February 2, 2015  ·  style

J. Hilburn Custom Shirts

A representative of J. Hilburn recently approached us with an offer of a discounted first purchase, and without asking if she gives that up to ALL the guys, the need for an everyday French blue shirt and the opportunity to acquire one made to fit for under $100 seemed a reasonable alignment of interests. The brand operates a little differently from most online makers in that they require you to be fitted in person before ordering. This isn't too much of a hassle as it takes just a couple of minutes and a search of their online directory showed dozens of "personal stylists" within a 10-mile range. The ten measurements are pretty straightforward and so are the options; one chooses from a standard set of collar styles, cuff configurations, placket, pocket(s), etc.

And then you get to thumb through the swatches. There are over 200 fabrics available and they cover all of the basics for both casual and dressy shirts, including chambrays, ginghams, tonal whites, staple solids and stripes. Cotton only, though; it'd be nice to see some linens in the future. We went with a plain weave from Albini; other highly-regarded mills represented include the likes of Monti and Thomas Mason. The $109-$139 price range is about what you'd expect from online shirtmakers for this fabric tier.

The shirt arrived in a little over two weeks and they nailed the fit. Fabric is predictably nice and the presentation makes a strong impression—the shirt comes in a heavy luxurious-looking box, and the buyer's initials are embroidered on the inside back of the collar band. Downsides? The buttons are not shanked—at all—and the strength of their attachment does not inspire confidence. The underarm stitching seems a little hasty as it pulls and puckers a little even when not worn. As mentioned, it'd be nice to have linen or cotton/linen options for the summer. And while you can choose from several collar styles, you can provide only minimal customization of them. We've been spoiled by other custom clothiers who let you specify your own measurements for neckband height, point length, collar spread, etc., and while this seems a minor point, your collar's ideal dimensions are determined by the proportions of your face and your jacket. So it's not quite the full custom experience, but it's in-person and accurate. For normal humans who (unlike us) don't obsess about making a unique little masterpiece out of every custom shirt, the speed and convenience of the J. Hilburn experience might be worth checking out.

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