A: Usually when it’s got a “slim-fit” label.
Despite decades of experience few British high street shirt retailers have managed to make decent slim-fitting shirts. Of course, most of them have a slim-fit range of some kind, it’s just that their proportions stretch the definition of the term to breaking point. I can’t help but feel that they’re often simply designed to make “voluminous” individuals feel better about themselves (“Oooh, I can wear ‘slim-fit’ shirts. No diet for me!”).
The drop between my chest and waist is eight inches, which is quite large (the standard drop for off-the-rack suits is six). But surely I’m not the only one? Most standard-fit shirts balloon comically around my midriff, and I was under the impression that slim-fit shirts were there to cater to this issue. Experience has proved otherwise: I once made the mistake of hastily buying a “slim fit” shirt from Thomas Pink’s Heathrow concession. Despite the collar being the correct size – even a bit on the tight side – it is a very poor fit. The bottom half is looser than an otter’s… erm… pocket, while the chest and shoulders are very restricting. The worst thing of all, however, is the shirt sleeves. For some inexplicable reason the arm-holes are massive and ludicrously low, which means that whenever I lift up my arms the whole of the shirt lifts up with it. This causes the shirttails to untuck slightly and exacerbates the ballooning effect.
One British shirtmaker who has at least tried to make their slim-fit range reasonably slim fitting is Harvie and Hudson. I’ve bought a couple of their shirts (at full retail – this is not a shameless “Thank you” for getting freebies from them!) and have been happy with the proportions. They might be slightly more expensive than T.M. Lewin or Charles Tyrwhitt, but I think that in terms of value for money (ie, quality vs. price) they are hard to beat. It would be nice if they had more variety – it’s double-cuffs only and fairly standard colours/patterns at the mo – but I guess that will only change with increased demand.