Regular readers may recall that as I travel often for work I’m always on the lookout for clothes that will be comfortable and appropriate for air travel and still remain sharp.
I’ve worn long-sleeved polo shirts to avoid the inevitable airline chill, but I don’t like the way the collar sinks down beneath the collar of a blazer. I finally got over my aversion to the ubiquitous button-down shirt some months ago, and this solves the problem of the sinking collar, but more recently I wondered if a popover shirt might be an interesting item to bridge the practicalities and formalities of a button-down shirt and a long-sleeved polo.
During a recent trip to New York I went to the Proper Cloth showroom in Greenwich Village to be measured for their made-to-measure version. Whist waiting for it to be delivered, I read on the internet that Lean Garments was having a sale, so I took a punt on their popover for a very low price. Here is the Lean Garments version:
Much has been written on various internet sites about Lean Garments, with deep discussions regarding their authenticity as a modern day Ivy supplier and the minutia of their seemingly endless size tweaks. I’m not an Ivy nerd so I don’t care about their credentials, and whatever version of the popover I got, it seems to fit me very well.
For the price, the quality is hard to beat. The seams appear to be solidly stitched and the quality of the cotton after one break-in wash feels substantial, but soft and durable like a pair of well worn jeans. I don’t obsess over collar rolls and how many fingers can fit under the collar but it appears to sit well enough to my untrained eye. The chest pocket had to go of course, but this was removed without any visible evidence, and I still can’t stand unstitched centre box pleats. They look crap, they’re a nightmare to iron and they serve no purpose if, like me, you’re not shaped like a pear. As this shirt will likely be worn under a blazer I can live with it, but I don’t have to like it!
Other details which button-down fans obsess over but which are lost on me such as the centre back collar button, locker loop and pointless gauntlet buttons are all present.
The sleeve length may be slightly longer than optimal for me and I may think about getting them shortened after a few more washes to assess any shrinking. Still, for the price, especially when compared to other options out there, this shirt will be difficult to beat.
Shortly after acquiring this shirt I learned that Lean Garments, a company started by a couple of undergraduate students in Finland, was temporarily closing for a re-boot. I received an e-mail today announcing the site’s re-opening with their new sale including a pair of gray wool trousers and button down shirts in three colours (again with a centre box pleat – grrrrrrr). This may not please fans of the Ivy style who were hoping that LG would be a go-to brand for many staple Ivy items, but time will tell if the strategy is a success. I’ll be keeping an eye on their site to see what comes up in the future.
Sunglasses – Ray Ban
Shirt – Lean Garments
Strides – Club Monaco
Shoes – Clark’s
The day after submitting the above post, the Proper Cloth version arrived.
I say ‘again’ because after the initial delivery it had to be sent back for alterations. Here is the initial Proper Cloth version:
The material I chose was light blue royal Oxford. I would have preferred some variety in colour and thus a darker shade but I have to say the quality of the fabric is great with a smooth hand and nice texture close-up. Details I chose included hidden button-down collar, along with – predictably – no pocket, no locker loop, and no back pleat. Curiously, the option to NOT have pointless gauntlet buttons does not exist.
As can be seen, the fit of the body of the shirt was way less than acceptable, especially considering this was made-to-measure, but equally egregious was the wrinkling of the sleeves from shoulder to wrist. I realized that this was due to the sleeves being pitched at ninety degrees to the body. See below the LG version laid on top of the PC version to compare sleeve pitch:
So this version went back for alterations. The Proper Cloth Customer Service was very agreeable as I believe they have a guarantee to make the shirt right or you get your money back. Turnaround took several weeks and the revised version can be seen below, now with rear darts and adjusted sleeve pitch.
As with the LG shirt, the sleeves are longer than optimal but I’ll see how the length responds to a few more washes before deciding if I’ll get them shortened. Despite the addition of darts the body of the shirt remains loose. Among the many things Ivy fans discuss to an infinite degree is button placement. The Proper Cloth shirt has a button so low on the placket that it becomes superfluous but I don’t believe their popover template allows for any flexibility on this to either remove the button and shorten the placket or else make the placket longer to allow the button to be functional. A too-short placket will make donning a challenge, whereas a longer placket starts to look like a standard button-up shirt, especially if worn under a closed jacket.
The revised version is clearly a big improvement but still some way below expectation, so at the time of writing I’m undecided as to whether I can be bothered with another round of alterations (along with an undoubtedly long turnaround of several weeks). The Lean Garments version is made from a less luxurious cloth and has the unnecessary back pleat but still fits better than the revised Proper Cloth shirt and was a third of the price. The search for perfection continues!
Sunglasses – Ray Ban New Wayfarers
Shirt – Proper Cloth
Strides – Levi’s LVC
Desert Boots – Clark’s Originals
Side-by-side comparison – Lean Garments on the left, adjusted Proper Cloth version on the right: