People saying the shoe is the first thing people notice about a person. In my case, especially when saying a male, it’s often the shirt collar that catches my eye in the first place.
Take a stroll in the National Portrait Gallery’s 17th-century room, probably the most prominent feature one can notice is those sophisticated shirt collars & cuffs.
From the 16th to the 18th century, the shirts worn by the European male royalties are no less flamboyant than today’s most delicate Haute Couture designs for women.
The shirt, survived from “the Great Male Renunciation” period through the 18th century, remains an essential garment in men’s wardrobe.
Up until the mid-19th century, with the overwhelming influence of George Bryan Brummel and the dandy culture, wearing a white linen shirt shows the prestigious social status of the gentleman. As Alan Flusser noted: “The shirt, more than any other male garment, has served to distinguish a man’s wealth and social class.”
Been through the ups and downs of fashion, the shirt never lost its position in modern citizens’ wardrobe. Nowadays, the importance of shirts is even higher with the revival of tailoring culture.
In the late September, I met Bo Yang, the Canadian former investment banker and commodities trader, who had joined the army of reviving tailoring culture since a few years ago. Being a style enthusiast, Bo soon befriended with Hugo Jacomet, a men’s style writer and the founder of the Parisian Gentleman. Bo was looking for opportunities to peruse his passion into tailoring and fine craftsmanship back then. As one of the most well-informed men in the sartorial area after visiting thousands of ateliers and factories, Hugo introduced Moral, a family-run shirt manufacture from Bologna, Italy, to Bo……
Now as the co-owner and Managing Director of Marol 1959, Bo has his own strategies to turn around the anonymous (only to the majorities) shirt manufacturer into a dedicated shirt brand.
Based on Marol’s pre-existing reputation among insiders (they were the supplier for shirts labelled by Anderson & Shepperd Haberdashery), Bo Yang quickly made it one of the frequently mentioned shirt makers among some of the most celebrated menswear media.
There are parameters from which you can tell if a shirt is well made or not. Parisian gentleman has published two specific articles on this topic in 2017. Based on the parameters, there are many shreds of evidence to list Marol among other top-tier shirt makers in the world: From Hand-cut, hand-sewn buttonholes to 13 stitches per centimetre of seams, with the finest fabrics sourced around the globe (Silks from Como. Cotton and linen from Egypt & the Caribbean islands. Mother-of-pearl buttons from Australia).
But for Bo Yang, all the previously mentioned traits are not enough to make Marol an ultimate luxury brand, he also values the experience and fitting for Marol’s bespoke shirts consumers.
Hence, since November 2018, he started a collaboration with the Neapolitan tailoring house, Sartoria Peluso, to satisfy the needs of a perfectly fit bespoke shirt. In his own words: “I realised that with my strategy with Marol, I needed the help of a real tailor as well for my shirting business. Because customers at this level, is demanding a certain level of product, our craftsmanship is second to none, now I can say with confidence, but the level of fit also need be second to none. And you can only achieve that when you are working with a master tailor.”
The philosophy behind this form of a duo, as Bo explained: “I’m not only preaching an Italian product, I’m also preaching Italian Style.” Peluso Jackets was used when styling a Marol shirt, while the consumer who is satisfied with the effect might place an order on both.
“I’m being honest, especially with the shirt, it looks beautify out of a box, but when you put it on, it’s always a little bit here and there, which is a shame, for me. Because it doesn’t do the craftsmanship justice. So, when he (Pino Peluso) finally arrives, he can communicate very well with my ladies in the factory… And once the finished product appears, a Marol craftsmanship with a bespoke fit, the customers goes ‘Now, I’m with you forever’.”
When been asked what the essence of bespoke shirts is, Bo said: “the essential aspect of the bespoke shirt is how it seats on your shoulder”.
To have a shirt sitting perfectly on a shoulder is not always as easy as it sounds. “Unfortunately, rarely are we perfect, our shoulder may be sloping, may be flat, or one sloping more than the other, or even one forward one back, in the measure of millimetres of course”. Bo told me.
This reminds me of the German menswear writer Bernhard Roetzel’s comment on bespoke shirt making:
“An authentic shirt maker will also allow for any idiosyncrasies of the physique, such as a hanging shoulder on one side or a stooped posture. He will seek to eliminate or at least minimise the creases that such variations in the figure would other cause, without—unlike a suit tailor—having recourse the use of lining or padding—he can only work from the cut.”
It is a high skill demanding task, as Bo said: “Starting from the neck, all the way to the end of the shoulder is a journey”.
Bo believes that although many people don’t think they’d need a bespoke shirt, having a shirt sets beautifully on the shoulder, it’s not only a thing to see, but a thing for the wearer to feel.
When collaborating with Pino Peluso on bespoke shirts, the master tailor tends to cut the sleeves of long. Usually, it’s 5cm longer than a bespoke jacket (not 2cm). “Minimum 5”, added Pino. Because according to Pino, the cuff is the trick, it has to be tight to the wrist, the cuff also holds the extra fabric on top. So that it gives the space for the movement when the wearer swings the arm. Otherwise, it can be blocky and limiting the range of motion. “It’s these tricks, that are counter – intuitive, but that’s the real essence of bespoke. Of course, it’s not about showing your initials, but the things that allow your movement, that people don’t usually see.”
This duo trunk show has been fairly successful among the 4 cities they visited; Bo proudly told me.