Review and Anatomy of a Tom Ford Shirt

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I now have my first Tom Ford shirt thanks to my friend Ken Stauffer, @Oceansographer on Instagram.

While Tom Ford’s suits are mainly inspired by Savile Row tailoring with a touch of Italy, the shirts are much more Italian but with a touch of England. The shirt is made in Italy and uses typical Italian construction methods. I thought it would be interesting to compare this shirt to my usual English shirts from Frank Foster and Turnbull & Asser. This shirt is not brand new, and we do not know its age. Overall, it is representative of the shirts Daniel Craig wears as Bond, albeit with a button cuff he never wore.

The Cloth

The shirt is made of white cotton poplin, a smooth plain-weave cotton with subtle crosswise ribs. It’s a standard shirting for formal shirts and goes with almost anything.

The cotton shirting is certainly a very high-quality fabric, but it is not as fine as I would expect from such a high-end shirt. The thread count feels lower than a standard ready-to-wear shirt from Turnbull & Asser, so it’s not as soft, smooth and shiny. I would say that the cotton is quite rough, at least compared to what I’m used to wearing.

However, a lower thread count has its benefits. It’s a bit heavier, it’s not going to wrinkle as much, it’s easier to iron, and in white it won’t be transparent. Nevertheless, I would have expected a standard Tom Ford shirt to feel a bit more luxurious, even if the fabric they used is still high quality.

The Collar

The shirt has Tom Ford’s ‘Classic Collar’, which is a semi-spread collar. Daniel Craig’s shirt collar in Quantum of Solace is either the same as this collar or a variation on it. The collar design is a classic and somewhat old-fashioned one, likely inspired by an English collar. It’s a versatile design that works equally well with or without a tie. However, it is quite different from the collars that James Bond’s English shirtmakers Turnbull & Asser and Frank Foster make.

Like most Italian shirts, the collar has a fused interfacing rather than a floating interfacing. The interfacing on this collar is especially heavy and stiff. It helps the collar stand up well and look crisp at all times, with or without a tie. The stiff collar goes with Tom Ford’s stiff suit aesthetic. The collar can still look neat without the removable stays, and this is due to a combination of the stiff fusing and the shape of the collar. I have not yet worn the collar with stays.

The collar band is fused on the outside rather than on the side that touches the neck for a more comfortable feel. This is how most high-end shirtmakers fuse their collars.

The points are 8.3 cm / 3 1/4 in long and the rear height of the collar leaf is 4.5 cm / 1 3/4 high. The points are somewhat long, but not excessive, while the collar is only moderate in height. It has 1 cm / 3/8 in of tie space. The stitching is at a classic 6 mm (slightly under 1/4 in) from the edge. The points of the collar sit about 13 cm / 5 in apart.

While the collar band tapers towards the front so it is higher in back on my English shirts, the band on this shirt maintains a consistent height all around at 3.2 cm / 1 1/4 in. This is an older way of designing a collar band. The button and buttonhole are placed unusually high on the collar band, helping it to stay fastened neatly, it makes the collar more difficult to button.

There is a large difference between the height of the collar leaf and the height of the band at the back of the neck. On a non-fused collar, too large of a difference between the height of the band and the height of the collar leaf at the rear can cause the collar to collapse. Because the collar has a very stiff fusing, the collar stands up perfectly fine.

This shirt had been laundered at least few times by the time I received it. The label says 39, but I measured the collar at 38 cm. Shirts have shrinkage allowance built in, which means the collar shrunk about 5 to 6 per cent instead of the usual 2 to 3 per cent. Thankfully I was able to easily stretch out the collar when it was still soaked out of the washing machine it because only the fusing and not the cotton had shrunk that much. The shirt had previously been laundered commercially, where the high heat shrunk the fusing too much. Commercial laundry does better at pressing a fused collar than one with a floating interfacing, but they can also shrink the fusing too much.

