Anatomy of a Turnbull & Asser Shirt

58
SHARE

Turnbull-Asser-Shirt

We all know Turnbull & Asser for making shirts for not only four of the six James Bond actors, but also for Bond creator Ian Fleming and the first Bond film director Terence Young. What makes a Turnbull & Asser shirt the special shirt that it is? There are many parts to it, but the most important part of any shirt is its collar. The Classic Turnbull & Asser Collar has a very special shape. Turnbull & Asser describes the collar as having a “unique outward flare to the collar point.” The collar curves the opposite way from most collars, since the edge of the collar that sits on the body flares outward from the point rather than curve in. Frank Foster thinks the shape is counterintuitive since it goes against the shape of the body, but I find that it lays against the body just fine.

Turnbull-Asser-Collar
The Classic Turnbull & Asser Collar

The collar is a very middle-of-the-road spread collar, not particularly narrow or wide. The points measure 2 7/8″, the back height measures 1 3/4″ and the collar band measures 1 1/8″ in front. There is 3/8″ tie space and the collar points sit 4 1/2″ apart. The collar is stitched 1/4″ from the edge, has a non-fused but moderately stiff interfacing, and has removable collar stays. Despite many Bond films featuring Turnbull & Asser shirts, the collar design is always made especially for the actor wearing it and James Bond never wears the Classic Turnbull & Asser Collar, except for maybe on the dress shirt in Die Another Day.

Turnbull-Asser-Button-Cuff
The signature three button cuff

Turnbull & Asser’s signature cuff is their three button cuff. The cuff is 3 1/4″ long and is cut with an elegant curve to the buttoning edge—it’s not a square. The three button cuff, as well as the rest of their cuffs, has a non-fused interfacing, but it’s lighter than the collar’s interfacing. Like the collar, the cuffs are stitched 1/4″ from the edge. Turnbull & Asser doesn’t put a sleeve gauntlet button on their ready-to-wear shirts, except for on the Sea Island cotton shirts. Their cuffs are attached to the shirt with gathers rather than the more typical pleats. Gathers look very elegant, but they make the sleeve more difficult to iron.

Turnbull-Asser-Double-Cuff
Turnbull & Asser’s Double Cuff

Like most English shirtmakers do, Turnbull & Asser places the link holes on their double cuff close to the fold rather than centred. The link holes are one inch from the fold. This allows the cuff to flare out a little—which can get it caught inside a narrow jacket sleeve—and it shows off the cufflinks better. What also can cause it to get caught inside the sleeve is the square corner. Most people regard the square corner as more elegant over the more functional rounded corner, which slides through the jacket sleeve better. The double cuff measures 5 5/8″ long when unfolded.

Turnbull-Asser-Turnback-Cuff
Turnbull & Asser’s modern Two Button Turnback Cuff

James Bond fans know Turnbull & Asser for their cocktail cuff, or the “Two Button Turnback Cuff” as they call it. They say they invented the cocktail cuff, but they aren’t the only ones who make that claim. The cuff they make now is different from the one Sean Connery wore in his Bond films. Their modern turnback cuff is contoured where it folds back, and the corner is not rounded as much. This cuff is 5 5/8″ long and folds 2 1/8″ from the base, unlike Connery’s cuff which folds closer to the middle.

The split yoke and shoulder pleats
The split yoke and shoulder pleats

Turnbull & Asser folds a narrow placket on their shirts, at 1 3/16″ wide. The stitching is 3/8″ from the edge, which matches the stitching at the sleeve attachment and at the base of the cuff. The placket has a fused interfacing to keep it crisp. There are six buttons down the front of the shirt, not including the collar. Turnbull & Asser uses mother-of-pearl buttons, of course, but I find that they are not sewn on with enough slack and can be difficult to button.

The hexagonal gusset
The hexagonal gusset

On solid shirts the stitching and buttonholes matches the shirt, but on semi-solid shirts with white in the weave and on shirts with white in the pattern, Turnbull & Asser uses white stitching and buttonholes. The tails of the shirt are curved, and to reinforce the base of the side seams Turnbull & Asser uses a hexagonal gusset. The gusset is white on ready-to-wear shirts and made in the same cloth as the shirt on bespoke shirts. The back of the shirt has a split yoke, which according to experts serves no purpose on a ready-to-wear shirt since it only helps with uneven shoulders. However, split yokes make striped shirtings look very nice by forming a chevron. Under the yoke the shirt has a pleat on either side to give ease over the shoulder blades.

