collar-size (which is pretty much non-negotiable - it has to be right) means that it's very easy to end up with sleeves too long or too short, especially if you want just the right amount of cuff to show under a suit, or a body that is big and billowy. Just having the basic measurements added can remove a lot of these issues and result in a far, far better shirt. In addition, it's always nice to be able to choose all the elements, since I seem to spend an unnecessary amount of time debating whether to buy the slim-fit shirt in the lovely fabric but the collar that's not quite as cutaway as I like, or the shirt with a fabric I didn't really want but the collar that I prefer. A service like ShirtSmart means you can get exactly what you want, and then continue getting it at regular intervals for as long as you need.

Of course, the measurements have to be right and it does rely to a large extent on your own measurements, although ShirtSmart do have their travelling 'shirtettes' who can take measurements when they're in your area. Either way, when the first shirt arrives you can make as many adjustments as you need and then have them applied to all future shirts, so in the end it shouldn't be hard to get a perfect fit.

From the samples at the event, the quality seemed excellent although I haven't yet had an opportunity to try it myself, and some of the customers were wearing other Barrington Ayre shirts which looked beautiful so he certainly has the skill and experience to make this work. Of course, it may not appeal to people who like popping into their shirtmaker a couple of times a year to be talked into some new fabric or to be remeasured to take account of any physical changes over the Christmas period, but it's clearly excellent for people who are increasingly used to being able to order online and still get top-quality service. It definitely has the potential to take a lot of the hassle out of maintaining a decent wardrobe of well-fitting shirts for wearing every day. 


  1. If this is as good as it sounds, this could be very useful. I usually buy my work shirts from one of the high volume Jermyn Street shops, as the rate I go through them doesn't justify spending a couple of hundred pounds each time. So I've been waiting for one of these shops - Charles Tyrwhitt, Hawes & Curtis etc - to offer a MTM service or similar, a step up from off te shelf but with sacrificing some details to offer a cheaper MTM/bespoke shirt. So this service sounds pretty ideal to me. As long as I can be sure of the quality then I'll more than likely be giving this a go! I appreciate, Jake, you say you've not had any experience with Barrington Ayre, but do you know anybody that has, or do any of your readers? I'll be interested to know.

    By the way, great blog, I find it really interesting and gives me some great tips. So keep it going!


    1. Hi David,

      Thanks for the kind words - much appreciated.

      I don't personally know anyone who's used Barrington Ayre and, like you, I'd be very curious to hear from anyone who has experience of them, so please speak up if you have! From the shirts I saw at the launch party, either laid out or worn by guests, the quality looked good... but of course it's hard to tell.

      I would definitely hope they'd be better than CT or H&C, though, with whose products I am not usually very impressed, but then ShirtSmart do still work out a little more expensive - around £75 a pop I think.

      If you do give them a go, be sure to let me know what you think.

    2. I'd be surprised if the quality wasn't that good, I'm sure I'd be able to find some bad press if it was, so I'll probably just give them the benefit of the doubt and give it a try.

      I would hope quality is better than CT etc - I was hoping for a half way I terms of quality and price between them and a full bespoke shirt, so it seems to sit nicely in the middle, in terms of price at least. I will let you know if/when I get my first shirt through.

    3. This comment may well get me marched behind the barn and shot, but here goes...

      Have you thought about looking into Marks & Spencer's made to measure shirt service?

      Like you, I tend to go through work shirts at a fairly tremendous rate and could neither justify nor afford to spend hundreds of pounds bulk buying genuine bespoke shirts from the likes of New & Lingwood et al.

      Marks M-to-M service doesn't require a minimum order and I think prices start from about £40 a shirt. I've used them a couple of times now for work shirts and would say the quality is probably on a par with the likes of CT and Lewin.

      Just a thought....

    4. Cigarette and a blindfold, Mr Shortshanks?

      Actually, I used the M&S M2M a while ago, and was pleasantly surprised. I don't buy much from there these days but I've got nothing against the quality of their shirts and, for the price, I don't think they're any worse than the lower-end stores with Jermyn Street pretensions, and probably better.

      As I recall, the M2M service allows a good range of customisation options (as many as ShirtSmart), but the only measurements are height/weight/collar/sleeves, and then picking from one of three levels of fittedness. All the same, if you're generally happy with off-the-peg shirts for everyday work-wear but struggle to get the right sleeve length for a given collar size, and have a particular collar and cuff type that you like, then the M&S service is a decent bet.

    5. Hi David, Tom from ShirtSmart here!
      I would be very happy to offer you a trial one off shirt at the same price as if you were using the subscription service (£73) for you try out the quality and make sure that we are what you are looking for?
      If you could simply send me an email and we can then have a chat and get a shirt made up for you
      I look forward to hearing from you soon

      Jake, great to meet you too and thank you very much for taking the time to come along to the launch party.
      Hope to catch up again soon

  2. So... I have my first shirt!

    Actually it's my second, the first 'trial' shirt that Tom kindly offered was received in November, but the measurements I took were a little (but enough) off and the fabric not what I was after. However, after some advice from Tom, I'm pleased to say the one I've just received I'm very pleased with - quality, fit and style - and looking forward to my next one. It's a good service, paying monthly is convenient and I can (and have) updated my order so could potentially have 5 very different shirts sent to me over the course of a year if I wanted. I'd definitely recommend it to others, especially if like me, they're looking to step up from RTW but put off by the big jump in price of buying from a shirtmaker.


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