The Best Luxury Dress Shirts
Borrelli ($230-$450 depending on fabric and handwork)
Founded in 1957 by Luigi Borrelli, this family run business is now run by his son, Fabio. After the major seams are sewn together by machine (the side, sleeve and yoke seams) each shirt is sent into the countryside for finishing. Local seamstresses with generations of artisanal stitching know-how, take the shirt packages home to sew the armholes, collar, cuffs, buttons and side gussets (or the ‘mouche’ as Borrelli refers to it).
The shirts are then cleaned of any oils, food or cigarette ash that may have accumulated as a result of the hand finishing process.
Over the past five or so years, however, Borrelli has taken much of the handwork out of their shirts, in order to meet the demands of the market. Unless placing a custom order, Borrelli shirts now are about 90% machine sewn. The only parts being sewn by hand on RTW are usually just the buttons and side gussets. This has brought down the price substantially from the $450 norm that they once were (around 2006), to a more attainable $230 or so, depending on fabric.
As for fit, Borrelli runs on the slim side, and features and clean-cut, circular armholes. Sleeves are usually only offered in one, standard length (around a 33” sleeve). This is a common practice in European RTW dress shirts.
Charvet ($425-450 depending on fabric and handwork)
The first shirt shop in Paris, founded in 1838 by Joseph-Christophe Charvet. These shirts are all cut, sewn, and finished in its legendary Place Vendome headquarters.
Their make has always been to the highest standard, especially in two areas: fabric selection (over 104 shades of white and 200 shades of solid blue to choose from at the bespoke level!), and pattern matching.
Most of Charvet’s fabrics are designed in-house and milled from exclusively for their own consumption, gossypium barbadense a special cotton from the Nile Delta.
Charvet sticks to the classics in ready to wear and is usually found in a modest semi-spread or forward point collar with no collar gap. The fit is conservative and full cut, but as you can imagine, the shirt is dripping with little unique details (such as their squared off tail and rounded front bottom panels).
Turnbull & Asser ($285 and up, depending on fabric)
At 130 years old, Turnbull and Asser is as quintessentially British a shirtmaker as one can get—It has been the official shirt of James bond in almost every film since Dr. No, shirtmaker to Winston Churchill, and was the first company to which Prince Charles (Prince of Wales) awarded a royal warrant.
Their ready to wear is usually available only in their classic semi-spread design, with moderate-length collar points and their signature three button barrel cuff (with mother of pearl buttons, of course, though they are famously easy to chip). Aside from classic solids and patterns, Turnbull is widely known for its use of unique patterns which are exclusive to the firm.
Turnbull & Asser is as British an institution as any, and is praise-worthy for keeping its classic shapes relevant and meaningful to today’s generations (especially through being carried on Mr. Porter).
The fit is usually classic and full-cut, although they have in recent years introduced a slim-fit. Handwork on ready to wear is almost nil, and instead the firm focuses on sturdy and precise machine stitching.
Kiton ($595 and up, depending on fabric and handwork)
via Bergorf Goodman
Co-founded in 1956 as “Cipa” in Naples, Italy by Ciro Paone and Antonio Carola, Kiton represents the ultimate in Italian craftsmanship in shirtmaking (and frankly in all other areas of sartorial).
On a Kiton shirt, the first thing you’ll probably spot is the price—substantially higher than most ready to wear that one could find. On the shirts in its Manhattan flagship (around $800 and up), the only seams that are stitched by machine are the collar leaf and cuffs (so as to give a cleaner presentation). The side seams are half-sewn by machine—one pass made by machine, and then the seam allowance is folded over and closed by hand. Everything else on a Kiton shirt is sewn by hand! This is an extremely labor intensive process and one which few firms are willing to undertake.
The ready to wear fits of Kiton range from shop to shop, though most fall within either a classic or slim category.
Finamore ($550 and up, depending on fabric)
via Frans Boone
Founded in 1925, Finamore has been associated with its eponymous, Neapolitan factory. Its been the shirtmaker to famous Italians throughout the decades, including former Fiat Chairman, Gianni Agnelli. The bulk of their business is generated from ready to wear, though custom orders are possible.
Their ready to wear fit is solidly in the slim category, and the construction is dripping with handwork, much in the same way as a Kiton shirt.
Expect to see Neapolitan details on a Finamore such as: a gathered sleevehead (la mappina) and a yoke piece that is attached with no visible stitching (blind-stitched by hand from the inside of the shirt).
Finamore’s greatest strength, perhaps is their collar interlining and spread design, which is renown the world over for producing an untrammeled, softly rolling effect.
Sebastian Ward ($99)
Founded in 2012 by three friends with a shared vision for creating the ultimate simple and elegant shirt that fits well, has the best design features and doesn’t break the bank. Sebastian Ward dress shirts are made in America’s second oldest shirt factory, Mel Gambert shirts, which has been in continuous operation since 1933.
We started by looking at all the best dress shirts that could be found on the market and answered the common complaints that came up in ready to wear, particularly around fit, collar and price.
Inspired by the classic shirts above, Sebastian Ward shirts proudly feature:
- A tall, curved collar band (to better frame your face)
- Double-button closure (for style)
- Long collar points (to keep the collar tucked under a jacket)
- High armholes (for flexibility)
- Sleeves cut for full movement
- A classic-length tail (allows the shirt to stay tucked in)
- Season-less fabric and colors befitting any situation (to allow a Sebastian Ward shirt to be your go to dress shirt and reduce decision fatigue)
We were able to achieve such a significant difference in price by keeping our design simple and removing hand work. Both adjustments make the Sebastian Ward dress shirt the ultimate expression of modern minimalist design inspired by classic products.