Since I've started this blog, I've made quite a few recommendations on brands which offer, in my opinion, superior products. I've written of the virtues of Brooks Brothers oxford shirts, the uniqueness of the Turnbull & Asser cuff, and the comfort of warm Viyella in the dead of winter.
A brand I haven't mentioned much here, is Ledbury, a Virginia based shirtmaker who claim to "live by the belief that a few well-made items are better than many that are not. " This ethos resonates well with the trad(itionalist) way of thinking about clothes, so it's no surprise that I wanted to see if this holds true when put to the test.
I have known about Ledbudy for a couple years now, but being the small company they are, I had yet to come into contact with one of their shirts firsthand. Ledbury shirts are sold in their Richmond storefront, but primarily, through their website. A few weeks ago I was contacted by Will at Ledbury, who offered me the opportunity to review a shirt from their Fall collection.
One of the challenges of a mainly online clothing business is that so many of the qualities of an object like a fine shirt are lost when not seen in person- so I'll try to be as descriptive as possible along with the accompanying photos.
Ledbury shipped the shirt in a compact cardboard box using USPS First-Class mail. Ground shipping for any order is free, with expedited shipping starting at $20.
Each shirt contains a small "thank you" card with washing and care instructions printed on it. They also detail their return policy which is rather forgiving in the clothing world: returning a shirt within 60-days for any reason gives you a full-refund. This ensures you won't be stuck with something that doesn't fit...but also gives you the opportunity to really try something out in person without the fear of being stuck with it should you realize that pattern wasn't as pair-able as you imagined while perusing the website.
I selected to review the Tillman Plaid button-down, a shirt made from cotton twill that they advertise as being of Fall/Winter weight. One of the most impressive aspects of the shirt out of the box was the deep colors, and substantial fabric. So many shirts I pick up these days feel thin and lifeless, but the Ledbury retained the hearty qualities one would hope for out of a proper Fall shirt.
Looking a bit closer, it's worth mentioning that all Ledbury shirts are made with attention placed on the details. The buttons used on this shirt (and all of their stock from what I have seen) are mother-of-pearl, and of a good size as well. While the collar on this shirt isn't quite a voluptuous as some offerings, it still is long enough to provide a good roll and escapes the look of the diminutive shrunken collar that plagues much of J.Crew and Brooks' Red Fleece offerings.
Ledbury shirts are sold by neck size, with the option for a customized sleeve in 0.5" increments. This level of personalization isn't seldom with any of the "off the rack" shirtmakers I've encountered, and is another testament to Ledbury wanting to get you into a shirt that fits you, not just the models on their website.
In this top-down view we can see the taper of the waist. Ledbury sells their shirts in two different fits, "classic" and "slim". They also go into a lot of detail providing sizing charts for each fit and size, giving you sleeve, shoulder, chest, waist, length, and neck measurements for all of their shirts.
This size 15.5 shirt for example, has 18" shoulders, with a 45" chest, and a 38.5" waist, representing a "drop" (difference in circumference at chest and waist) of 6.5" which is good for someone with an athletic or muscular upper body, but a narrow waist. Many of the slim fit shirts I've found from other brands force you to compromise in one of these areas - if it fits in the shoulders and chest, it will be to baggy in the waist, or alternatively, be too tight across the shoulders if it looks slim across the waist.
I'll speak more on the fit later on during the first wearing.
The cuffs feature a pleasing curved angle with a single button closure, positioned perfectly so that the cuff actually closes over the wrist, rather than being too wide and falling over the hand. A gauntlet button is present of the sleeve plackets as well. The cuffs are thick, substantial enough to remain in shape throughout the day.
I saved my first wearing of the shirt for the quintessential fall day- when the air was light, crisp, and there was a slight breeze rustling up the leaves on the banks of the Charles River. On days like these, yes, you can always be safe with the standard uniform of an oxford cloth shirt and chinos, but part of what makes fall a great season for style, is the ability to throw a whole new palette of color into the mix, emphasizing rich earth-tones and natural hues, as the days of pastel blues and yellows have faded away just as green leaves turn to burnt orange and yellow. Too douchey and poetic? My bad, but what I'm trying to get at is, this autumn, embrace the colors of nature and you can't go wrong.
The jacket is paired here with a natural friend, the Barbour Beaufort, another relatively recent acquisition which will probably get it's own post here sometime soon.
With the Head of the Charles only a few days away, crews (such as Harvard, pictured below) are eager to get in their last few kilometers of practice before judgement day.
The shirt felt right at home among the outdoor setting of the riverside path.
It can be a challenge to find clothes which work well in the context of looking "polished" while still looking rugged enough to fit in when doing outdoor activities, but I think this particular shirt accomplishes the task quite well. While blending some less formal colors and patterns with solid craftsmanship and materials, this shirt really does look just as much at home outdoors as it does in an office environment.
It might not be immediately clear from the photos, but I was really pleased to find this shirt fits better than the majority of the shirts in my closet, and I've been trying to track down my exact sizes for a couple years now!
It even plays well with the striped NATO watch straps I am so fond of.
Some CRI rowers passing by the Newell boathouse
The shirt took me from the warmer peak temperatures of day, to the windy and shaded upper-seats of Alumni Stadium where we caught a football game in the afternoon.
The shirt has passed a second important test, the first washing. So many times a shirt will look and feel beautiful when it's brand new, only to lose some of that quality after it's been run through a unforgiving washer and dryer. I'm happy to say this shirt has held up perfectly, however it did require a quick touch-up with my steam iron. Since these shirts don't have a non-iron coating, they will need some care in that department after a laundering, but this should be seen as a virtue rather than a problem.
Ledbury shirts do come at a premium, however I feel the level of customer service and attention to detail do indeed make up for some of the relatively high cost. You are also paying for the shirt to be made in Europe, from Italian and other high-end mills, as opposed to the sweatshops of Eastern Asia where over 90% of clothing purchased in America is sourced. So in addition to getting a quality product, you are also getting on that is ethically produced, which if you've followed my blog for any period of time, is a really important detail to me!
This shirt specifically was made in Poland. The company provides a video from the workshop which gives you a sense of the scale of the operation and level of craftsmanship.
This map from their website details the production location of their fabrics and items
Let's do a quick cost comparison of similar brands offering shirts which offer the following features:
-Italian sourced fabrics
-USA or EUR made
- Canali: $250
- Gitman Brothers: $180
- Z-Zegna: $245
- Eton: $245
- Brooks Brothers: $200
- Burberry: $300
- Harvie & Hudson (UK): $106 USD + $30 shipping
- Ledbury: $135-$185
So, while fairly expensive in regards to what most pay for shirts, compared to the other shirtmakers in the same league, they are actually positioned towards the lower end of the price spectrum. You also are paying for good customer service, as it always seems possible to reach a associate directly via their website to discuss fit/sizing/styling with a real person. Imagine that?
Like many retailers, they do also run end-of-season sales, so if you are looking to pick up some Ledbury products at a more affordable price-point, it might also be worth waiting till end-of-season before stocking up. It's also worth mentioning that in addition to shirts, they have started to offer a more complete line of clothing that includes chinos, sweaters, belts, and tailored jackets, all sourced from American or Italian workshops. They also have a custom-tailored shirt program offered both in-store and online.
After getting some exposure to their catalog and market position, I'd best describe Ledbury as an attainable heritage-oriented luxury brand. You are indeed paying a premium, but it isn't for the brand name, it's for the workmanship, materials, and service.
So, check them out for yourself. They offer a try-on program which lets you order 3 shirts and only keep the ones you want, with no shipping charges either way.