Turnbull-Asser-Label

SHARE

58 COMMENTS

  1. Glorious shirts. I would highly recommend their bespoke shirts. The problem is that you need to order a minimum of six. Their best 200 poplin are around 200 pounds sterling each which is expensive but compares with well with many overpriced designer brands. They obviously fit perfectly with as many adjustments or details as you want and are simply the best shirts that I have ever bought.

  2. Better than Anatomy of a Murder…
    Wonderful article. I wonder if a T&A salesman with knowledge and experience could have done better to glorify their shirts.
    It makes me want to order a T&A shirt, or to try their made-to-measure service, just right now… even if prices have increased.

    I only own one T&A shirt and it’s terrific, even if their 15 size is still a little roomy for me. My only criticism would be that I find the collar interlining much too stiff.

    About the modern T&A turnback cuff, it looks also a bit shorter than the ones sported by Connery, but that’s just me.

    I guess the pictures come from your personal shirts, Matt ? That is a great collection you have got here. Congratulations !

    • Their collars aren’t as stiff as many fused Italian collars. Because the interlining is sewn and not fused, it has a more natural stiffness. Frank Foster’s collars feel a bit stiffer.

      The modern T&A turnback cuff has a longer turnback than Connery’s did.

      And thank you! These are some of the shirts amongst my collection.

  3. These shirts have beautiful details but I’ve just priced them online and at £155.00 for two fold 100s they scream rip off. I would not mind so much if they were higher thread count. I have shirts from Hawes and Curtis £25.00 and they are beautiful in look and feel.

    • Turnbull & Asser’s standard shirtings are far nicer than Hawes & Curtis’, even if the thread count is the same. There’s a lot more that goes into making a shirting, with the speed it’s woven and in the finish. I have a Hawes & Curtis shirt and there’s no comparing it to a Turnbull & Asser shirt in construction. The Hawes & Curtis collars and cuffs are fused and very stiff. With Turnbull & Asser you’re paying more for it being made in England, but there’s far more than that making it a considerably better shirt.

  4. I have no doubt that the construction of their shirts are uncompromising. I mentioned thread count because I’m assuming it has a part to play in the life of the shirt and how long it lasts.
    I like the fused collars of the h&c shirt as they don’t lose their shape.
    How long do the t&a shirts last matt?
    I appreciate your comments. I have learnt a lot from your posts.
    Cheers
    Ryan

    • My Turnbull & Asser shirts have worn much better than my one Hawes & Curtis shirt, which hasn’t even seen much wear. The shirts last a long time. There’s noticeable fraying on my end-on-end shirt, which shows fraying sooner because of the weave, but it’s one that I wear a lot. There’s also fraying at the cuff of one of my Sea Island shirts. Thread count can often mean greater durability, but that’s not the only factor. Cheaper shirtings are woven at faster speeds, which causes breakage in the fibres that reveals itself after a few wears. The Turnbull & Asser collars keep their shape very well without a fused interfacing. That’s what the sewn interfacing is for.

    • Thanks for that.
      Is that cream shirt the one we see you wearing at Frank Foster’s? How long have you had that one?

  5. Matt, were your shirts made to measure or bespoke? I agree with everything you say on their quality but I find the ready made shirts enormous around the waist. As mentioned before, the bespoke shirts are superb and tailored to fit perfectly around the waist without those hideous and artificial darts in the back, a sure sign that the shirt was not bespoke.

