It Starts With Quality Fabric And A Great Mill
Perhaps a well-kept secret among the general population, Thomas Mason is anything but obscure among the sartorial cognoscenti. A brand in high demand in the textile industry for its meticulous attention to detail, Thomas Mason is both classically British and luxuriously Italian. As a result, Thomas Mason shirts are considered the best in the world.
Each shirt is an artisanal work of art and a toilsome labor of love, beginning at the harvesting of raw materials to weaving the finished product, passing through expert hands every step of the way. With unparalleled and unfading quality, your Thomas Mason shirt is not only an item to love but to live in. Look no further than Thomas Mason shirts for your next wardrobe staple.
A History of Thomas Mason Shirts
In 1796, at the peak of the Industrial Revolution, Sir Thomas Mason opened his factory in Northwest England, which was one of the first in the world to produce cotton shirt fabric. The fabrics manufactured there in Lancashire were exported throughout the British Empire and the world, as well as sent directly to London’s West End tailors who crafted it into luxury items for upper class and aristocratic clients. Less than a century later, by 1875, Thomas Mason, found all over Jermyn Street in London, the world’s shirt capital, was synonymous with well-dressed, elegant men in the Victorian era. In 1936, it became the exclusive supplier to Turnbull & Asser, shirt makers to the royal family.
Far from contributing only to vanity, though, the company saw many changes in the 20th century. During World War I, Thomas Mason gave to the war effort through experimentation with fabrics and treatments; it was called upon to create waterproof, fireproof and mimetic cotton for pilots. In the 1960s, it introduced bright colors and patterns in response to the counterculture movement that ushered in more youthful expressions of style. At the end of the millennium, in 1992, the Albini Group, a family of entrepreneurs in the Italian textile tradition, bought the company and its 700 volumes of textile designs, which it continues to cherish today at its Bergamo mill in Northern Italy.
Who Owns Thomas Mason Today?
For 30 years now, the Albini family has owned and remains heavily involved in Thomas Mason. It is the largest European manufacturer of shirting fabrics. Fashion lines like Ralph Lauren, Brunello Cucinelli, and Salvatore Piccolo use Thomas Mason fabrics in their collections. Others like Hermès and Louis Vuitton continue to hold out hope of making a pilgrimage to Bergamo to learn Thomas Mason secrets.
The Albini Group makes the fabric, not the shirts, but it partners with different designers and tailors to bring a finished product to the consumer.
What Is Thomas Mason Fabric?
There is no brief answer to the question of what it is that makes Thomas Mason fabrics so exceptional; thousands upon thousands of fabrics have been produced since its founding in the late 18th century. Perhaps the most succinct explanation is the one given by the Albini Group on the Thomas Mason website: “We make fabrics of the highest quality, flaunting a bold style and timeless elegance.”
Digging deeper, it starts with the materials. Thomas Mason controls every step of the process in its manufacturing, starting with the seeds. The majority of its fabrics feature Extra-Long Staple cotton, which consists of fine fibers. Here’s a list.
An Egyptian cotton grown and harvested manually in the Nile Delta with an average of 90 bales each year worldwide, Giza 45 is rare. It can be woven into 330/4 ply, an unprecedented feat for the textile industry.
One of the most exclusive world cottons, also from Egypt, Giza 87’s softness and freshness increases with each wash.
Mechanically harvested in California to reduce fiber pollution, Supima is known for its resistance to pilling and suitability to white fabrics. Indeed, to say it is suitable is an understatement. The company claims it makes the perfect white shirt.
Eco-friendly and hypoallergenic, organic cotton for Thomas Mason is grown without the use of chemicals and pesticides, and with minimal water consumption.
Not listed as an extra-long staple cotton, but famous nevertheless for its rarity, with an average of 150 bales annually, and admired for its bright and silky qualities, Sea Island is produced in the West Indies, specifically Jamaica and Barbados.
Besides cotton, Thomas Mason also utilizes materials like cashmere, wool, linen and hemp for their thermoregulating properties and ecological nature, all of which are extraordinarily eco-friendly. But the materials only tell part of the story. The way the Albini Group weaves, dyes and finishes its fabrics also makes them unique.
