Review: Spier & Mackay -- Shirts and Ties
|Note the bellied peak lapels and wide pocket flaps. Fantastic.|
One look on their website and I was hooked. The shirts also looked reasonable in proportions, especially in the collar. Short collar points have become fashionable again in the last few years (as in the 1960s and, to some extent, the 1980s) but do not look good on many people unless they are especially small. Spier & Mackay rejects this trend in a similar way that their suits do, making collars that look great on almost anyone. Their semi-spread and spread collars are large enough to be flush with jacket lapels and flatter a longer neck. This is perfect for me, as many off the rack collars can look a bit undersized, particularly those with short points. The taller collar band also helps frame my face better considering I have a long neck. On top of that, they are affordable, starting at just $45.00 per shirt. I was impressed by the details given the price. There are side gussets, simple triangles of fabric in this case. The buttons are shell, though shirts made with Thomas Mason fabrics come with Australian mother of pearl. The shell buttons work well enough, though they can be a bit thick and difficult to button and unbutton. The collar band is even fused from the outside in, which is highly unusual in off the rack shirts at this price. Many high quality shirtmakers do this so the collar will be more comfortable and stand up better under a jacket, especially worn open collared. I saw a sale going on and an opportunity to try them out. So, with my own money, I bought two shirts and a tie that looked nice.
They offer two fits in shirts, Slim and Contemporary. After looking at the dimensions, I decided Contemporary would be the best way to go since I like a bit of comfort in my shirts, have broad shoulders, exercise somewaht regularly. This fit did indeed work out well and is more than trim enough on my figure. Both fits do not have darts in the back, which is a minor drawback but understandable. They do need to keep down expenses in some way. There is no Classic or Traditional Fit on offer, unfortunately for bigger people, but their MTM shirts start at $79 which is still very reasonable. The length is a bit shorter than I prefer, but in addition to all the other details it is not a dealbreaker and has yet to really come untucked on me. You also cannot reasonably expect a shirt at this price point to have every little thing you want. The shirts are all made in India.
The Navy Blue Butcher Stripe shirt I received had a very healthy "Full Spread" collar with 3 3/8" points and 6 1/2" spread. For something less aggressive/Italian and a little more moderate/English, they also carry smaller collars with what they call a "Semi-Spread", though I think their definition of that differs from most Americans'. The collar band measures 1 1/4" tall, which flatters my long neck well. This shirt came with single button mitred cuffs, though the style will vary between that and rounded depending on the quality level and collar style of their shirts. The back has no pleats. Though I prefer side back pleats, I can deal with not having them on a ready-made shirt. This shirt can be worn both casual and more "dressed up" with a tie, though I think this particular colour and style of stripe works a little better as the former. Were the stripe lighter and smaller, I think it would be easier to find ties that do not compete for attention. Your tie should always be the centrepiece, but it was my own error in choosing it. They have plenty of other stripes to pick from. This broadcloth fabric isn't quite what I'd call "silky", but does the job well enough and presses out crisply without much effort.
The Light Blue Oxford shirt was also nice but could have used two improvements in the collar. One was making the band taller, as it was not the same 1 1/4" indicated in the dimensions for MTM shirts, but a standard 1". I'm sure most people will not notice this. Another was that the collar was said to be unlined in the product listing, however, mine had light fusible interfacing. Rikky Khanna, owner of Spier & Mackay, said that this was due to customer comments about the unlined collar not standing up as well under a sports coat. While I understand and respect their decision to do this, I feel that light non-fused interfacing should have been used instead to retain the soft, versatile look of a classic "OCBD" shirt. After all, the placket and cuffs are made with sewn interfacings. To their credit, the current product listing has removed that detail from the description. The collar is even more rolled than I am used to (saying something since I have worn Mercer & Sons and Ratio Clothing), but has good dimensions with 3 1/2" points and a 4" spread. Unlike what is standard for OCBDs, they have done away with the box pleat or any back pleats whatsoever, which is the same for all their other shirts. Box pleats may be common on American shirts, but they offer virtually no benefit compared to pleats that sit near the shoulders. However, these do have a pocket in front along with their other sport shirts. Front pockets add to a casual look and can be useful, but are not as wearable with a jacket. In my experience, the pocket can often peak out from behind lapels and be distracting. Your mileage may vary of course. The fabric is a brushed oxford cloth, nice and soft, though they have since updated their OCBDs to have a less napped fabric -- also in response to customer feedback. (I like that they listen to their customers on small things such as this.) Keeping price point in mind, it will not quite be Brooks Brothers' Supima quality, but one should not expect it to be. The only real issue I had was the two collar point buttons having circles of scratchy interfacing sewn underneath them. Pretty much all button-down collars will have these points of reinforcement, but I ended up with two irritation spots on my collarbone by the end of the day. I decided to carefully remove these so the shirt would be more comfortable.
The Red & Navy Repp Stripe tie was a pretty decent value. Since the price starts at $35.00 full retail, it's not going to be made in the USA as with Brooks Brothers. The ties are all made in China at a standard width of 3 1/8" and length of 58", though the width of this one clocks in more at 3 3/8". I had no problems aside from not tying as well using a four-in-hand knot, with much of the large blade showing above the knot no matter how snug you make it. This also limits one's ability to arch the tie knot attractively. It may be better to use a half-Windsor or other symmetrical knots depending on how picky you are. All the ties are made in a common three-fold construction, which is about what I'd expect at this price point. I love the patterns they have available, but it would be nice to see classics like grenadine (fina or garza) represented, using a four fold construction for stability. Though I'd prefer the ties to be more like 3 1/2" or 3 3/4", to match better with their medium to wide lapels, Rikky explained that they tried this and barely sold any. It's not that surprising, as millennials are quite used to 3" ties being the standard now and may see the 3 3/4" ties from the previous decade as old-fashioned!
Overall, I was impressed with the products for their listed prices. The tie could use a bit of work to knot better as a four in hand, but I don't regret my purchases at all. Spier & Mackay is definitely the best shirt value in North America, which I do not say lightly.
These products were purchased using the author's own funds. No exchange of material goods for a review was made.