  6. Well done, Matt and those shirts do look nice.
    Is it just me but does 3 buttons on a shirt cuff not seem a little superfluous? I suppose it’s personal but on a single cuff a single button works fine although I personally prefer the two button version and Foster makes my single cuffs this way, like Moore’s in FYEO (rather than Octopussy, AVTAK).
    Re; double cuffs, I find them, and their supposed elegance, a little over stated ( for elegance with a bit of genuine individuality I find the cocktail cuff nicer and Foster’s a little more substantial, for want of a better word, than T&A’s version). If wearing double cuffs, I actually find the rounded double cuff the more elegant than the square finish version.
    The T&A standard collar is also not especially distinctive to look at on the wearer.
    I do agree with Ryan that, at the price, T&A are expensive but the six per initial order thing seems to be standard for shirt makers. For all round value Foster is top of the class in my book though.

    • Three buttons on a cuff is indeed superfluous. Two buttons does it just as well and has some advantages over one button. Turnbull & Asser recommends fastening only the middle button of the cuff, but I find that for a cuff that large it’s too soft to only fasten one button.

  7. I agree that they are glorious shirts.

    Ryan comments that they are a “ripoff” versus 25 GBS for Hawes & Curtis.

    There is no question that T & A is expensive. However, there is a difference.

    For example, T & A uses top of the line two ply fabrics from Albini and Thomas Mason. At 25 GBS there is no way that Hawes & Curtis could be using quality fabrics.

    T & A shirts last. I have shirts going back to 1998, my first order. I would say that you can get a maximum of 10 years before the shirt is worn-out. In those intervening years you will need a re-collar and re-cuff.

    Another example is the packing and presentation. Each bespoke shirt is shipped to the USA in an individual cardboard box used only for shipping. It is not used to present the shirt to the customer. This individual boxing prevents the factory’s shirts from getting squashed and wrinkled during shipping. That is why the shirt looks fresh from the factory floor and can be worn out of the package. Also, no pins are used in packing, and the packing materials are unique to T & A. These are small details, but it shows that T & A pays attention to details.

    Last, its three button and Bond cuffs are unique. Others may try to copy them, but they are poor copies. For example, the three button cuff has a curve. Copyists cannot get the curve, and they make a straight cylinder. I have never had anyone satisfactorily copy them.

    I have often said that if cost were no issue, I would purchase all my shirts at T & A. Alas, the price is now $400 for a bespoke shirt. When I started with them in 1998 the price was $185. Therefore, the T & A shirt has become more of an occasional treat than a regular staple.

    There are more economical choices. However, T & A carries a level of service and a mystique which the others lack. You have to make a value judgment.

    If you are willing to bite the bullet, I give it my highest recommendation. Robert Gillotte is the bespoke shirt manager at the New York branch. Rob is the number one bespoke clothier in the city. He is a professor of not only Bond style but English style. Flusser called Gillotte his “sartorial conscience.” Rob regularly reads this blog.

    Good luck.

    Mark E. Seitelman
    http://www.seitelman.com

  8. I became a customer because of their Bond connections, and remain one because of their unmatched quality of product and customer service.
    I haven’t taken the plunge and gone for bespoke yet though. Really admire the shirts you chose to post here, Matt, I didn’t know that they offered cocktail cuffs ready-to-wear, I’ll have to look into that– or just put my money where my mouth is one of these days and have them made for me!

    • They have offered cocktail cuffs ready-to-wear in the past. I have four ready-to-wear shirts from them with cocktail cuffs. Some of mine came from Neiman Marcus. Occasionally they offer them ready-to-wear with the Regent collar, which I don’t have any examples of.

      You’re definitely right about their customer service. They offer an experience like Savile Row tailors do.

    • Could this offer be limited to the USA ? I have never seen RTW shirts with turnback cuffs available on their website or in their Jermyn Street shop -that said, I am neither Londoner, nor British.
      It’s really too bad since if I decide to buy one I will have to go made-to-order only for choosing the cuff I like -nothing terrible about that, except for the price, even if it’s quite justified.

      Their customer service is indeed excellent. I remember when I came to their shop and stayed about an hour, with my poor English, talking to almost every salesman. I even enter in their bespoke shop just around the corner where a manager advised me to keep things simple and buy a RTW shirt since I was only here for two weeks. I wish I could work here.

