Our Fit Manifesto: Athletic Fit Italian Dress Shirts
When I bought my first dress shirt, I went with a made-in-Italy brand that I was attracted to because of its unique spread collar and high collar stand.
Unfortunately, it was made for a haberdashery where shirts weren’t the main focus. They wanted to stock dress shirts that customers could pick based on neck size alone, and no matter their body type, be reasonably assured that the shirt would fit. I ended up having to settle with a poor fit in exchange for an impressive collar. The features that I wanted - long collar points, an impressive spread collar and a collar roll - were simply not available in a better fitting shirt.
The result was a dress shirt that looked amazing under a jacket or a sweater but bloused and billowed in the wind when worn alone, with trousers or jeans.
With this and other Italian shirts, everything but the spread collar was short and skimpy. The sleeves were so tight that my arm could barely bend and the tails were so short that the shirt body would never stay tucked in.
As a taller, athletic guy, I have constantly struggled against the fit of my shirts.
Naturally, my earliest experiences with dress shirts are what influenced me the most when it came time to draft a pattern for Sebastian Ward.
When I reflected on the history of dress shirts, I realized that it wasn’t until the #menswear movement of recent years that men began to complain about the tightness of their dress shirts.
So, in my desperation, I looked to the past.
It turns out, in the 18th century, clothing was performative. While we often over-critique the baggy sleeves and silly waistcoats that men wore during that time, we forget that during that era, people normally endured strenuous conditions and often had to mount a horse to get anywhere. Not an easy task in tight fitting garments.
Today we have far more conveniences, but we continue to have physical demands in the professional world: Men carry briefcases, ride public transportation, hail taxis, draw on whiteboards, hold umbrellas, and sit at desks for hours on end with their arms stretched out over a keyboard.
It’s ridiculous to believe that a tight and skimpy shirt is going to perform comfortably in our current day and age. Yet, over the years, men have been tricked into thinking that “tighter fit” is synonymous with “better fit”. As a result, functionality and mobility are often limited in modern dress shirts.
The reality remains that athletic men are seeking a flattering, yet practical fit that will reliably stand up to their daily physical requirements, an athletic fit.
Our shirt is designed for those men.
Christopher Sebastian Berry