Should You Give Proper Cloth A Chance?

A review of the online custom dress shirt maker

Unless you’re a male model or Tom Ford, the chances you can fit into off-the-rack apparel without needing alterations is slim to none.

Thankfully, we’re in a world where a new online MTM clothier seems to pop up weekly. The online MTM marketplace is as saturated as the Mall of America, but thankfully with increased competition comes the need to lower prices and improve quality.

No longer is it more expensive to purchase a custom shirt than it is a ready-to-wear product. And the benefit of made-to-measure is that you’ll likely require little to no alterations keeping the cost of the shirt even lower.

So, if you buy your shirts off a rack at the store, stop now and go custom. Try Proper Cloth.

When I received my custom shirt from Proper Cloth, I was unsure of what to expect. I’ve heard good and bad reviews and the menswear writers I am proud to call colleagues typically haven’t been super fans. With that said, they’re still fairly well rated.

Although I know my measurements like the back of my hand, I opted to use Proper Cloth’s Smart Size system which relies on a series of questions about your body type and shirt preferences. In the end, it offers a complete sizing without having to use a tape measure.

The sizes that came back for me weren’t spot on. Close, but not precise. Regardless, I was curious to see how well it would fit. Considering almost all of my shirts are MTM or bespoke, I often find that as my body weight changes, so do my preferences for fit. I opted to go with a very casual shirt partly to compliment my wardrobe, but more so because my wife always complains I’m too formally dressed.

I selected an Albini mini foulard print in navy with a semi-spread collar, a two-button mitered cuff and a contrasting collar and cuff using a Nijima blue chambray floral print to give it a pop. Otherwise, I stuck with the classics. A split yoke, a soft front placket, but I opted for extra tall mother of pearl buttons to add a touch of sprezzatura.

When the shirt arrived, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Okay, the fit was a little snug in the shoulders and chest, and the sleeves were too short, yet somehow just long enough that it works really nicely for a casual shirt. It’s a little more fitted than I would like since I’m only 5’6” and have a belly big enough that my six-year-old rubbed it and asked if I was having a baby last week.

The fabric is actually quite comfortable. It’s not nearly as soft as most of the bespoke shirts I own, but frankly, it’s also a few hundred dollars less in cost. For the price, I was relatively impressed. It still had a bit of a starched feel, but over time has gotten softer in the wash.

Proper Cloth isn’t the best shirtmaker I’ve seen. But for the sub-$200 category of online MTM shirt maker, they’re doing a bang-up job. All things considered, I would recommend them to anyone looking to transition from the RTW racks at Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, and Men’s Wearhouse, to the better fitting opportunities that custom clothiers can offer. Just be sure to use a measuring tape. Their Smart Size guessing system could use some work.

HSS Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

J.A. Shapira
He Spoke Style

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Chime In

  • Mark Johnson

    I’ve never used them but I’ve heard that they will work with you to dial in the fit if you give them feedback on where you have issues, then save that data for future orders.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Mark, yes, that’s typically the case. It can sometimes be quite a pain in the you know what when dealing with online MTM fit issues, as there are multiple trips to the post office and weeks spent waiting for the next shirt to arrive. It all depends on how quickly you want a great-fitting shirt or how patient you’re willing to be.

      • Mark Johnson

        That’s why I’ve never tried them…I’m assuming the back and forth will be a hassle. But I guess you really (hopefully) only have to go through it once and then they can crank out shirts for you that should fit like the dialed in one until your proportions change. That is, assuming their quality control wrt sizing is up to snuff.

        • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

          Once you get fit dialed in with someone, it is always a breeze for next orders.

  • Sam_Austin

    “When it comes to shirts, RTW styles under $200 are typically ill-fitting, poorly made, and a colossal waste of money.” Really?? How snobby can you get? And does a menswear blogger make enough to spend over $200 per shirt?

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Sam, first, this review was written by J.A. Shapira. And if you’re looking for the absolute best fit, unless you’re really lucky with the sizing of a particular retailer, you’re not going to get a perfect fitting RTW shirt. Could you get close? Sure, but it’s not going to be the same as MTM or bespoke.

      Regarding quality, the truth is that many of the offerings at your local mall really aren’t that high quality at all. With those two elements – fit and quality – you walk a fine line if you really intend to take an interest in having the best fitting and highest quality shirts.

      One personal anecdote. One of the best fitting and best quality RTW shirts I’ve ever been able to find was an OCBD by Brooks Brothers Black Fleece (RIP). Great quality. Great fit, but not perfect – it’s a little short. But I deal with it because the price was right at 50% off. High quality? Yes. Perfect fit? No. When buying RTW it’s always a balancing act.

      Is my $145 MTM shirt from Michael Andrews Bespoke better all around. You bet. Is my RTW Edward Sexton shirt (over $200) better quality and better fitting than my BB Black Fleece? Yes, again. Have they lasted longer than anything from Banana Republic or J.Crew. Indeed, they have.

      We constantly tell people to buy the best they can afford and, whenever possible, put off buying something quickly in order to save for something investment grade. I don’t think that’s snobby, I think that’s smart.

      • Dan J.