  9. Well I’ve had a right good talking to here. To all the gents that have presented strong arguments for T&A’s prices being justified I thank you. It was my (poor) understanding that 100 cotton doesn’t last, based on the shirts I’ve had from H&C, TM Lewin, M & S etc.
    If I can get 5 years out of a T&A shirt then I’ll happily part with £155.00.
    Thanks for the great posts Matt et al.!!

    cheers
    Ryan

    • One more thing. What are these shirts like for fit? My collar size is 16.5″ and sleeves are 34″. Can those measurements be accomodated for? Or is it the case that a 16.5 collar would be a default of 36″+ sleeve length? I’m speaking of RTW here.
      Cheers
      Ryan

    • The fit on their shirts now as not as full as it used to be, which is a good thing, but they aren’t fitted either. I’ve had my tailor alter shirts, though the gusset makes more work for the tailor when taking in the side seams. For a small fee Turnbull & Asser may be able to shorten the sleeves.

    • Dear Matt, If I understood you correctly, you have a tailor narrow billowing RTW T&A shirts. Now that T&A offers Slim, have you worn this model?

    • I have not worn the new Slim St Jim shirts, and I’m not sure I will. They have some rather affected features that I don’t care for. But also, I’ve been having all of my shirts made for me now so I can get exactly what I want.

  10. I have a few older bespoke shirts from them and they do not have any curved gussets. The shirts are entirely squared off all the way round the bottom.

  11. Matt,

    At T&A’s price point, do you feel it’s the best shirt available, or is there a shirt you think is better?

    • For bespoke, I understand that Emma Willis and Sean O’Flynn are also excellent. Frank Foster also makes superb shirts, at a better price, but the wait is considerably longer. Foster also doesn’t give you the royal treatment you get at Turnbull & Asser, but he treats you in a more down-to-earth way. For ready-to-wear, I understand Emma Willis’ shirts are also excellent, but I have no experience with them. There are also excellent Italian shirts at that price point, but they are much different and I do not have experience with them.

  12. Very nice, and excellent, informative post. I visited there Beverly Hills shop a few times and, regardless of customer service, I just can’t bring myself to pull the trigger on a $500 shirt. I feel that other options for MTM or bespoke (both of which I prefer for shirts) are available at a much better price point. But to others that make that choice, my hat is off to them.

  13. Matt, try Luigi Borrelli of Naples. Superb shirts and they also do a bespoke service. Whilst there, Attolini tailors well worth a visit for the classical Neapolitan style.

    • I don’t know if you own a Brioni shirt, but I guess their style (cut) is a bit similar like Tom Ford, a kind of middle-of-the-road shirt style ?
      Or is there also a Roman style in term of shirting ?

    • I don’t own a Brioni shirt, but from what I’ve seen they aren’t anything special as far as their style goes. Tom Ford, however, has some nice collars, and their scalloped 2-button cuff is very nice. I don’t know so much about shirt styles from Italy.

  14. Just saw this afternoon that T&A was launching a new “slim fit” model for their shirts. While the idea is excellent, since their usual shirts are very full-cut and often look a little like tents unless you have Robert Mitchum’s or John Goodman’s physique, I was quite disappointed by the “dandyish” -or at least I guess that’s how a men’s fashion magazine would call them- details that went with this cut : gauntlet sleeves buttonholes in a contrasting color, collar and cuffs in a contrasting pattern (wider than the shirt’s body), the centre button of the cuff bigger than the two others…
    I guess this model is made for a younger and more fashion-forward clientele, but I am still sad… it is not something I expected from T&A’s classic and understated elegance.

    Anyway, it looks like their slim fit shirts have none of these details if choosen with double cuffs. So the honor is safe 🙂

    • I’d really like one of their shirts, but can’t handle the expense. Probably wouldn’t get one of those fashionable ones though. Just because someone wants a trimmer (not tight) fit doesn’t mean they want all that garbage, though from what I’ve been hearing their classic fit is slimmer than it used to be. Maybe one should simply go Matt’s route and have them taken in if they can’t afford bespoke?

      Curious, what do you mean by “collar and cuffs in a contrasting pattern (wider than the shirt’s body)”?

    • Sorry, but such affectations as you later call them are not the whole present offer at Slim St Jim.

    • I haven’t been to see what is in the shop, but online it looks like the only normal shirt is the white double cuff shirt. Others have different size buttons on the cuffs.