In order to better understand the quality of Thomas Mason products, a brief explanation of yarn count is necessary. The English method of counting involves units of measurement called hanks. One hank is 840 yards of yarn. The first number in the yarn count, as seen below in the fabric descriptions, shows how many hanks of yarn are used per pound. The second number is the notation for ply. These apply to the vertical thread, also known as the warp. The second pair of numbers applies in the same way to the weft, or the horizontal thread. In the first example below, Warwick requires 80 hanks per pound and two-ply vertically on the loom, with 90 hanks per pound and a single ply horizontally. This is important to the consumer because in general, the higher the thread or yarn count, the softer the textile.
Made from 100% Giza 87 cotton, Warwick fabric makes the perfect weekend shirt with its twill structure, which allows for versatile finishes. Warwick is ideal for an afternoon at the brewery or country club. Fine and resistant, its yarn count is 80/2 – 90/1.
A twist on the classic Royal Oxford, this fabric is made on the same warp but with a twill structure, which can be woven in diagonal, herringbone and check patterns. A heavier material without being rigid, the final product is best for either formal or leisurewear, suitable for anything from wedding attire to office wear to a day off. Also 100% cotton, its yarn count is 100/2-100/2.
Named in honor of President John F. Kennedy, a fashion icon himself, this full-bodied fabric is a reinterpretation of 1920s and 1930s Oxford weaves. Recommended for varsity style menswear, sporty shirts and casual overshirts, it is also 100% cotton with a yarn count of 60/2-38/3. Wear it to the alumni association fundraiser or on the back nine.
Marketed as easy to care for, thanks to the company’s Anti-Crease Formula, Journey is wrinkle resistant for gentlemen on the go, whether they ride motorcycles or hop from one business meeting to the next across town. It also consists of 100% cotton.
In a word: soft. Made from 85% cotton and 15% cashmere, it keeps the breathability of the former and the warmth of the latter. Recommended for the kind of elegant casual shirt seen in magazine spreads with antique cars, its yarn count is 60/1-60/1.
A nod to Downing Street, where the British prime minister resides and rules, this 100% cotton poplin structure is famous for its monochromatic stripes. This a power suit match made in heaven for any businessman. Tim Neckebroeck, the marketing director of the company, insists the yarn count is so fine and precise at 120/2-70/1 that Michaelangelo could have hand painted the stripes on the fabric.
Made from 100% Australian wool which is lightweight, naturally elastic, thermoregulating, and resistant to creases and pilling. The plain weave is used for shirts, overshirts and light jackets with a yarn count of 30/1-30/1. Perfect for the weekend warrior who goes camping straight from the office on Friday or the Brooklyn hipster who can give lectures on third wave coffee trends.
The original fabric since 1796, this poplin weave of 100% cotton is known for its color vibrancy and durability. It makes the quintessential striped or checked English shirt, suitable for any and every occasion. Its yarn count is 100/2-100/2.
To put yarn count in perspective, the average cotton t-shirt has a count of 50/1. Silver doubles the count of cotton threads. Now some may argue that other shirts with similar yarn count on the market are less pricey, which only points to the fact that the kind of raw material used and the credentials of the mill play equal roles in overall quality. One should note that yarn count is not everything, rather it is only part of the equation, which is why the Albini Group also emphasizes the spinning, dyeing and weaving process as a whole undertaken at its mill.
The Thomas Mason Mill
The Thomas Mason mill in Bergamo has two laboratories and an air-tight library with Thomas Mason’s archives. It is what those in the textile industry call a “vertically integrated mill,” meaning that it oversees every step of the process in creating fabric, from planting the seeds to harvesting, spinning, dyeing, weaving and finishing. In fact, every piece is “controlled” twice, that is, it is tested in the lab to ensure quality. The company’s full control of its supply chain ensures the best possible outcome. For example, it dyes each strand of yarn for a cleancut outcome.
Known for its revolutionary, innovative take on textile manufacturing, the Albini Group focuses on creativity, circularity and technology. Creativity is a given, considering the company produces over 900 colors of yarn each season and 20,000 new designs each year.