The Cuffs

As someone who appreciates a special shirt cuff, this two-button cuff doesn’t disappoint. The design is a cross between a mitre cuff and a rounded cuff, with the cuff’s curve starting at an angle at either end. The cuff has a considerable presence at 8.9 cm / 3 1/2 in deep, and I like feeling a deep cuff on my wrist. On someone with short arms this cuff might be overwhelming, but I don’t think the size of the cuff is too large. The collar points are just long enough to make the cuff look too big.

The cuff design is the shirt’s only unique stylistic detail, and I think it’s the best part of this shirt. Their double cuffs, which Daniel Craig frequently wears in his Bond films, are quite ordinary. It’s a shame that Bond never wears this cuff, and it would have better suited the shawl-collar cardigan outfit in Quantum of Solace instead of the awkwardly stuffed double cuffs.

Like the collar, the cuff has a fused interfacing, but the fusing is much lighter in the cuff. The cuff is stitched at 6 mm from the edge and at 24 mm from the base of the cuff. The different stitching at the base of the cuff helps to visually break up the cuff’s depth. I think the rear reason for the further stitching at the base is to hold the excess sleeve in place inside the cuff. There appears to be over 2.5 cm of extra sleeve extending inside the cuff, which could allow the sleeve to be lengthened—a rarity in factory-made shirts. The cuffs are attached to the sleeve with two small pleats on opposite sides of the wrist. It has a more elegant look than more ordinary single larger pleats would.

The Details

The shirt is exquisitely finished, with great attention taken to ensure the stitching is clean and perfect. The stitching is finer than on any other shirt I own, with more stitches per inch. This means that the shirts have stronger seams, with enough strength so the seams do not tear due to the stress of a very slim fit. The shorter stitch length also looks more elegant than a longer stitch length. A shorter stitch length adds to the cost of the shirt because it takes more time to sew.

The buttons are beautiful mother of pearl with a fancy double-rimmed design that is similar to the buttons fine English shirtmakers use. The Tom Ford buttons have a bolder design. They are 2 mm thick, which is a thin button like English shirtmakers use. Some people prefer thicker buttons, but I think that thin buttons like these are more elegant.

The first quality detail that I noticed when donning the shirt was how the buttons are sewn with a thread shank. A thread shank is extra thread that allows the button to stand away from the shirt, making it easier to button. A thread shank is sewn by sewing on the buttons with slack and then wrapping the thread around the excess to secure it together into a strong shank. It also adds extra strength to the button thread and takes stress off the fabric. This is common on jackets, but most shirtmakers skip this detail because it adds extra cost. I don’t know if there are any sewing machines that can sew a thread shank, but this suggests that the buttons might be handsewn. Turnbull & Asser’s bespoke shirts are the only other shirts I have with thread-shank-sewn buttons. The button stitching is cleaner on the Tom Ford shirt than on my Turnbull & Asser bespoke shirts, and the buttons are easier to button on the Tom Ford shirt.

The front placket is 3.4 cm / 1 5/16 in wide, is stitched 7 mm from the edge and has no interfacing. There are six buttons down the front of the shirt plus the collar button. On such a high-end shirt, I would have expected there to be seven buttons plus the collar button. The first button below the collar is very low, and the shirt is designed to show off more chest than the typical shirt when unbuttoned. This would explain the choice for six placket buttons.

The sleeve gauntlet (placket) has a button, and the buttonhole is unusually placed perpendicular to the opening. It looks awkward compared to the usual parallel buttonhole, but it puts less stress on the gauntlet.

There is a split yoke on the outside, but the inside layer of the yoke is only one piece. This would have the benefit of angled stripes on a striped shirt, but it does nothing for a solid, ready-to-wear shirt. There are darts at the rear to assist in the shirt’s slim fit.

The tails are curved with a gusset at the bottom of each side seam. The gussets provide extra strength at the hips, which is important in such a slim fit.