    • Today at T&A online shop are plain white and plain light blue the first two Slim St Jim shirts of nine advertised.

  15. Matt.
    I know this is an older post but I wanted to pick your brain on shirt colours and differentiating of colour/pattern. Do you have a rule of for work and dress shirts? I try to keep my plain poplin shirts (especially white) for social/formal and prefer stripes for work. Also I’ll wear twill and Oxford weaves for work too.
    I have it in my head that I can’t look like I’m dressed for work when I’m going out socially.
    What’s your thoughts on this please? Am I being overly complicated?
    Cheers
    Ryan

  16. A lady who represents a shirt maker replied to my inquiry about gauntlet buttons quoted you on T&A here, but as Le Chiffre mentioned, not just Sea Island Quality but Slim have these buttons, which her boss told her are a stylish feature. Kabbaz asserts gauntlet are a feature of a high quality shirt. Do gathers prevent gaps?

    • Most high quality shirts have gauntlet buttons, but the presence or lack of a gauntlet button has no bearing on the shirt’s quality. Gathers serve the same purpose as the more typical pleats do. Because the sleeve has a larger diameter than the cuff does, gathers or pleats are necessary to fit a larger sleeve into a smaller cuff. They have nothing to do with the gauntlet.

    • If your and Bond’s favorite usually is without gauntlet buttons, are you not compelled to assert the lack of a gauntlet button has no bearing on the shirt’s quality?

      Is not the function of the gauntlet button to prevent the gap?

      If T&A shirts – except Sea Island quality and Slim – lack gauntlet buttons, doesn’t the gauntlet gap arise?

    • I didn’t say that I prefer shirts without a gauntlet button, and I do prefer the button to be there. How would the presence or lack of that button have any bearing on a shirt’s quality? Sure, it involves more work to put the button on the gauntlet, but it’s not a mark of quality like how fine the stitching is. A shirt is just as well made with or without the button. Some people prefer the cleaner look without the button, especially with double cuffs.

      Yes, the button is there to prevent the gap. I’ll have to measure the difference between the length of Turnbull & Asser’s gauntlets with and without the button, but I believe the gauntlet without the button is shorter to prevent it from gaping. I really don’t notice how well it stays closed without the button. The gautlet button is most important on single-button cuffs because they pivot and cause the gauntlet to open. On cuffs with two or three buttons, the gauntlet is stays closed better.

  17. If a sleeve is shortened several inches, perhaps such alteration changes the length of the gauntlet.
    Since so many shirtmakers have RTW sales, I’ve begun to ask about gauntlet buttons and about shortening 16 1/2 to 31″. One reply was the sleeve alteration of shortening takes place at the shoulder. Since that reply, I’ve begun to ask where the sleeve is shortened, but my question has been ignored. My observation of gap on a shirt double cuffed, but without gauntlet buttons stood in contradiction to the shirtmaker’s assertion his design prevents gaps and thus gauntlet buttons are unnecessary for his shirts. Thank God all RTW double cuff New & Lingwood Tailored (slim) shirts have gauntlet buttons.

    • If the gauntlet doesn’t have a button, the gauntlet is removed and the sleeve is shortened from the end. The gauntlet can’t be shortened very much, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to open up the cuff enough to iron it. Shortening the sleeve from the shoulder can work if you’re also taking in the shirt from the side seams since you’ll be shrinking the armhole. It essentially requires the body of the shirt to be recut smaller.

      Also, if the sleeve is too long a gauntlet without a button will open. The right length makes a big difference.

  18. I’m planning on visiting the NYC Turnbull and Asser store after my CD money matures in Spring 2015 (I’ve got about $8K saved) and I have SSI and born with autism. I’m a big and tall dude about 6’1″ and 350 lbs. I have brown hair, blue eyes, pale complexion, and round face. Would a Number 3 Collar (like John Kerry wears I think), Tab Collar, Bond Collar, or Standard T&A collar would look good for my round face?

