Review: Ledbury Fine Shirtmaker (Now updated with fit pictures.)
Ledbury is one of the newer shirt companies borne of the recession that has nonetheless managed to capture an audience and do pretty well for themselves. CEO Paul Trible explains the genesis:
We started Ledbury really out of a love for clothes and our personal experience of great menswear being so difficult to find in the United States. Outside of New York City, it was hard to find clothes that focused on great fit and great quality at an accessible price point. Before the e-commerce boom, it was nearly impossible. I would come back from London to Virginia on holidays, and there was not one place within a three-hour drive where I could buy a shirt. It was either big box retailers that lacked fit and quality or a specialty retailer that sold Italian cloth at $250 a shirt. It seemed like there had to be others out there that were frustrated by the lack of options so we decided to try and address the problem. We started making shirts from Italian fabrics with mother of pearl buttons, that were stitched in Europe and pricing them at $125. Consequently, I think we are able to open up an entirely new market to luxury shirting.Regarding their trademark "Short Run Shirting":
Our time working in London certainly impacted the clothes that we make. In terms of fit, we offer a more tailored shirt that, until recently, would be equated to a more European cut. In terms of style, our most popular shirts are made with rich twills and poplins that are topped with spread collars. Three years ago, everyone in the United States was making workwear with washed oxfords and small button down collars; I think we were able to offer something different with an American take on a more polished English style shirt.
We love limited run options for a few different reasons. First, it allows us release a ton of styles. This year alone, we are going to release 150+ new fabrics. Our customers love the variety – we have one customer who has purchased more than 100 shirts in the last 14 months alone. Second, from a design standpoint, it’s more fun for us to continually play with new fabrics, collars and cuts. It’s a great opportunity for us to be a little more creative without taking on too much risk.They also have some other items available, such as genuine sterling silver cufflinks, a leather belt with a rather unique looking buckle, and a good variety of patterned pocket squares. Trible also said that there were plans for ties, blazers, and scarves this winter which have been in the works for over a year. I can't wait to see what they have on offer. Sadly, for those wanting made-to-measure options, there are currently no plans for it.
I chose three Slim Fit shirts to try on, running the gamut from casual to semi-formal. All of them have the same quality features, some of which aren't listed on their website yet are a pleasant surprise.
- Premium fabrics. All are Italian made two-ply cotton, mostly 100s or 120s thread count.
- Collar stand is fused from the outside in and attached separately rather than fused together with the collar leaves. This prevents it from collapsing and makes it easier to clean the infamous "ring around the collar". Although I still generally prefer collars with sewn interlinings, these are quite comfortable for being fused.
- Mother-of-pearl buttons with thread wrapped shanks. The buttons aren't as thick as many internet shirt aficionados prefer, but they look and feel high quality. The thread wrapped shanks lend a bit of strength so buttons won't come off as easily.
- Slightly lowered second button and ample button spacing. This creates just the right amount of "V" when wearing the collar open. Pardon me while I geek out... I absolutely love this feature. It's the answer to many situations where an undone collar button isn't enough, yet unfastening the second button starts going into disco territory. Another side effect of the carefully engineered button spacing is that the last button is tucked below the trouser waistband where it belongs, keeping everything straight. Far too many clothiers space their buttons too close and too high on the shirt.
- Pattern matching throughout. Maintains a consistent look and is a mark of high quality and attention to detail.
|From left to right: The Blue Oxford, The Blue Gingham Worker, The Tuxedo Shirt|
I was initially sceptical of the Slim Fit, reading the dimensions on the website and the fact that it had darts. To my surprise, it's actually one of the best fitting off the rack shirts I've worn. The darts, far from making it feel feminine, give a subtle yet graceful taper at the waist. (Then again, even James Bond has worn darted shirts and no one would question his masculinity.)
Regardless of the choice of fit or fabric, the shirts have no breast pockets or back pleats. The sleeves are attached at a slight downward angle, but not as bad as some retail fashion shirts I've seen. If they were attached straight from the shoulder, this would improve mobility a bit.
|Good pattern matching. However, the sleeve attachment would be better if it were straight along the shoulder.|
The only other nitpick is that they sell by neck size only, having a standard sleeve length for every size. I'm lucky that I happen to fit the size 16's sleeve length, but others may not be so fortunate. They offer sleeve shortening but cannot lengthen so if, for instance, you wear a 16-36 then sadly you're out of luck. (This is also something made-to-measure or some kind of special order programme would solve.) On the flip side of this, their casual shirts are also sold by neck size, which is a more precise fit than ordering "S-M-L-XL" sizes from other retailers and gives you the option of wearing a tie if you see fit.
But without further ado, let's move on to the shirts themselves.
The Blue Oxford
This is some of the nicest oxford cloth I've ever held in my hands. Made by Thomas Mason, it feels quite rich for a traditionally casual fabric. While I like that their button-down has a wider spread and higher collar stand, I feel it could benefit from non-fused (sewn) interlining in the collar, cuffs, and placket. Many clothing enthusiasts would say it's essential. The classic "OCBD" is a pretty relaxed shirt by its nature, after all. The collar points could also stand to be a bit longer, up to about 3 1/4", and more curved. Along with raising the collar buttons slightly, this would allow the points to roll nicely.
|The collar shape is nice, but could use some more roll and a softer construction.|
|A good closeup of the fabric. All the shirts I received were marked as made in Poland.|
The Blue Gingham Worker
Made from two-fold poplin, the small scale pattern is at home worn with chinos all the way up to a suit and tie. It is also light and breathable, which paired with the colour and pattern make it perfect for spring and summer. Features their "Anglo-American" collar, a 4.5" spread with 3" points. This is by far my favourite of the shirts I was sent.
|Neatly boxed and shipped.|
|Horizontal buttonhole at the bottom. Many shirts feature this now, but it's still a nice touch.|
The Tuxedo Shirt
The Thomas Mason royal twill used for this shirt is exquisite, sporting pronounced ribs with a tasteful amount of sheen. Made with the "Ledbury" collar, a 5" spread with 2 7/8" points. I mentioned before that the collar stands are fused from the outside in. It's a shame the same attention isn't paid to the double cuffs, which are fused. On a premium shirt they should be made with a non-fused interlining so they can roll back and curve nicely around the wrist. I hope they'll consider this, as I can attest that non-fused double cuffs are infinitely more comfortable as well.
A novel feature is that the next to last button is concealed, so those who forgo a waist covering with their black tie rig will not have any embarrassing buttons showing below the studs. There is an included button strip, but it seems more like a placeholder than an alternative to studs, being made with very small buttons on a thin piece of herringbone that tends to pull out of the stud holes easily. I think a better approach would be to attach normal sized buttons to a stiffened strip of fabric, using their normal method of thread wrapped shanks.
I think having the collar, cuffs, and a bib front made from the twill fabric with the rest of the shirt in a light broadcloth would have been the best approach. (While I understand the reason they give for not having a bib, I submit that a gentleman never removes his dinner jacket anyway.) Not only would the front of the shirt lay smoothly, it would wear lighter in summer months. A more minor nitpick is that there are four stud holes rather than three. This is a rather recent phenomenon of the last few decades. A theory is that retailers were unaware that the fourth stud in a set was meant as a spare. Besides that, I find black tie shirts with three studs somehow look better, less cluttered if you will.
In spite of all my nitpicks, this is still a very classy and nice shirt to wear for a black tie event.
|The quintessential English shirt collar.|
|This is quite a beautiful fabric.|
|The hidden button.|
Ledbury shirts are well made in exquisite fabrics and have features that will usually set you back more than twice their starting price of $125. While there are certain style details that could use refinement and I wish their sizing was a little more flexible, I am confident that they will continue to improve their product as they grow as a company.
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DISCLAIMER: The products were provided for a period of time and returned. No material compensation was given and every effort was made to maintain objectivity.