Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Having a custom Mod shirt made

Since the sixties, Mods have been customizing, altering and adding subtle changes to their clothes in order to set themselves apart from the masses. Sometimes hardly noticeable to the untrained eye, for the die hard Mod, it's all part of a secret code. As the years passed and the Mod waves have come and gone, a certain uniformity has settled in and a recognized style has established itself.

For the dedicated Modernist, off the peg brand names like Ben Sherman, Brutus, Britac, Fred Perry, Baracuta and Brooks Brothers might be acceptable but the custom tailored version will always take precedence.

The suit has long been at the forefront of the customizing and creative efforts but it's not the only piece of clothing that can receive your personalized touch. Shirts are also deserving of such attention to detail. This is what separates the boys from the men, the Faces from the Tickets. I want to make something abundantly clear. I'm not trying to accurately recreate what a Mod would wear in August 1963. I don't pretend to be an historian or a fashion expert. This is my personal vision of the 21st century Mod look. Individual style, this is what it's all about. I've never subscribed to the dictatorial, rigid and competitive nature of certain Mods.

The point I'm trying to make is that it's possible to have a good quality, custom-made shirt for 39$. At that price, why not go for something that will fit you perfectly? Plus, you get to have something unique, distinct, classy and that reflects your personality. I highly recommend you use Prince Henry Tailors for all custom shirts needs.

First and foremost, you need to choose your fabric. The most common is a cotton blend. If you go 100% pure Egyptian cotton for instance, you should expect to pay more. A vast array of patterns are then at your disposal. Plain colors, stripes, checks, madras, small herringbone, gingham checks are all up for grabs. The choice is sometimes overwhelming. For your first experience, simply go for a plain white cotton blend. You never have too much of those.

Next, you have to select how you want the back of your shirt to look. Do you prefer plain, with side pleats or your classic center box pleat? If you’re a Ben Sherman fan, then the center box pleat with loop should suit you well and an obvious choice for any Mod.

Then comes the collar with a vast array of styles to choose from. I'm a long time adept of the button-down collar. It always looks sharp and neat. It has the added advantage that it can be worn casually without a jacket. Some detractors maintain that a button-down shirt should never be worn with a suit and tie. I don't subscribe to that school of thought.

According to Brooks Brothers, to mix jacket, tie and button-down is perfectly acceptable. They touched on the subject on their website. Have a look here. I trust their judgement since they are the ones who popularized that style of collar.

Types of collars offered by  Prince Henry tailors
The button at the back of the collar may be deemed more decorative than functional but I like it. Shirts from stylish and classy DNA Groove inspired me to add a subtle point under the button. A small detail that only the true fashion fanatic will appreciate.

The height is your traditional "3 finger" collar. Suedeheads and Skinheads will remember that as the standard for their desired Ben Sherman.

Vintage collar display seen in the Scwab's store on Beale Street in Memphis
Vintage Arrow collar display seen at Bobby From Boston
Another uncommon element that I added is a silk lining to the inside of the collar of some of my shirts. Dark blue silk with a subtle paisley pattern can be seen on the inside of my striped shirt. It may not be noticeable to most but it has the practical purpose of preventing the unfortunate discoloration due to perspiration. Very practical when you wear them to all-nighters. The same idea was applied to the inside of the cuffs.

I've always liked contrasting collars and cuffs. It screams "chic" and "class". This is what I tried to do with this shirt, using a plain white collar and cuffs with a stripped blue pattern.

A breast pocket is a common feature on any dress shirt but I have decided to drop it off my list. Besides, when was the last time you used that pocket unless your name is Urkel or Poindexter? I have nothing against them. I just don't like it when the fabric pattern isn't perfectly aligned with the shirt. Lately, some brands have been guilty of this. In lieu of the pocket, I had my monogrammed initials stitched in script.

Cuffs are another way to make a statement and you have a wide range of styles to choose from. Most store-bought shirts tend to have a single button barrel cuff. I went with the classic French cuff. It's about time it makes a major comeback. How else would you get to parade those posh antique cufflinks that have been laying dormant in your drawer?

