As I was looking through my closet in preparation for my summer job, I noticed a surprising lack of good dress shirts. Indeed, I really had only two or three shirts of high enough quality for professional wear. Perhaps it’s the upcoming British elections (for the record, the Gentleman would vote Tory) that has caused me to think about London lately, but my thoughts immediately wandered to Jermyn Street and that London institution’s legendary dress shirts.
For decades, Jermyn Street has been the place to find a perfectly tailored shirt in London. More than just a place to shop, shirtmakers with a Jermyn Street address are considered to have reached the pinnacle of their craft. It is no surprise then that Jermyn Street has outfitted such iconic Brits as Winston Churchill and James Bond. With this illustrious legacy, one would think that the shirtmakers would charge prices so exorbitant that only gentlemen with checking accounts to rival those of Mssrs. Churchill and Bond would be able to afford them. Not so! Buying shirts from Jermyn St. is both more affordable and of an astronomically higher quality than buying shirts from “typical” stores in the mall, and no plane ticket across the pond is required. The power of the Internet has brought Jermyn St. to us!
First off, some preliminary information: British shirts are very different in style than American dress shirts. The most notable difference is the collar. Typical American shirt collars are either point collars or button-down collars. In contrast, British shirts feature spread collars. Collar style is a personal preference and certain collars go better with certain face types (to be discussed in the future). A British spread collar shirt also goes better with thicker, wider ties since there is a lot more room for a larger tie knot, while American point or button-down collar shirts match better with thinner, slimmer ties. British shirtmakers also favor more vibrant colors and patterns, especially stripes and checks in pastel colors. The combination of the wide-spread collar and the brightly colored patterns lead to a very aggressive looking shirt that is often favored by men in banking and management positions on either side of the Atlantic.
Photo Credit: Dann-Online
Photo Credit: Dann-Online
The key to getting a great deal on a Jermyn Street shirt is knowing which shirtmaker to buy from and buying several shirts at a time. Some shirtmakers, like Turnbull & Asser and Thomas Pink, are quite expensive and outside of this Gentleman’s budget. However, there are three classic Jermyn Street shirtmakers that provide shirts at excellent prices: Charles Tyrwhitt, T.M. Lewin and Harvie and Hudson. Of those three, Harvie and Hudson is a bit more pricey but has the best reputation. The way to go for each of these stores is to buy their bulk deals. Both Charles Tyrwhitt and T.M. Lewin offer any four shirts for 100 £. I sprang for two shirts from Harvie and Hudson and my roommate picked up a third to round out the deal. After shipping and currency conversion, each shirt came out to $55, lower than the price of dress shirts at mall retailers like Banana Republic and J. Crew.
For my first Harvie and Hudson purchase, I chose a pink button cuffed shirt and blue French cuffed (the Brits called these Turn Back cuffs) shirt with a contrasting white collar. Both shirts have a spread collar and fierce coloring, typifying the British look. Below you can see these shirts when paired with ties, also from Jermyn Street, to complete the look. The weight of the fabric is exceptional and after one wash, the shirts seem quite sturdy. This is is stark contrast to the dress shirts that I have from stores like H&M that feature thin cotton that have not held up well.
All in all, I’m very happy with my first Jermyn St. purchase and would highly recommend considering shopping British for any gentleman looking to expand his dress shirt collection at a reasonable price.
Next time: The Gentleman will consider a rainbow of polo shirts. See you then!