Circularity concerns sustainability; the company is hard at work finding the best ways to recycle the leftover scraps of fabric it accrues, conducting research in chemically breaking down fibers into a pulp, in an eco-friendly and safe manner, of course, to make cotton paper. It also monitors its water and energy consumption throughout the process; since it oversees each phase, it can guarantee that waste is minimized. It also uses renewable resources and is experimenting more and more with organic biodegradable fibers.
Lastly, technology is evident to any visitor of the mill. Looms are set up with one operator to each. They run at one-third the regular speed to protect the integrity of the fabrics, especially because they work with such fine threads. The operators are people, not robots; there is “always a hand involved in each process,” breathing life into the promise that Thomas Mason indeed has a “refined touch.”
Why Is Thomas Mason Fabric Considered the Best in the World?
As alluded to before, since its acquisition by the Albini Group, Thomas Mason has more than doubled the yarn count it can weave. In 1992, Silver was the finest fabric by Thomas Mason at a 120/2. The company can now weave Giza 45 at a 300/4. Such devotion to self-improvement speaks volumes as to why it is considered the best fabric manufacturing for shirts on the planet. Yet, its executives and designers never lose sight of the Thomas Mason origins and English heritage; Maurizio Colnago, the head fabric designer, still favors the original Silver structure.
The company’s four core values also give insight to its prestige: unwavering quality, timeless elegance, bold creativity and forward facing research. It balances tradition with experimenting; artisanal care with innovation. Its “signature British colours, bold patterns and superior yarn counts are the result of the finest raw materials and cutting edge spinning and weaving.”
Thomas Mason Shirts Price
A new, ready-to-wear Thomas Mason long sleeve button down starts with a retail value between $120 and $150. Depending on fabric choice and custom tailoring, prices for a Thomas Mason Oxford can total upwards of $300. Light jackets and flannel overshirts range from $150 to nearly $500. But facing the facts, the Albini Group delivers such undeniably high quality that, when paired with a good tailor, is worth the price.
Where To Buy Thomas Mason Shirts Online
J. Crew and Brooks Brothers have collaborated with Thomas Mason in recent years to bring pret-à-porter Oxford shirts to a wider audience. Yet, the difference in price for a shirt from big box stores versus a tailor shop is surprisingly slim. Any article of clothing that costs more than $150 is an investment; it should last a lifetime. While the Albini Group guarantees that its fabric will not only retain its quality but become softer with each wash, its painstaking attention to detail only goes so far when the fabric leaves the mill. Choosing the customization route ensures that your Thomas Mason fabric is well-treated and cared for between the mill and your doorstep. Besides, you get the exact cut, fit and details you want in a shirt: no compromises.
Thanks to the Internet, tailoring is rather easy. Our shop here on He Spoke Style offers an extraordinarily accurate step-by-step guide to measuring so that you can find the perfect fit. You have the option to request Thomas Mason fabric for any of the shirts in our shop, which are in an array of colors, patterns and styles–from plain white to striped, tuxedo cut to pajama shirt–that fit in with any wardrobe and that suit all shapes and sizes. All shirts ordered through our shop are custom made-to-order, and our team reviews the details of your order to ensure the fit you desire. After all, this is an investment. You want the right team assembled to deliver the best final product. Never settle for less.
Envied by nearly all menswear aficionados, and a result of over two centuries of dedication to craftsmanship, Thomas Mason fabrics are of the highest quality in the world. The Albini Group, globally admired for its preservation of tradition and continually developing ingenuity, also strives to make their best-in-the-world fabrics the best for the planet in terms of sustainability. These are not the kind of clothing items that end up in landfills. With each wash the shirts become softer, brighter, and more enjoyable for the wearer, and you can wear them for years because they never go out of style. In a world of fast fashion and ever changing trends, stand out from the crowd in a timeless, well-made, upscale shirt. With the thousands of fabric options and endless choices for customization, your Thomas Mason shirt will be what it was meant to be: one of a kind.
It starts with quality fabric and a great mill. It ends with a polished look and passionate people.