The choice of buttons are too often neglected and an easy and inexpensive way to make a statement. Have them match your suit or opt for square ones. For this shirt, I decided to pair them up.

How about this for a different take on the traditional? I asked my tailor to have the button holes cut horizontally instead of vertically. I know that worn with a suit and tie, nobody will notice but that is not the point. I'm sure that if you are reading this post, chances are you will appreciate the effort and creativity.

The stitching around the button holes and the thread used on the buttons is another way to add your unique individual touch . For this shirt, I used a blue thread to contrast with the white fabric but also to match the blue stripes in the pattern and red was used to fasten the buttons. Voila! The picture is complete.

For those of you who can't stand being a walking advertising billboard for a clothing company (Yes, we are talking about that noticeable "laurel" we all know and love) may I suggest having your shirt monogramed instead? Customarily, you can have your initials stitched on your left cuff and/or on the left breast.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. So go on and be bold, be you, be Mod!


  1. Patrick this is fantastic. You have mod all together sewn up, outa-sight ! I'm being serious here Patrick, you really have got it together. Those long collar points and that fab detail of the back collar button are just so good. And I've only read this shirt article, looks like i have lots more on here to read. This red/white/blue shirt man the attention to detail is just perfect. I would never had thought of the different colour stitching around tha button holes.
    Do you have any tab collar or pin collar shirts ? I've bought 'vintage' tabs off of Ebay USA (I'm in England), but probably not so vintage as they all have squared off collar. In the 60's I wore high collar, rounded collar tabs. My fave one at the time was dark blue with white polka dot, very high collar on it. Don't think i would wear polka dot now but would certainly wear the stripes you have.
    I've added this page to my favourites and will read more soon.
    Regards, JB

    1. Thanks for your comment JB. It's always reassuring when you get the approval of a fellow Mod from England, especially one that was there in the 60s. I really appreciate it.

      To answer your question, I don't own a tab collar shirt but it's certainly high on my priority list. Maybe it will be the subject of an upcoming post.

      Enjoy the rest of the blog and don't hesitate to give your feedback. It's always welcomed.

      Did you know that you can receive the blog posts by email? You can subscribe at the top right corner of this page.


  2. Those are great shirts, Patrick! I especially like the red/blue striped one. Your blog turned me onto Prince Henry and I've made appointments the last view times they've come through Montreal; they made me a great tweed jacket and I think shirts might be next. I'll come right out and admit that I'll be swiping your horizontal button hole idea. :)


  3. Nice stuff Patrick! Lots of great details that you just can't get on most off the peg shirts.
    I took one of my shirts to a tailor in Tokyo (back button and point on the back collar) and he looked at it and said "I haven't seen the Fujiyama collar in a long time".. Needless to say if he had a name for it, the collar must have been popular at one time in Japan.
    Keep up the great work! Thanks for the tip on Prince Henry as well.. Sent them a pair of trousers and they copied them very well.

  4. Good post Pat.

    I'm pretty sure shirt button holes are always cut vertical to make sure there is no button pull across the flap.

    Likely the buttons would always travel to one side of the slot when cut horizontally.

  5. Such a fantastic job with this piece!

    One of the early motivations with starting a blog was to cover details like this, but you just hit this subject so well! I know I'll be keeping this with me next time I visit my tailor.

  6. I wish I'd found out about you sooner, I just spent $80 on a Spear Point collar shirt, with half the features you offer for less!

  7. My new Mod the USA!!

  8. I'm impressed by the love for creative detail in your post. I once learned professional tailoring (long time ago), and when I was in the Mod scene, there was't enough money to buy bespoke clothing. After reading your post I have a mind to try it once again. Thank you, and keep the faith! Claudia

    1. Thanks Claudia! My goal is to inspire and I'm glad if I did.

  9. only just seen this and really enjoyed the article.I spend a long time on my shirt designs but the wonderful seamstress who makes them has now retired so on the lookout for new supplier.the ideas here are well thought out and i will definitely give these people a spin