        Brian, I’ve been following you for a long time – at least five years. That comment was enough to make me seriously consider deleting your RSS feed. I don’t care who said it – it was published on your web site and thus it speaks for you. This wasn’t a statement to buy the highest quality you can afford. An article you published and backed literally told me that every shirt I own is a piece of crap, with a clear implication that I am an idiot for buying them. I generally buy and wear Charles Tyrwhitt shirts, at around a quarter of the $200 price the article lists as bottom line. I have them tailored after purchase, and they fit me well. I’m sure that you or J. A. Shapira could tell the difference. I’m also sure that not one of the people in my office or elsewhere that I interact with could distinguish much difference. I’d wager that in a blind preference test, some of them would prefer the Tyrwhitt’s to the MTMs. It’s your website and column. You’re free to say whatever you like. But if your aim is for your website to have an audience exclusively of people who spend $200 per shirt, then let me know and I’ll take my attention elsewhere.

        • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

          Dan, first of all, I appreciate you as a loyal reader over the years. And thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment on this post. That is much appreciated.

          One of the reasons we like having Mr. Shapira’s voice on the site is that he is quite opinionated, comes at things from a different perspective and, as a result, has the ability to stoke conversation. That being said, I hear you. And I particularly don’t like that this sentence has hijacked the comments and taken us completely off topic. Your concern is well-taken and I’ve edited the post to reflect that.

          I think we’ve unearthed a good topic for a future post, however! Cheers.

  • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

    I have four of them. My wife bought me gift certificates for Xmas and Birthday. I went into their showroom to get professionally sized. I highly recommend having a pro measure you.
    They have ruined me for off-the-shelf shirts. Even when I do buy a very nice retail shirt, I have to have a bunch of tailoring done.
    Trust me, if you can afford them, they are a wonderful treat for yourself.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for chiming in. How was the showroom fitting process? I bet you saved a lot of time by being measured in person. And I assume the fit was spot on when the shirts arrived?

      • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

        The experience was great. I just showed up and got measured. They even set up my online account for me.
        The fit is perfect. Just don’t lose or gain weight ever again.

        • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

          I hear that! Glad to know it was a positive experience for you.

  • i2ambler

    Have you tried Ratio Clothing? They have a similar process, albeit not as many fabrics. I like that they still have all of their shirts made in North Carolina instead of Malaysia, yet are a bit cheaper.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      I have not but will look them up. Thanks for the rec.

  • http://www.vipbachelorclub.com W. ADAM MANDELBAUM

    In this war of words over what to wear, I believe the use of sanctions should be fully engaged, prior to considering a preemptive stripe or solid. Obviously, we are dealing with an ICBM, (Inexpensive Clothing Badly Measured). This could mean someone has something up their sleeve, but the yoke might just be on them. :-D

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Yes. Just yes. One of the most amazing comments ever. Haha!

  • Mark Johnson

    There is another company out there that does a similar thing – Trumaker – and they have folks stationed in cities around the country who will take measurements for your first shirt. I still think there’s some back and forth that needs to occur to get the fit dialed in because translating measurements to shirt patterns does not happen as seamlessly as you’d hope.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Haven’t heard of that one. We’re working on creating reviews for as many online MTM companies as we can so we can hopefully provide everyone with our take on who to try and who to skip.

      • Mark Johnson

        Ratio is another one I’ve heard good things about and they manufacture in the USA (North Carolina).

  • PeterK1

    I’ve tried Luxire and Spier and MacKay for custom shirts. Both are affordable (Spier and MacKay especially, if you can get something from the sale section). They really aren’t any more expensive than a decent RTW shirt.

    The approach I took was to measure a well fitting shirt I already own and work from that. First try with Luxire I goofed and specified armholes that are a little to tight. I think I wasn’t careful enough in measuring. I’ll give them another try when they put something I need on sale.

    I’ve bought two shirts from Spier and Mackay in their slim fit. They are RTW but you can do a full custom order as well. They both fit very well across the shoulders and chest. Sleeve length is also good. They have a little to much fabric in the back but that is an easy alteration if I care enough to do it. I usually wear a jacket so no one sees that extra fabric most of the time. I might try measuring the shirts I have from them and doing a custom order with a narrower waist to see how well that works.

    I’ve gone to MTM shirts as RTW shirts are always to short in the sleeve for my arms and to wide at the waist for my slim torso. I can’t justify paying the price retailers are asking for RTW shirts when I get such a poor fit in return.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Peter. We’ll check out Spier and Mackay. Good to hear you’ve had a positive experience.

    • Jack Davidson

      Thanks for the reco on Luxire, they are EXACTLY what I was looking for. Uniqlo made a specific chino that fits me perfectly, now the trend is looser fit that I am not interested in so all their measurements and patterns follow the trends so I needed to find a service that can essentially replicate these Uniqlo chinos for me to the mm. Giving them a try based on this feedback and what I’ve seen so far on their website! Thanks again. -Jack

  • Mike

    Photos of the shirt in question would be helpful to get a sense of the details and what is good on the shirt.

  • Don E

    I’ve had only positive experiences with them – their customer service was remarkably generous and knowledgable – and I was super happy with the product I received. Their Smart Size algorithm got me really close – all I needed to add was a watch allowance. They also have over 20 different collar styles – awesome for a menswear nerd like me. I was able to get the cutaway collar of my dreams (Soft President Cutaway). I’ve had some of these shirts for over a year and they’re wearing great.