Why a good shirt matters
The humble shirt seldom receives the attention it deserves. It's ubiquitous after all, and easy to take for granted. How long have you had the same dirty white and washed-out blue shirts in your working wardrobe? How long have you worn that increasingly tired cotton drill number on the weekends? Alas, as the most common piece of clothing in the gentleman's wardrobe, shirts are so often ignored in favour of the things that sit around them - ties, hankies and accessories. But to take your shirts for granted is to miss the most obvious opportunity to present a smart version of yourself to the world. It's a simple pleasure really, once you've worn a well-made, properly fitted shirt, there's no turning back.
New & Lingwood, I'm pleased to report, takes its shirts very seriously. The house has enjoyed a long history of fine shirtmaking – when it opened its first shop in Eton in 1865, the company was a shirtmaker to the college and its scholars first and foremost. Then, when it came to opening a shop in London in 1922, the house gravitated towards Jermyn Street as a matter of course. Fine quality shirts with an English sensibility have been an integral part of New & Lingwood’s offering ever since.
Now, for the autumn winter season, New & Lingwood has overhauled its shirting, to offer a finer range than ever before. Available in classic and tailored fits for different figures, shirts are made in a superior European workshop, incorporating a number of different signifiers of quality.
Firstly, the collars. The house’s signature shape is the ‘St James’ collar which is available in its classic and tailored fits and the Extreme Cutaway, which comes in the tailored fit. The St James collar feels refreshingly modern, with less flare than the collars found on other Jermyn Street shirts. Instead, it’s a touch more pointed and sits closer on the neck for a crisp look. All the house’s collars are loose lined for longevity, made up of no less than 12 different parts, including discreet hidden internal collar bones that ensure the collar supports itself and sits properly, even if you’ve forgotten to put your removable collar bones in.
Beyond that, cuffs are loose-lined too and the shirts use 19 stitches per inch throughout for a super-smooth, clean make. Side-seams are finished with a French seam, a real mark of quality. Shirt tails are cut long over the hips to ensure the shirt won’t escape from your trousers as you move through a busy day.
The house also works closely with the best Italian shirting mills, including Thomas Mason, Monti and Albini, to ensure the materials it uses are of the very best quality. Alongside the timeless poplins that are carried season after season, each collection includes a rich variety of fun checks, stripes and cloths that are suited to seasonal dressing, whether contemporary denim and warming cotton flannels for the cooler months, or chic linen plainweaves or cotton-linen blends for spring and summer. As always, New & Lingwood is there for gentlemen who value well-made wardrobe staples and seasonal statement pieces in equal measure.
Of course, bespoke and made-to-order shirt-making are also New & Lingwood prerequisites. The company’s in-house bespoke cutter Charles is on-hand to measure, fit and cut bespoke shirts for customers. A toile or trial shirt will always be made first, with collar and cuff proportions fettled by Charles personally. Once the fitting toile is approved, the customer’s shirts are made in a London workshop to true bespoke standards. Made-to-order shirting is cut and stitched in the same European workshop that makes the house’s ready-to-wear shirts. This service offers the ideal compromise for gentlemen who need slight amendments to the ready-to-wear patterns to ensure a perfect fit or who would like to experiment with their choice of cloth, collar, placket or cuff.
20th century developments in silk printing enabled designers to add more intricacy and detail than ever before. Allied fighter pilots in the Second World War would often carry a handkerchief or silk scarf printed with a map of enemy territory. Unlike a paper map, silk wouldn’t suffer from creasing or water damage, and could be easily concealed. Silk printing also opened up a world of possibilities for pocket square design – possibilities designers in the second half of the 20th century eagerly explored. Makers began to see the small, decorative square for what it had the potential to be – a canvas, a piece of art.
It’s an exciting season for New & Lingwood, particularly where shirts are concerned. They really are designed with the discerning gentleman in mind, and well priced too, considering the quality of fabric, fit and make. Well worth exploring when you’re next on Jermyn Street.