The Fit

The fit is extremely slim. The shirt fits me in most places, but I prefer a shirt with a little more fullness. There is tightness in the upper back and in the hips that introduces a bit of discomfort. The upper back tightness is exacerbated by the downward angle of the sleeves, which is common in slim fit shirts. It creates a neater line and a trimmer sleeve at the expense of mobility, and it also makes the sleeve ride up more as the arm is moved because the inseam is shorter than it should be. I was surprised that the sleeves were not too tight for me. The shirt is otherwise shaped well and follows the shape of my slim body in most areas. Having tried on other slim-fit shirts, this is a superior slim fit.

The cuff’s circumference is a bit too large. It’s designed to accommodate larger wrists than mine or a large watch. I could move the buttons to make the cuff tighter, but it would sacrifice the cuff’s design.

The length is a bit too short. I found that it stayed tucked in well despite this, probably because of the tight fit and because my trousers have a mid rise and not a low rise. I would have found a extra couple inches to be more comfortable. A longer shirt usually stays tucked in better, but it is more likely to bunch up in slim fit trousers.

Value

Tom Ford shirts now cost around the same price as a bespoke shirt from Turnbull & Asser. I do not feel that this shirt is worth nearly as much as a Turnbull & Asser bespoke shirt. I think the price should be similar to that of a ready-to-wear Turnbull & Asser shirt, but each have their own pros and cons.

This Tom Ford shirt has the best stitching of any shirt in my wardrobe, and this is the primary way it justifies the price.

The rest of what sets a Tom Ford shirt apart from other shirts is the styling and the fit. These are subjective matters, but there is a level of uniqueness here that can justify the price. For those who want this specific button cuff, that could be enough of a reason to get this shirt. The collar is unique compared to what is available today in fashion brands. The collar is well-designed, which can’t be said for most other fashion brands today who produce anemic collars. I personally prefer a slightly higher collar, but I appreciate that this collar has long points and that it resembles an old-fashioned collar.

The fit is the best ready-to-wear slim fit I have worn. It mostly gets the proportions correct for a slim man like myself. The shape is in the right place. However, many men will have trouble with this fit if the fit in the body is too small for their neck size. Tom Ford do not make all their shirts as slim as this one.

I don’t like that the collar and cuffs are fused, the very stiff fusing is especially not to my taste. This is a personal preference, but I find that a collar with a floating interfacing always feels more luxurious. Fused collars feel cheaper to me, and in my experience they wear out sooner. Turnbull & Asser make stiff collars that feel more comfortable without fusing, so there are ways to achieve the Tom Ford look without fusing. Some people prefer a fused collar, and unlike in a jacket, fusing is not a shortcut in a shirt.

Despite all of the shirt’s refined details, the decidedly not-luxurious fabric makes this shirt feel less than it should. They make other shirts with finer cottons, so this critique is only limited to this shirt.

There is undoubtedly a certain markup for wearing the Tom Ford brand. While they are a rare fashion brand that prioritises quality, they are not fine shirtmakers like the ones located in London’s St James’s district. I don’t think they pay as much attention to their shirts as they do to their suits. A dedicated shirt brand will almost always produce a more extraordinary shirt.

Overall, the Tom Ford shirt is impressively made, but I don’t think it is a special shirt. It does not have the stylistic detail I look for in a shirt. I could get a shirt that looks like this one for half the price, and it could be made of a more luxurious cloth, although it wouldn’t be sewn together as well as this shirt is. The stylistic details of this shirt are not what I look for in a shirt. I prefer an English shirt in look and feel, which means that ultimately this shirt does not speak to me. Nevertheless, I can also appreciate this shirt for the special characteristics it possesses.

I’m pictured wearing the shirt with a vintage 1980s black and cream plaid jacket that may be from Paul Stuart. The cloth is 50% silk and 50% wool. The trousers from Mason & Sons are in charcoal plain-weave wool. The black with cream polka dot silk pocket square is unknown vintage. The shoes are black full-brogue side-gusset slip-ons from Crockett & Jones in the ‘Cranbourne’ model. The sunglasses are the Tom Ford ‘Snowdon’ as seen in Spectre. Photos of me are taken by Janna Levin Spaiser.

