The world's best shirts all share a common trait

When they're immaculately folded and pinned with collars propped, it's not always easy to tell the difference between a poorly made shirt and a high-quality one.

As a result, many men end up buying cheaper shirts that fray, lose their shape and don't feel nice to wear after just 6-12 months.

What goes into making a great shirt? Well, it's no surprise to learn the best shirtmakers generally manufacture with the best Italian-made fabrics.

Fabric first

"The quality of the fabric would account for more than 50 per cent of the cost; so broadly speaking, the cheaper the shirt, the cheaper the fabric," says Tim Cecil, managing director of Australia's oldest shirt-making business, Henry Bucks.

The next mark of a high-quality shirt is the amount of functional hand sewing that goes into its construction. Shirt aficionados swear that having a collar and sleeve attached by hand gives a greater roundness and makes the seams softer, which it turn makes them more flexible and comfortable.

It also explains why one white shirt can cost 10 times as much as another. "There's plenty of people that know how to use a sewing machine but not many who know how to hand attach a sleeve to a shirt, so you pay for that expertise and the time it takes," Cecil says.

Neapolitan dreams

Isaia is one of a number of Neapolitan tailors enjoying a strong reputation for producing high-quality handcrafted shirts.

"The sleeve head, collar, front of the shirt, buttonholes are all stitched by hand by embroidery tailors with years of experience," says Gabriela Addeo, from Isaia's headquarters outside of Naples. "Other detailing like making sure checks and stripes align throughout the shirt, and hand pressing, means we only produce 190 shirts per day."

The demand for hand craftsmanship in shirt-making is on the rise and local label Rhodes and Beckett has responded by recently releasing what it calls the Masterpiece shirt, a slim-fit shirt with sleeves hand-stitched to the body.


"Wearing a shirt like the Masterpiece shirt makes you feel a bit special, a bit exclusive and I think more and more that's what Australian men are looking for when they shop," says Gerard Crawford, managing director of the van Laack Group in Australia, which owns Rhodes & Beckett.

Shirt shift

Before you open your wallet, you may ask yourself exactly how much wear you can expect to get out of a luxury shirt.

It's not an exact science, so Cecil turns to personal experience. "I'm wearing an Eton shirt that I wear every week and it's at least two years old and I'd say it's got another 6-12 months in it."

The craftsmanship inherent in the finest Italian and UK-made shirts means that the two countries are widely celebrated for producing the world's best.

Check out some of the best shirtmakers from around the world below.

Turnbull & Asser

The most famous of London's famous Jermyn Street shirtmakers, this wonderful heritage label, which recently celebrated its 130th anniversary, still makes all its shirts in England. Prince Charles' shirtmaker of choice, Turnbull & Asser is the pinnacle of English style.

Price point: $300 – $600.

Edward Sexton

This legendary Savile Row tailor made his name making suits in the Swinging Sixties, and the Beatles all wore Sexton on the cover of the Abbey Road album. In 2015, he finally released a  ready-to-wear range starring his signature Sexton tab and pin-collar styles designed to emphasise the knot of a tie.

Price point: $350


A Swedish label making men's shirts since 1928, it has recently expanded rapidly beyond Sweden. Today, its range of classic designs and contemporary patterns has seen the shirtmaker go from strength to strength.

Price point: $250 – $300

Barba Napoli

The high-quality family-owned Neapolitan shirtmaker started out selling in Italy and now is carried in some of the world's best menswear boutiques. Made with the signature Italian attention to detail, Barba Napoli produces a high quality ready-to-wear shirt.

Price point: $250

Van Laack

Founded in 1881, Van Laack is one of Germany's most famous shirtmakers and is renowned for producing high-quality shirts manufactured in Germany and its wholly owned operations in Vietnam. The label has recently acquired the Australian brands Herringbone and Rhodes & Beckett.

Price point: $150 – $200

Henry Bucks

Henry Bucks started making shirts in Melbourne in 1890, and although the company now has its shirts made offshore in Europe, they still represent excellent value for money.

Price point: $150 – $200