Review: Sebastian Ward Shirts (Blue & White Stripe)

I first heard about Sebastian Ward as I do many new clothing companies, on the Ask Andy Forums. It came up in a discussion about the merits of taller collars for longer necked people. Most off the rack shirt collars are made in just one height. It can be a little frustrating to those of us who want a taller collar for our giraffe necks but mostly have to make do. Of course, they are passable and most people but us won't notice. One of our newest yet quite knowledgeable members mentioned Sebastian Ward as an option for those who are looking for such an animal. It was easy to see why he was a satisfied customer, looking at the website. The features these shirts boasted were ones normally only available by bespoke. For good reason -- the shirts are made by Mel Gambert Bespoke of Newark, New Jersey.

The taller, curved, wide spread collar is a feature listed as "helping frame the face", though I believe it's best worn by taller people or those with a longer than usual neck. Otherwise it may simply overwhelm your features. The sleeves are done a bit differently from most shirts, instead having a snug cuff and longer length to allow for more movement in concert with the higher armholes. I found it had the added benefit of keeping your hands dressed at all times and ensuring the shirt cuffs never disappear into your jacket sleeves. (An annoying habit some shirts can have even when you get just the right amount of cuff showing.) I'm not going to say one way is necessarily right over the other. Merely a matter of preference, even to bespoke shirtmakers.

About a month ago I came into contact with Christopher Berry, founder of Sebastian Ward, and we agreed to do a review to give some constructive feedback and spread the word about his brand. To that end, he sent me a blue and white striped shirt which is essentially a Bengal stripe. This is actually a good idea for shirt reviews since it shows how skilled in pattern matching the tailors are. He explained the genesis of how he designed these shirts, being inspired by Victorian clothing (much of which was designed for horseback riding, necessitating a full range of motion) and the frustration of shirts that didn't let him move around as well as he'd like without binding uncomfortably or becoming untucked in the process. In designing the shirts, he got his hands on every book about drafting shirt patterns as he could and designed probably the best Australian mother of pearl shirt button I've seen. Basically, he had already done most of Gambert's homework for them. What a guy. We need more like him.

Overall, I really do like the shirt. However, I think there needs to be an actual fused, folded over placket for stability rather than the soft French (seamless) front on these. It would cause less gaping between the buttons when seated. It's not as if this shirt is any slimmer than the ones I have either. Which is good, as I agree with them that tighter is not better -- there needs to be enough fabric that it's still comfortable and looks like a man's shirt. In fact, upon measuring, the fit in a 16/36.75 (I normally wear a 35" sleeve) is nearly identical to Ledbury's in a 16/35 down to the extra long shirt tails. I suppose great minds think alike? The sleeves and hips are a bit slimmer than Ledbury, but that's about it.

Another area that could improve is in the sewing of the buttons, despite how well designed they are. Ledbury and many other shirts in this price range have thread wrapped button shanks. This is especially noticeable in how short the slack is, causing a bit of a "bubble" effect around the seamless placket.

While we're comparing to Ledbury, it's worth noting that the collar bands are similarly fused from the outside in, giving it better stability and making it more comfortable to wear around the neck.

The fabric is beautiful, soft, and light two-ply 100s broadcloth. It irons pretty easily and doesn't wrinkle like hell. But then, I'd expect no less of Thomas Mason fabric.

More observations (and actual pictures!) below.

Simple, sturdy little box. Unseen is the neat little plastic window at the top side, perhaps used at the warehouse to identify the shirt fabrics at a glance.

Fairly standard tissue wrapping.

Some may be disappointed at the lack of a split yoke, though some shirtmakers disagree about how useful they are, especially in ready-to-wear shirts.

Here you can see the unique, seamless way they integrate the stay pockets into the rest of the collar. It's a small thing to be sure, but it makes the collar look even cleaner in design when worn with a tie.

Gussets. Though controversial with some clothing addicts and shirtmakers, I think these actually help since they expand when sitting.

Darts in back, something I like as it gives shirts a little more shape than side seams alone can. I used to dislike them from a distance, but upon trying on Ledbury's original line of shirts my opinion changed. I was later disappointed when they took them off due to customer complaints.

The barrel cuff design. The buttons are close to the bottom edge so a watch can be worn while still maintaining the snug cuff and longer sleeve. Brooks Brothers and Mercer & Sons do this on their shirt cuffs, though for different reasons. Some say it was originally to fold back and keep your cuffs clean when writing with fountain pens.

Reinforcement at the bottom of the placket on both sides. Nice touch.

The plastic collar stays have some jagged edges and might do some damage to the stay pockets over time. Not great for a $175 shirt and something that needs immediate improvement, in my opinion.

True to their word, my watch slid inside the cuff pretty easily and still shows the right amount with a jacket.

This is the only area where the collar design falls short, no pun intended. The points are certainly long and flamboyant, but the stays tend to creep up within minutes of wearing and a good 3/4" of the ends are flat against my chest. Though I understand wanting to make sure the collar points meet the lapels, they do not quite need to be 4.25" long.




Nice pattern matching from yoke to sleeve.

So, would I recommend this shirt? Yes. With some slight reservations. Namely that the collar design is not universally flattering and the stays definitely need better quality control. Some of the aforementioned issues could simply be attributed to the way Mel Gambert makes their shirts. Still, for $175, consumers rightfully demand that things be perfect.

This is only the "first phase" of their clothing line. Christopher plans to add more options and a MTM service for shirts later on, with other clothing items currently in the planning stages. Tomorrow, their showroom will have its grand opening in New York City. Check it out if you're in the area! Tickets are free and it sounds like it's going to be a blast.

DISCLAIMER: Nouveau Vintage received material compensation for this review. However, every effort has been made to remain objective.

Comments

  1. I'm going to stick up for French plackets. My first every dress shirt (not counting school uniforms) and I've been in love with that elegant simplicity ever since.

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    Replies
    1. Go right ahead. I'm not saying they're wrong necessarily, just that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages for me. Some claim it's more formal as all proper white tie shirts are made that way. But since the entire bib is stiff and thus requires studs it's not quite a fair comparison in my view. The better French plackets I've seen have a little fusing to make up for the lack of stability. I still prefer the folded placket in the end since even unfused ones are better at keeping the front of the shirt neat.

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