    I’m a big fan of T&A shirts and I’ve never owned a single shirt by them before, but I’ve got their free fabric swatch books starting from 2006-2013. My stepfather was in the US Navy and stationed in UK in late 1970s and seen Prince Charles in person, yes the Prince Of Wales is a true devoted T&A customer of course. Even though I’m from Greenwood, South Carolina (halfway between Greenville and Columbia). My neck size is about 19″ with 60″ chest, 60″ waist, about 34″ sleeve and bespoke would be the best option for me. I know bespoke shirts are $425-up with half-dozen first order minimum, bespoke neckties’ first order is three, I don’t know what the current prices for the bespoke neckties. After if I picked my six shirts (I’m planning to get three solids, and three stripes), do I have to come back to NYC for a second visit to be fitted or have the shirts delivered to my home address? I know for the sample shirt wear it and wash it three times to see it fits.

    On solid color shirts for my complexion besides whites and blues, for my third solid color (my mom said that yellow and pink don’t look good on me), should I get French blue, Olive, or Lavender? I know that others wear T&A shirts like Prince Michael of Kent (he gets bespoke wide neckties), John Kerry, and the late greats Sir David Frost and Ronald Regan. I wish Turnbull & Asser open stores in other cities (despite the Beverly Hills store closed) like Greenville, SC or Charleston, SC.

    Besides the French Cuff (they call it Double cuffs in England), I liked the 3 button cuff, 2 button round cuff, and 1 button round cuff. Which cuff should I get?

    Had you ever met any James Bond actors in person before (from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig)?

    • I think the Number 3 collar would suit a round face the best, but the people at Turnbull & Asser will make sure you get the best collar for your face. I think you only need to return to the store if the sample shirt doesn’t fit well. A first bespoke shirt, even from the best shirtmakers, isn’t a guaranteed perfect fit.

      French blue sounds like it would look good on you, but olive will not. I’m not sure about lavender. From your description, pink may actually look good. Again, the people at Turnbull & Asser may be able to advise you.

      Get whichever cuffs you like. If not you’re going to be exclusively wearing these shirts with a suit and tie, consider more button cuffs than double cuffs.

      I have only met Roger Moore.

  19. I know this is an older thread but have a question. I have several T&A RTW shirts and never noticed before that the sleeve patterns don’t match. Is there any reason they don’t do this? I understang this is not a quality issue but seems like a detail that should be expexcted.

  20. I’ve asked the same question and never got a straight answer. I’ve been told that even “low end” shirt makers pattern match at the sleeves/shoulder so it’s not a sign of quality anymore. But, I certainly expect that any “high end” shirt maker such as T&A should take the extra time and care to match patterns.

    I have a friend who use to buy only T&A and has switched to Charvet. He thinks that when T&A was bought they tried to grow too fast (e.g. failed Beverly Hills, Ca store) and the quality and care – such as matching patterns has greatly diminished. If this is true and the quality isn’t there anymore, T&A is living more on it’s history than it’s current quality/care standards. And that’s truly sad.

  21. So how long do your t & a shirts last? I found them to be the best british RTW shirts, though I am always wondering if it really is worth spending so much money on them. Mine after quite a lot of wear, start to get worn out at collars after 4 years. Do you see this as a “normal” age for those shirts? Maybe I’m a dreamer but I always thought that this is not that much…

    • That’s about normal wear, if you wear the shirt every other week. Shirts generally aren’t made to last a very long time. A Turnbull & Asser shirt will not last twice as long as a shirt half the price, though it should last a little longer. The colour of a Turnbull & Asser will not fade like a cheaper shirt will, in my experience.

  22. I live in NYC and have only owned T&A RTW shirts for 7 months, but I have probably worn each one 15 times. The thing that strikes me most about their shirts compared to every other shirt I have ever owned (exception of Charvet) is how they still look and feel brand new. I also take them to the dry cleaner to be washed and ironed, so they aren’t exactly getting the best care. I love every time I put one on. I was in London at Christmas time and went to their Jermyn St store for the sales, which were truly outstanding. I bought six shirts for £570 and four ties for £240. Unbelievable! The staff were excellent and after I asked for some more bold combinations to get out of my plain shirt Hermes/Bulgari tie uniform and although skeptical initially, they all worked out beautifully. Such an amazing shirt maker and retail experience.

LEAVE A REPLY

Do the arithmetic * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.