22 COMMENTS

  1. I feel like something went wrong with the compression on the photos of you wearing the shirt, or maybe it’s just very shiny? All the close ups look fine but the shine in the photos of you wearing it makes it look almost photoshopped on, how strange.

    Either way I really appreciate the in depth look at the shirt, definitely surprised at the quality or lack there of in some spots.

    • There seems to be something about this particular shade of white that reflects the light in an unusual way. It is a very bright and cool white, whiter than any of my other shirts.

  2. I really like the collar, I miss the higher collars and longer lapels on most of the shirts I see.
    I’m surprised about the thread shank though, I thought that was more common. I used to work at a Swedish menswear shop, and we had high quality shirts, with thread shanks, selling for 70 dollars.

  3. A fine, detailed description needed to plainly what a Tom Ford shirt is. Your comment upholds many I heard over the last few years. These shirts are well made but don’t worth big money. I’d call them overpriced. Now it can be, partly, explained by the plug given by Daniel Craig’s attires in his role as James Bond. So, as you suggest it, if I had big bucks to spend in an exceptional shirt I’d rather turn to Turnbull and Asser.
    BTW I was surprised to read you’re wearing such vintage jacket, as old as the 80’s. It doesn’t look out of fashion, quite the opposite. Especially I’d point the gorges, situated a bit higher than they were later, I meant in the early 90’s.

  4. I have a few Italian shirts from Barba Napoli and Corneliani, with similar characteristics that you describe. While they are serviceable, I vastly prefer my English made shirts from Budd, Turnbull & Asser, and Rayner & Sturges.

  5. Back when I mostly wore men’s clothing (I still do occasionally), I had pretty much the same thoughts as you on Tom Ford shirts. The fabric is not as nice as it should be for the asking price and my manager at the menswear store I worked at the time agreed. Fortunately I also got mine secondhand for a fraction of the original price, but some sellers ask way too much for used shirts based on brand alone.

    The cuff is unique and the collar is nice, I will say that much. But I feel like a flexible shirtmaker could replicate those details.

  6. The jacket you’re wearing is absolute perfection! If I am ever to save up money for a bespoke jacket, I will use your jacket for reference. The cloth, the cut, the lapel shape and width, etc. – everything is timeless!
    Speaking of the shirt cuff – Thomas Pink (whose shirts cost ten times less than TF) makes the same cuff.

    • I looked up the current Thomas Pink shirts, and the cuff is a bit different. It’s a rounded cuff that ends with an angle, sort of like the opposite of the Tom Ford cuff. It has one button instead of two and isn’t as deep. I’m not nearly as impressed with it as I am the Tom Ford cuff.

  7. Interesting topic. One can become obsessed with shirts as with shoes and just about everything else but a lovely feeling and looking shirt can also make or break your look. this example looks great on you when wearing that fabulous jacket, maybe not so great without?! I abhor the slim look and cannot wear it anyway(given my Adonis like figure, ahem) and it’s inherent movement restrictions. In general I believe Tom Ford products are highly over-priced unless you find something deeply discounted. BTW, great photography!

  8. That is another great review, Matt. I was particularly interested in thread shank on the buttons, and details on the collar. The shirt looks good on you, but I understand a slim fit can be too slim. It reminds me of a “fitted” shirt I had when I was about 100 pounds dripping wet. It was tight across the shoulders and pooched across the chest when I sat down. Since then, I’ve always gone for a regular cut. Right now, I’m saving up for Turnbull & Asser shirts on my next trip to London. And speaking of T&A, they just announced two new shirts in their James Bond collection, both from the Pierce Brosnan era.

  9. As expected of Tom Ford – lures one in with the peculiarity, then force one in with the fit, and then, purely name and nothing.

  10. Great article! I like the styling, but it’s not worth the price.

    How do you feel about front plackets? What is their effect on formality? In polo shirts it seems to make them a bit more tailored for example, but on dress shirts to me it feels the opposite.

    • Front plackets have no effect on formality. It’s a style preference to have one or not. The only time they are inappropriate is on a marcella-front evening shirt. They’re appropriate on other kinds of evening shirts.

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