Review: J. Lawrence Khaki’s MTM Shirting
Frequent readers of this blog will know that I’ve reviewed quite a few online MTM shirting companies. The results have, overall, I’d say been rather excellent. Only once was a shirt’s fit really off, and that one was remade promptly with zero fuss.
MTM shirting is an excellent entre into the wacky world of more personalized tailored clothing, and today—luckily for us—online outfits abound for getting such things done to high quality specifications and with little to no need for actual interfacing with another human being.
For me, as an introvert, that’s generally a good thing. As someone who’s never really had a ‘real’ bespoke garment made (I’m thinking Savile Row or Rubinacci, Liverano, Napoli Su Misura, Orazio Luciano, etc.), I find the notion of submitting myself to what appears to be the sometimes gruff oversight of these tailoring titans more than a little intimidating and certainly deeply anxiety producing. Though I take utter delight in the picture-heavy stories that emerge from blogs like Simon Crompton’s excellent PermanentStyle, or on StyleForvm, I enjoy the process of thinking about my clothes in relative solitude, and perhaps I enjoy that best either by myself in the thrift shop, or through the artificial interface of a website and subsequent emails with a customer service representative.
I am sure I am the worse for it (having just skimmed Douglas Rushkoff’s prescient read of our contemporary wired culture as emblematic of a kind of endless ‘present shock’), but there it is anyways…
I was, however, recently treated to a pleasurable experience that has at least thrown a small wrench into my fear of actual face-to-face contact around the creation of garments. Last time I was down in Carmel visiting Jim and Connie Ockert’s lovely sartorial wonderland, J. Lawrence Khaki’s, Jim insisted that he put me in one of his private label MTM shirtings. Who was I to refuse such a kindness!?
In any case, what was so great about the process was precisely the personalized attention that I am generally quick to avoid. Jim first sat me down with binders and books full of a dizzying array of fabrics—over 700, and mostly from Thomas Mason, with new fabrics added every few weeks—and told me to take my time choosing one, and to ask him for any color advice if necessary. I was then left alone to pore over the overwhelming number of choices.
Ultimately I settled on a very simple bluish purple striped cotton from Thomas Mason. I’m becoming one of those people who would love to have 90% of his shirts be some form of blue, and I thought this a lovely way to inject at least some character into what is becoming a slightly dowdy shirt wardrobe.
After I settled on my fabric, Jim took out the MTM shirting form and proceeded to take all manner of measurements, and ask me questions I’d never thought about with regard to a shirt—e.g., there are over 100 different collar choices alone. I was finding that I actually liked this kind of personalized service, and that the humanity of the interaction was allowing for some very real-time resolutions to issues that a computer could never have provided.
After we went back and forth a bit about collar shape and construction, cuff width, and so on, our work was done. Rather than it being a fuss and a potentially awkward encounter, I’d found that I had actually really enjoyed the process, and could imagine myself—heavens no!!—doing it again of my own free will. I am sure, however, this was in no small part due to Jim Ockert’s charming personality and uncanny ability to put people at ease despite his 6’5” or so frame. At this level of MTM service is key, and I have no doubt that Jim Ockert is among the best in the business.
I headed home that afternoon eager to receive the shirt several weeks hence. About 4 weeks later the package arrived for me at work, and the shirt inside was gorgeous. I posted some pics of it then here. I’ve been a bit late in the review, because the shirt came with a tag that said it would fully shrink to the appropriate size after 6 washes. I haven’t quite washed it that many times yet, but it’s true that each wash brings it a little closer to a perfect fit, and I have no doubt that it will end up so.
The construction of the shirt is without flaws; single needle stitching, a beautiful unfused collar, solid pearlescent plastic buttons (I will generally opt for MOP if they’re available, but Jim prefers plastic because they hold up much better in the wash, which is absolutely true as I’ve seen many a cracked MOP button in the thrift shops), single yoke with side pleats, and best of all, a fit that is neither too tight nor blousey. I’m not gonna lie, Khaki’s MTM shirting program is not cheap, with a base price of $245. But if that’s the kind of coin you trade in I highly recommend both visiting Khaki’s if you’re into menswear and ever within a 100 mile radius of the place (this goes for everyone), and to take advantage of Jim’s decades of experience in the menswear industry and have some shirts made up from a program that has been meticulously and methodically perfected over 20+ years. You’ll definitely feel the difference.