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Shirt facts upon request

4 January 2010
Due to popular demand (well, three people) here are some more facts about how the Turnbull & Asser shirts are made up in Gloucester. I know how much you love those little details.

- As with a suit, the sleevehead of the shirt is slightly bigger than the armhole it has to go into. The excess has to be worked in by hand, pausing the sewing machine every couple of inches to rouche in a little bit. With a Turnbull & Asser shirt that excess is ¾ of an inch. That’s what all ready-to-wear shirts will have and bespoke has as standard. But it can be greater if a customer desires or the shirtmaker instructs – sometimes because the gentleman wears jackets with a higher armhole.

- The firm has patterns recorded for just over 15,000 clients. None are identical.

- To show where the buttons have to be sewn on, the placket is laid out horizontally and each point marked with a pin. They used to use pencil but the mark would occasionally remain. A pinhole can simply be rubbed away. With a bespoke shirt you can pick any number of buttons in any arrangement – nothing is automated. In particular, some men prefer their second button to be a touch lower – a compromise between leaving one and two buttons undone on a normal shirt.

- There are three sizes of button: main placket, collar fastener and button-down collar. The hole for the collar fastener is the same as for the other buttons on the placket; but the button is a touch smaller to make it easier to do up.

- ‘Bong’ refers to the button on the gauntlet.

- When the collar is completed, it is folded in half and then half again. When unfolded, there are three small fold marks that can be compared to the position of the back and shoulder seams on the body of the shirt. Making sure these points match up ensures that the collar is dead centre, so doesn’t twist or stand up more on one side than the other.

- There’s a wall of honour outside the main hall for all employees with more than 15 years’ service. My guide for the sewing, supervisor Kath Cope, has been at Turnbull & Asser for more than 40 years.

- The shell buttons that T&A uses (imported from Italy) are ground down five times to get the surface exactly right. And each hole has to be punched individually, because if all four were punched at once the button would shatter.

I hope that sated your appetite.